Su: It depends. Each and every factor matters in an election. In the US, the presidential elections were sometimes dominated by the economy and sometimes by foreign policy, such as Iraq. Ma performed so poorly over the past five years that issues such as social justice, environmental protection and domestic economy will have a greater impact on future elections.
National identity and sovereignty usually have a greater impact in presidential and legislative elections. There is a high degree of consensus among Taiwanese on identity and attitudes toward China. They see themselves as the master of their country and have the confidence to actively engage Beijing. It’s just a matter of how we engage with China, which can create a set of issues in future.
TT: You mention the high degree of consensus among Taiwanese. Do you think they have reached a certain degree of consensus on cross-strait relations?
Su: The consensus is strong and clear. Taiwanese identity is getting stronger and in fact it accelerated after Ma took office. The DPP’s position is clear: Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country and it will engage with China.
The difference between the DPP and the KMT is that the KMT deals only with communist China and the “economic China,” and regards China as a static country. By contrast, the DPP sees China as an ever-changing country and is determined to engage China in various areas, including religion, culture and civic society. We are ready for closer engagement with China on the precondition that we maintain our own identity rather than prepare for eventual unification. This is the biggest difference between the DPP and the KMT.
TT: As former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) advocates his “constitutions with different interpretations” and Beijing applies more pressure on the Taiwan independence movement, how do you coordinate China policy within your party and deal with the pressure? Does the DPP still support Taiwan independence and want to talk about it?
Su: China maintains its assertion that Taiwan is part of China. The DPP’s position — that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country — remains unchanged as well. It is unnecessary for a man to tell everyone all day that he is a man. In other words, the DPP does not need to change its position, but it will adopt flexible measures to deal with different situations.
Hsieh and others who advocate their own ideas should all be recognized for their dedication to this country. We view Hsieh’s China visit positively. However, the DPP’s official position [on China policy] was formulated in and approved by the party congress. The position could be adjusted if there were better ideas in the future with the approval of the party.
TT: By the DPP’s official position, do you mean the resolution on Taiwan’s future of 1999?
Su: The resolution can be summed up in one sentence: safeguarding the basic values of democracy and freedom. Someday China will become a democracy like Taiwan, but Taiwan will not abandon its democracy and become a second Hong Kong. We should cherish and safeguard our democracy. If there were to be any changes to the ‘status quo,’ it would require a national referendum, a democratic mechanism. Having spent the past decades fighting for democracy, the values espoused by the DPP will be the mainstream values in the future, not the other way around.