A seminar organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday questioned whether the foreign and cross-strait policies of the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were inconsistent — and if so, why.
“The DPP cannot place all the blame [for what it was unable to accomplish] on Beijing’s oppression and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s [KMT] majority in the legislature,” Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies president Chao Chun-shan (趙春山) told a panel discussion. “After all, tensions across the Taiwan Strait and deteriorating Taiwan-US relations were facts.”
The seminar was the first of four weekly installments, a comprehensive review that gathers academics and former government officials to examine 17 policy areas of the DPP administration from 2000 to 2008 in the hope of helping the party return to power.
Four panel discussions covering the economy, foreign policy, cross-strait policy and national defense were held yesterday.
Chao, one of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) most trusted cross-strait affairs advisers, said it was inevitable for political observers to define the DPP’s foreign and China policies as inconsistent since Chen had submitted a “four noes and one not” policy in his inaugural address, and at one point considered conditionally accepting the so-called “1992 consensus.”
However, Chen made a swift U-turn in his second term by advocating a series of radical policies, such as “one country on each side” and Taiwan’s bid to become a member of the UN, Chao said.
“If the DPP is serious about a thorough introspection of its past administration, it needs to explain why those changes occurred” rather than reminiscing on what it had accomplished, he said.
One of the DPP’s most glaring weaknesses has been the struggle between its political ideology and hard reality, Chao said, because space to maneuver as a ruling party is dramatically diminished.
Former DPP government officials countered that the party’s policies are rational and consistent, with former representative to the US and former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) saying that the DPP administration had always upheld the principles of peace, reconciliation and collaboration in its engagement with Beijing, and was able to move bilateral relations forward, although in baby steps, with successful negotiations on charter flights and the “three small links” even during difficult periods.
In his review of DPP foreign policy between 2000 and 2008, former deputy minister of foreign affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said that Beijing’s hostility was why Chen’s foreign policy shifted from one of pragmatism and steadiness to trying to break out of China’s encirclement, which contributed to a souring of Taiwan-US ties.
Changes in policy could also be attributed to Chen’s character, former National Security Council deputy secretary-general Antonio Chiang (江春男) said.
“Chen has always been a pragmatist without a firm political ideology. He could have supported unification and been a pro-China politician if that would have helped him get re-elected,” Chiang said.
However, panelists agreed that the former DPP administration was able to ensure that Taiwanese sovereignty and national integrity topped the agenda in engagements with China and other countries, and commanded better interagency coordination and communication for its policy implementation in comparison with the current KMT administration.