The recent protests by the Sunflower movement have elicited differing views within the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on what the implications are for the party’s policy toward China, with some questioning the previous stance that the party should adopt a softer line.
In a newspaper article, former DPP legislator Julian Kuo (郭正亮) said that the events of the past three weeks have “shocked the DPP back to its original pro-independence state of mind.”
Calls for policy adjustments favored by former party chairpersons Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) have all but “collapsed in an instant,” Kuo said.
In turn, Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), former head of the DPP’s China affairs department, said the student movement has helped the party to mature.
The lesson is that the DPP’s push for China policy reform has been based on incorrect assumptions such as that the Taiwanese public is concerned that the DPP “is opposed to anything that has to do with China, has adopted a China policy that is too radical and needs to use moderation in dealing with cross-strait relations,” Lai said.
He concluded that Taiwanese believe President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been leaning too much toward China and the DPP should therefore consider what is fundamentally wrong with the adjustments made to its China policy in the past two years.
Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑), a DPP Taipei City councilor, expressed the view that the student movement would definitely have an impact on the party’s cross-strait policies.
People aged 20 to 29 see safeguarding Taiwan as their common goal and consensus, he said, adding that this a phenomenon no political party can afford to overlook.
Liang said the younger generation does not see the question of unification versus independence as a relevant issue and instead takes it for granted that “Taiwan is a nation.”
When considering their cross-strait policies in the future, political parties should take the pre-existing general consensus of Taiwan’s young people into consideration, Liang said.
However, there were some dissenting voices, among them Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) of National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies, who thinks the student movement will not have a major impact on the DPP’s overall China policy.
Calls for revision of the party’s policy have grown louder, especially since Tsai lost the closely contested presidential election in 2012, with many concluding that the DPP’s policy toward China was a decisive factor in her defeat.
Opinion polls have shown that most people in Taiwan favor a stable relationship with China as economic ties continue to grow closer.