With Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) being appointed to head the DPP’s re-established representative office in the US, the party’s ability to restore its mutual trust with the US government and prevail on the administration of US President Barack Obama to maintain neutrality in Taiwanese elections have become key issues for political analysts.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) appointment of one of his main policymaking aides yesterday to a diplomatic position with Taiwan’s most sensitive and important ally reflects the party’s apparent intention to repair its relations with the US, which turned sour after a series of problems for both sides after 2000.
An academic with a good grasp of cross-strait affairs and US-Taiwan ties, the former top China policymaker and former envoy to the US, Wu was the best candidate for the job. This is particularly true at a time when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, has sought to reinforce the KMT-US bond by appointing his key strategist, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), as the nation’s new representative to the US.
Analysts are watching to see whether the DPP’s attempt to boost dialogue with, and lobbying in, the US develops into overseas political wrestling between the Ma administration and the DPP and how the two parties’ representatives plot against, or collaborate with, each other.
The DPP’s re-establishment of a US-based representative office has become inevitable, especially following former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Douglas Paal’s pre-presidential election remarks on the so-called “1992 consensus,” trumpeted by both the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a move that was interpreted by many as the US’ open endorsement of Ma’s campaign.
While then-DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) turned down a post-election visit by incumbent AIT chairman Raymond Burghardt to protest against the US government’s perceived lack of neutrality, Su said after he took over the party’s helm in May that both sides would leave the past behind and re-establish mutual trust.
However, it will require more than a representative office and some friendly gestures for the DPP to achieve rapprochement with the US, particularly when the party has long been deemed a “trouble-maker” by the US government since pro-independence former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office in 2000.
The US openly voiced on several occasions its distrust of and dissatisfaction with Chen, and therefore with the DPP, in light of the former president’s inconsistency on major cross-strait policies.
Chen first floated the pledge of “four noes and one without” on cross-strait relations in his inauguration speech in May 2000, in which he promised that his administration would not declare Taiwan’s independence, change the national title from “the Republic of China (ROC)” to “the Republic of Taiwan,” push for the inclusion of the “state-to-state” formula into the ROC Constitution or promote a referendum on independence or unification.
The “one without” referred to a pledge that his administration would not abolish the National Unification Council or the National Unification Guidelines during his terms, both of which were considered broken after Chen announced in February 2006 that the former would “cease to function” and the latter “cease to apply.”
However, in August 2002, Chen touted the concept of “one country on each side” [of the Taiwan Strait], saying that the People’s Republic of China and the ROC were two different countries, rather than two political entities within the country “China.”
The formula drew rebukes from China and raised tensions across the Taiwan Strait, which were what the US most wanted to avoid.
In March 2008, Chen further angered the US after he launched a UN referendum bid for Taiwan to join the UN under the name “Taiwan,” which was seen by the US as a provocation that could endanger stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Despite all the hurdles ahead for the DPP’s rapprochement with the US, those challenges must be met if the party is to again return to power.