Most commentaries after the recent elections said Taiwanese voted for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cross-strait economic deregulation. Because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stuck to its Taiwan-centered ideology and avoided the so-called “1992 consensus,” it could not offer voters a positive alternative on the cross-strait economic issue. So the election results do not reflect a choice between two clear options, but rather a wish to stabilize the shift toward cross-strait deregulation that Ma has been pushing over the past four years.
Ma has successfully used this period to shift voters’ opinions. Is the DPP’s next step going to be to undo that shift, or to try to create an alternative between a Taiwan-centered ideology and cross-strait deregulation? This will influence the possibility of a change in government four years from now and it will also be an opportunity to open up new vistas for Taiwan.
The DPP should understand that any idea of returning to a Taiwan-centered ideology and restrictive cross-strait policy is not what most voters want. During the early stages of cross-strait deregulation, voters experienced real benefits.
If Ma has created a leaning toward cross-strait deregulation, the DPP, as a centrist political party, should find an alternative between the issues that leans toward a Taiwan-centered standpoint before the next elections.
Such a centrist position does not have to be a choice between loving or not loving Taiwan. As an opposition party faced with a KMT-controlled presidency and legislature, the DPP should consider how to use its Taiwan-centered ideology to monitor the government’s cross-strait policies.
Judging by the increased number of legislative seats the DPP won in the recent elections, its politicians should stand a good chance of starting out afresh at the local level and bringing their Taiwan-centered ideology toward the political center. If they truly build on local culture and local identity and combine that with a Taiwanese identity as cross-strait deregulation continues, they should be able to use that to gradually replace the DPP’s traditional opposition to the KMT or the standoff between the DPP and China. If they do, it is very likely that the DPP’s strategy that was so successful in the past — relying on local support to pressure the central government — would once again become effective.
The central government’s cross-strait deregulation is clearly a top-down approach to creating economic benefits. This means the DPP over the next four years, instead of focusing on the national level or monitoring through the legislature, should direct its efforts toward nurturing local talent, building local strength and gathering local knowledge to be able to bring local opinion into the cross-strait deregulation process and create a willingness at the local level to influence cross-strait deregulation.
This should not be mistaken for a “bottom-up” approach. Instead, it means building local politics and local concern through communities, local residents and the private sector and to help the public discover the true value of grassroots politics. By doing so, people at the grassroots level will not merely passively accept or protest against cross-strait deregulation.
The DPP is already beginning to focus on the local elections two years from now. This is the right thing to do, but if it could stop always thinking only about winning elections and treat local elections as a mid-term test of its road toward reform, it would be for the best for Taiwan and our democracy.
Chang Chun-hao is an assistant professor of political science at Tunghai University.
Translated by Perry Svensson
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has been giving daily COVID-19 updates for almost four months, and on several occasions when major developments have arisen, the news conferences have attracted large numbers of viewers. The entire nation is anxious about the pandemic, and interest in the latest news has become a part of daily life. Watching the center’s daily news conferences has become something of a national ritual. The pandemic has stabilized within Taiwan due to the admirable efforts of each person living in the nation conducting themselves with the utmost responsibility, and in certain cases making considerable sacrifices within their
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. In that war’s aftermath, novelist George Orwell produced two prophetic works. The first, Animal Farm, was published in August 1945; the second, Nineteen Eighty-Four, came out in June 1949. Both still ring true and cover a wide range of messages, including even how the mid-sized nation of Taiwan achieved its democracy and why it still maintains an outlier status in a COVID-19 world. With its full planetary scope, WWII left untold millions dead and injured, cities were destroyed and the future path of most nations was altered. New
Israel-based geo-intelligence data provider ImageSat International on May 13 released a satellite photograph of the Chinese-controlled Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑礁) on Twitter. The image gave a clear view of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force Shaanxi KJ-500 airborne early-warning aircraft, KQ-200 anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft and a suspected Changhe Z-18 anti-submarine helicopter, showing that the PLA has advanced its deployment in the South China Sea. Only last month, China established Xisha District (西沙) on Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島) and Nansha District (南沙) on the reef, both of which fall under Sansha, a prefecture-level city established in
United States Senator “Kit” Bond (R-MO) was a real leader on Asia policy during his time in Congress. Like most senators, he had a ready one-liner for every occasion. The one I never tired of hearing is “Well, looks like everything has been said. The problem is not everyone has said it.” It’s sort of like with US-China great power competition. There is not much new to say. This is especially true because it’s largely a story of what’s already happened: BRI, Made in China 2025, aggression in the South China Sea, provocations on the Indian border, cyber-hacks, erosion of “one country,