The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson election takes place today, just as Vice President William Lai’s (賴清德) political briefing and post-election review tour comes to an end. In this soul-searching journey after the local elections on Nov. 26 last year, voices in the party have pointed at the DPP’s foreign policy toward China as one of the reasons for its electoral defeats. Some found an approach that focused on countering China too confrontational and suggested the party take a more neutral, pacifist approach.
The hard truth is that Taiwan must take a hardline stance toward China to show Beijing that the nation is in no mood to yield. It is only by doing this that Taiwan stands a chance of deterring China from invading it, and thereby maintaining the cross-strait “status quo.”
Before the local elections, the DPP was compelled to deal with issues raised by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and put forward its “counter China, safeguard Taiwan” hallmark policy at the last moment. Nonetheless, it seems that the people blaming it for the party’s poor performance are barking up the wrong tree. The reason for the DPP’s underwhelming results was the lack of action and response throughout its candidates’ campaigns, not its cross-strait policy.
Some media outlets deliberately misled the public by interpreting the DPP’s defeats as the public’s rejection of the “counter China, safeguard Taiwan” policy. This is playing into the KMT’s hands and giving fodder to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as well as putting the DPP into an even more precarious situation.
A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has said that if there is to be peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwanese should oppose “Taiwan independence” and the nation should go back to the “common political foundation” of adhering to the so-called “1992 consensus,” thus avoid being a “pawn” of foreign forces. If the DPP follows that suggestion, it would lose its core value and main goal. Without such a vision, the DPP might become a second KMT and continue to lose support.
At the same time, if Taiwan loses the support of its allies, it would soon fall into the hands of China. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank estimated that Taiwan would only last about 70 days if left alone to defend itself against a Chinese invasion, but if the US, Japan and other allies assist Taiwan, no matter how long the Chinese military holds out, Beijing would eventually be defeated.
Recent polls show that if Taiwan officially declares independence, 60 percent of Taiwanese would be willing to fight for the nation. If China launches an invasion, 70 percent said they would be willing to fight.
These numbers clearly show the steadfast will of Taiwanese to resist China.
Those who endorse the notion of “building peace in the Taiwan Strait, safeguarding Taiwan” might have overlooked that public opinion on cross-strait relations has shifted drastically, sparked by changing dynamics in international relations, such as a escalating US-China confrontation or Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) securing a historic third term.
Along with the DPP chairperson election, there could also be a Cabinet reshuffle after the ongoing legislative session. As the Presidential Office, the five branches of government and the DPP undergo changes, the party will have to take an even firmer pro-US, counter-China approach ahead of the presidential election next year. Only in this way would it bring about cross-strait peace and stability, and enable Taiwanese to continue living in a democracy.
Michael Lin holds a master’s degree from National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development.
Translated by Rita Wang
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