The DPP is currently at a crossroads. Ahead are critical intra-party primaries for the party's candidates for the 2012 Presidential Election. How each candidate addresses the issue of the party's position on relations to China will likely heavily impact their appeal to the public. The leading candidates in this race are Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌). Former Vice-President Annette Lu and Hsieh Chang-ting (謝長廷) have also announced their interest in, or intentions to, run. Today, two articles in the Taipei Times examined each of the candidates positions and came to two different conclusions:
Editorial: The Meaning of Tsai's Formula
Chen Wen-hsien (陳文賢)(Professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of History): DPP must make its sovereignty stance clear
The editorial nicely summarises the positions of the leading contenders on China:
Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)
She used the Chinese phrases he er butong (和而不同) and he er qiu tong (和而求同). Tsai’s phrasing is inspired by the Confucian Analects. To be precise, Book 13, verse 23, in which Confucius says: “The true gentleman seeks harmony, but reserves the right to disagree (he er butong, 和而不同); the base person agrees without necessarily seeking harmony (tong er buhe, 同而不和).” When Tsai talks about seeking harmony, she is referring to the status quo, arguing that the discussion should start with recognizing Taiwan and its values, and from there seek to maintain and nurture relations with China. In this, she does not diverge from the DPP’s consistent position. The second phrase, he er qiu tong, means “seeking agreement in a spirit of conciliation,” which is basically an extension of the first idea. It is a recognition that Taiwan and China have shared responsibilities and interests and should be seeking peaceful and stable relations and fostering development, not focusing on unification or independence. Not only is this consistent with the DPP’s 1999 Resolution on Taiwan’s Future, it also leaves room for cross-strait relations to develop.
Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌)
Former premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) “Taiwan consensus” (台灣共識) holds that, after four direct presidential elections, Taiwan should be considered a sovereign, independent country, does not belong to the People’s Republic of China, and, according to the Constitution, is currently called the Republic of China. Any change to that would require the consent of the entire country, although such a change already enjoys a majority consensus. Su’s formulation benefits from its clarity and is in line with the “status quo” and the spirit of the DPP platform. The phrase is clear, compared with the opacity of Tsai’s concepts, but it won’t find many advocates in Beijing.
Former Vice-President Annette Lu
Lu’s “1996 consensus” says Taiwan became a sovereign nation when it held its first direct presidential election in 1996. Uncompromising in its stance, it appeals to the pro-independence faction, but has little chance of building a consensus outside the DPP.
Hsieh Chang-ting (謝長廷)
Former premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) “constitutional consensus” (憲法共識) emphasizes the differences that exist between the respective political and legal systems. The pan-green camp has its issues with this idea, however, as the Constitution still seeks unification.Chen's article more broadly covers what he thinks the DPP should do in the next few months if it wishes to appeal to a public he claims are ready for a broadly pro-Taiwan or 'proud of Taiwan' message:
The DPP should clearly state its support for Lee’s formula as representing Taiwan’s core interests. In so doing, it would be upholding the direction mapped out for Taiwan by these past Taiwan-oriented national leaders.
It is only to be expected that China would react with threats and saber rattling. However, in this age of globalization, countries and economies are interdependent. If China resorted to force just because the DPP said Taiwan is a country, it would only harm its own interests and its belligerence would find no international support.
So the key question is not what the DPP says about Taiwan’s national status; what matters is that the DPP should show greater wisdom and patience in communicating with countries that support Taiwan and in engaging with Beijing.
The right way for the DPP to respond to these developments would be to stress its willingness to cooperate with Chinese people and government, on the basis of equality, to maintain peace and prosperity and to support China’s development into a democratic state.
If the DPP keeps avoiding the issue of Taiwan’s national status, it will neither gain the support of the international community nor the support of local voters.
Apart from demanding that all DPP members and government officials should work and perform even better, the party needs to stick to its position that Taiwan is a democratic and just country that deserves to be respected by the international community. Such steadfastness would surely win the hearts of the public, so it can be voted back into office and ensure Taiwan’s survival.Lu's 1996 Consensus could potentially chime with the public as it places an emphasis on Presidential elections as evidence of an practiced independent statehood that everyone actively shares. The only problem is the person advocating it and her unpopularity both with the swing voters and light blues necessary for the DPP to win. It is more concrete than Su's Taiwan Consensus and is far more accessible as an idea to the public than Hsieh's Constitutional Consensus. However, Tsai's new approach, whilst vague, cautiously (and sensibly?) seeks a moderate ground for moderate voters - Tsai has chosen to play it safe and not bang the drum too loud. This is perhaps because she fears that if her campaign alienates too many big power players along the way to an election victory then she might also find herself, like President Chen, effectively unable to implement her policies, especially if voters return a strongly KMT controlled Legislative Yuan.
Chen's article illustrates desire amongst some in the pan-green camp for maximising on the belittlement of Taiwan by the PRC and tapping into the latent Taiwan national identity balking at President Ma's fawning over China and his ideological fixation with all things Chinese. It does not however come over as practical strategic advice for the party at this stage. Reiterating that Taiwan is a democratic and just country is not a meme that would hurt Ma's campaign as he too has run on that platform before each of his elections. Ma can also claim to wish for democracy in China and "willingness to cooperate with Chinese people and government, on the basis of equality, to maintain peace and prosperity". That's exactly the smokescreen Ma and the KMT have used to mask their willingness to be subservient to the Chinese people and government, on the basis of the fictional '1992 Consensus' and equalities of political parties in negotiations to maintain peace (between parties) and prosperity (for the parties and sycophants that follow them).
This leaves me with the conclusion that for now, I still find Tsai's approach and leadership to be trustworthy and intelligent. It's not perfect, may not even be excellent but it is the best the DPP have. The DPP above all need to have a clean and fair contest in the primaries and then complete party solidarity behind the winner, whoever that may be.