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China Times: How will the DPP face China's pressure tests?

China Times: How will the DPP face China's pressure tests?

In recent years, we have seen China increasingly take the initiative to address the Taiwan issue. The candidates in Taiwan's upcoming presidential election, to be held in January 2016, should provide answers to questions on how they would deal with a rising and ever aggressive China.

But the Democratic Progressive Party, seemingly convinced of certain victory, has completely avoided discussion of cross-strait issues and even evaded presidential debates to avoid questioning from other candidates.

DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen may be a shoo-in in the Jan. 16 election, but her road to governance will surely be a thorny one, especially on cross-strait issues.

The ruling Kuomintang has had good exchanges with the mainland in the recent past, but that could change after the DPP comes to power, mainly because Tsai has so far been unwilling to recognize the "1992 Consensus" and has not addressed China's concern about the "one China" framework.

Tsai's view of relations with China is based on her cross-strait experience during the previous DPP administration more than a decade ago. She thinks that the necessity of cross-strait civilian exchanges will force China to face reality.

That is to say even if Taiwan does not recognize the "1992 Consensus," China will still have to maintain some kind of communications with Taiwan.

But she has failed to see that cross-strait relations have changed dramatically from 16 years ago when Chinese tourists, capital and students were rare in Taiwan. Taiwan also still enjoyed somewhat of an economic edge over China at that time.

Today, China has more aces up its sleeve, and cross-strait relations have also entered the phase where all talks are related to politics.

China could terminate official exchanges and let civilian exchanges continue, but for how long could Tsai still ignore China?

There will be a four-month period between January's presidential election and the inauguration of the newly elected president in May. There could be new developments in talks on a trade-in-goods agreement and the exchange of representative offices, but Tsai's choices will directly impact the cross-strait direction.

In fact, from the day she wins the election, she will have to face pressure tests from China.

Eric Chu has mocked Tsai's advocacy of maintaining the cross-strait status quo as "wishful thinking."

Her evasion of the DPP's Taiwan Independence party platform and whether her "status quo" includes the "state-to-state" theory are most worrisome for the public and China.

Tsai has grappled with cross-strait disputes in a unilateral way, thinking that the advocacy of the status quo is an olive branch while turning a blind eye to China's call for addressing the "1992 Consensus" and "one China" framework.

Tsai's aloof approach is partly related to the incompetence of the the KMT. Chu has only criticized Tsai's vagueness in cross-strait policy, but he has not come up with his own convincing cross-strait discourse with real values. President Ma Ying-jeou's advocacy of "no unification, no independence and no use of force" eight years ago was significant then, but now that cross-strait ties have entered a more complicated phase, one has to deal with the political issues that arise and move relations forward.

In the meantime, the public's mounting fears and misgivings of China should also be dealt with. If they are not, every cross-strait pact signed in the future will be met with protests, adding uncertainty to the development of cross-strait ties.

The presidential candidates should no longer evade crucial issues. The DPP should address the "1992 Consensus" while the KMT should also not evade political disputes in cross-strait ties, such as controversies in the South China Sea.

Taiwan cannot wait for the mounting pressure coming from China to force it into crisis management, for by then it may be too late. (Editorial abstract -- Dec. 11, 2015) (By Lilian Wu)

Updated : 2021-09-26 05:11 GMT+08:00