DPP holds sixth China Affairs Committee Meeting

The DPP’s China Affairs Committee today convened its 6th plenary meeting, inviting associate researcher Dr. Hsu Szu-chien from Academica Sinica’s Institute of Political Science to present a report on China under the Xi-Li administration and implications for cross-Strait relations. DPP Chair Su Tseng-chang noted that China’s transformation is now entering a totally new phase that will result in enormous changes for its political, economic, and social structures. To the rest of the world, China will represent the greatest source of uncertainty for the global system, but particularly for the East Asia region. As a leading political force in Taiwan, the DPP must very closely monitor and carefully respond to the various aspects of these changes unfolding in China.

Chair Su added that, facing China’s rise and the future development of cross-Strait relations, the DPP must enunciate a vision that is positively meaningful to China, to the region, and to Taiwan, in order to gain the advantage in outlook and discourse. In addition to strengthening the country’s political institutions and elevating its economic health, the party must strive even harder to find the right balance between idealism and reality, between social justice and the imperatives of globalized trade, and propose plans for economic development and social policies that will revitalize Taiwan.

In her statement during the meeting, former DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen pointed out that people are most concerned with whether the DPP demonstrates a rational and reasonable attitude in its approach to China, and whether the party’s policy is predictable and reliable. Before the public gains a full understanding of the DPP’s cross-Strait policy, a hasty change of the fundamental position would be unwise. Dr. Tsai also concurred with the Dr. Hsu’s view that cross-Strait relations should not be limited to political parties. Taiwan’s civil society must share in the responsibility to help make cross-Strait interactions more diversified. Mayor Chen Chu thus reflected on Kaohsiung’s experiences from participating in cross-Strait inter-city exchanges, and Tainan city mayor William Lai elicited a discussion about the revival of religious faith in China, referenced in Dr. Hsu’s briefing.

Apart from providing his analysis of China under the Xi-Li administration and implications for cross-Strait relations, Dr. Hsu also offered five recommendations for the DPP, as follows:
  1. The DPP should be more proactive in engaging in cross-Strait think tank exchanges, and not only that, but should also define for itself what is the party’s aspiration where China is concerned? That is, what kind of country does the DPP hope to see China become, that would be in the best interest of Taiwan, East Asia, and the rest of the world?
  2. Cross-Strait relations should not be confined to interactions between political parties; instead, contact between the civil societies on the two sides should be expanded.
  3. In the area of inter-city exchanges, the municipalities under DPP administration should emphasize exchanges focused on urban planning, and on the basis of progressive values, seek the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in order to promote positive values in cross-Strait relations.
  4. The DPP should strengthen its discourse regarding the role that Taiwan can as an anchor of regional security in East Asia and in peace and security globally.
  5. To gain the support of Taiwan’s public, the DPP must propose a concrete economic policy that differentiates itself from the KMT’s blind rush toward trade liberalization.

Briefing the Committee on the international community’s reactions to DPP’s 2014 China policy summary report, Executive Director of DPP’s Policy Research Committee Dr. Joseph Wu said that the majority of international friends have affirmed the pragmatic proposals contained in the report, as well as the DPP’s earnest efforts in the consensus-seeking process. They look forward to seeing the party make further progress in the future, with more concrete proposals developed on the basis of the 2014 summary report.

The Committee also discussed results from two recent polls that surveyed public views regarding the China policies of the two major parties, presented by Director Wu Hsiang-rong of the DPP’s survey center. According to the polling data, the predominant view in Taiwan with regard to the preference for unification versus independence is consistent with the DPP’s basic stance, while the KMT and the DPP each hold advantages in different areas of cross-Strait policy. For example, the aspects of the DPP’s position that the public finds least acceptable are its knee-jerk opposition to anything concerning China (40.7%) and conservative approach toward cross-Strait economic relations (21.7%). As for the KMT, 37.4% found its excessive accommodation toward China unacceptable, and 30.6% objected to the ruling party’s economic reliance on China. When asked to identify the primary consideration that will influence their vote in the 2016 presidential election, close to 7 out of 10 respondents chose “the ability to manage Taiwan’s economy,” followed by 16.1% who indicated the candidate’s ethics and character as their main concern. Only 2.1% said that the unification/independence question is determinative to their decision, suggesting that the respective positions of the two major parties on this issue will not be a key factor in the presidential election.

In addition, Director Hung Tsai-lung of the China Affairs Department gave an analysis of background trends in cross-Strait affairs for the upcoming year. Director Hung recommended that the DPP’s future approach to cross-Strait interactions emphasize strengthening oversight and expanding participation in the negotiation process. In technical subjects requiring professional expertise, such as the cross-strait services agreement, the party should join forces with civil society, increase information sharing, and enhance communications capacity, in effort to alter the cross-Strait discourse by introducing the liberty and human rights perspective.