Caution on Su's plan for 'China affairs' unit
A plan by the next chairman of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party, Su Tseng-chang, to reinstate its China affairs department is being watched closely on both sides of the strait.
While some members of the pro-independence party said they would not oppose the plan, legislators of the ruling Kuomintang said it would be meaningless to reinstate the department if the DPP failed to change its mindset on cross-strait policies.
Analysts said Beijing would adopt a 'wait and see' attitude before making any comment. The department, shut down by then DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun in 2007, mainly conducted research on mainland policies and mainland affairs.
Su, a veteran politician and a former Taiwanese premier, beat four rivals in a party election last weekend to win the DPP chairmanship. He received 50.47 per cent of the votes cast, more than twice as many as former Tainan magistrate Su Huan-chih, who finished a distant second with 21.02 per cent of the vote. Former Taiwan vice-premier Wu Rong-i won 14.73 per cent, followed by former DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong on 11.28 per cent and former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang with just 2.49 per cent.
Su takes over from Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, who became acting chairwoman after former leader Dr Tsai Ing-wen resigned to take responsibility for her defeat to Ma Ying-jeou of the mainland-friendly KMT in January's presidential election.
Shortly after he won the race, the 65-year-old, who briefly served as DPP chairman between February and December 2005, announced that he would reinstate the China affairs department, shut down when the disgraced Chen Shui-bian was still president. Chen was jailed for corrupiont after stepping down as president in 2008.
Su, who is seen as more pragmatic than other DPP politicians in dealing with the mainland, said that in the light of a changing mainland, the party should be more flexible, and this explained why he wanted to reinstate the department. Su also said he would not rule out visiting the mainland as party leader if the timing and conditions were right.
In response, DPP legislator Lin Chia-lung said yesterday that while he supported the grand direction of strengthening contacts with the mainland, he believed it was necessary for Su to clearly define the status of the department.
'If it deals with cross-strait policy, there is a need to upgrade the department as a policy-making body instead of just dealing with cross-strait affairs,' he said.
DPP legislator Lee Ying-yuan said reinstating the department could convince voters the party was able to deal with the mainland. 'Voters in urban and industrial areas have misgivings about the DPP's ability to handle the China issue,' he said, referring to one major reason for Tsai's defeat in the presidential race - voters' lack of trust in DPP cross-strait policies.
But Wu Yu-sheng, deputy caucus head of the KMT in the legislature, said Su must adopt a new approach 'It is meaningless to reinstate the department if there is no change in the party's cross-strait policy,' he said.