Tsai Ing-Wen

DPP seeks to build ties with mainland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party is mulling ways to better interact with Beijing and mainlanders following its defeat in last month's presidential election.

The DPP's soul-searching began amid scepticism by analysts about how successful any effort could be unless the party changes its hardline rejection of the 'one China' principle included in the so-called 1992 consensus between Beijing and Taipei.

The DPP's Central Standing Committee admitted, during a meeting on Wednesday to wrap up a review of the party's election loss, that the 'China factor' played a major role in the defeat of DPP chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai received 46 per cent compared with 52 per cent for incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou, who won a second four-year term.

'The biggest lesson we have learned from our setback is that we must formulate a new approach and policy towards [the mainland of] China,' Tsai said after the meeting.

Tsai cited inadequate trust from voters as another reason for her defeat and said the DPP must gain a better understanding of the mainland through more interaction while proving to the Taiwanese public that it could handle cross-strait affairs.

Tsai said opinion polls indicated that the race had remained tight until two weeks before the January 14 election. But swing voters moved towards Ma after he successfully tied the 1992 consensus to Taiwan's economic future.

In that oral agreement, both sides agreed there was only 'one China', but each would keep its own interpretation of what that meant.

During the last two weeks of campaigning, a number of mainland-based Taiwanese business leaders stumped for Ma, calling on voters to cast their ballots for the candidate who they believed could best maintain cross-strait stability.

Tsai said such support resulted from a subtler strategy by Beijing in dealing with the self-governing island, which it considers a break-away province. Rather than military threats, mainland leaders have been stressing economic ties.

'We can't just sit at home,' she said. 'We must find ways to understand China better.'

DPP legislators yesterday threw their support behind Tsai's proposal.

'This is a problem the DPP must face and resolve,' DPP legislator Tuan Yi-kang said, referring to the party's anti-mainland stance.

But analysts said that even if the DPP was able to better understand the mainland, it would have difficulty engaging mainland leaders without recognising the 1992 consensus.

'The 1992 consensus has become the basis for cross-strait negotiations and exchanges in the past three years,' said Professor Wang Kung-yi, who teaches international relations at Tamkang University.

Wang said the DPP should not view the 1992 consensus as only a political product. The 17 co-operation agreements signed by the two sides since 2008 have watered down the political context of the consensus shifting its focus towards economics.

Political commentator Wang Chien-chuang said the DPP must drop its hardline stance.

'The DPP was founded more than two decades ago, but it still refuses to change', while 'cross-strait relations have entered a new era', he said.