DPP's Frank Hsieh on icebreaking trip to mainland

Frank Hsieh to use trip to attend Beijing bartending event to forge his party's future cross-strait relations strategy with mainland officials

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2012, 1:42pm

An "icebreaking trip" to the mainland by Taiwanese opposition heavyweight Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, which begins tomorrow, will help his party find a long-term and stable direction for its cross-strait relations policy, analysts in Beijing and Taipei said.

"Hsieh is one of the most influential DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] heavyweights because the clique he leads is playing a role in framing the party's cross-strait relations policy," Professor Xu Bodong, director of the Taiwan Institute at Beijing Union University, said.

Hsieh, 66, was Taiwan's premier in 2005 and also served as DPP chairman from 2000 to 2002. On Monday, he told Taiwanese media he had accepted an invitation from the International Bartenders' Association to watch a bartending competition in Beijing and had been granted a travel permit for a five-day trip, starting in Xiamen and ending in Beijing.

He will become the highest-ranking former DPP official to visit the mainland.

Although Hsieh has stressed that he is visiting the mainland in his private capacity as chairman of the Taiwan Reform Foundation and there would be "no public political events" in his itinerary, Xu said Beijing "would definitely arrange for some officials to meet him".

"If you ask me which rank of senior officials will be sent to meet him, I think it depends on Hsieh's performance in his first stop in Xiamen," Xu said. "If he doesn't make any trouble, the Communist Party might send someone in its top leadership to welcome him when he reaches Beijing."

He said any such meetings would be "closed-door" affairs.

"Compared with other DPP heavyweights, Hsieh is seen by Beijing [as a person who] seldom makes 'surprising speeches'," Xu said.

Paul Lin, a Taipei-based political commentator, said Hsieh's trip had been made possible by a consensus reached between the Communist Party and the DPP. "Hsieh's mainland trip should be a good thing because closer engagement with Beijing is an inevitable political issue for the party if it is going to return to power in four years, while Beijing also feels that it is failing to understand Taiwan's real public voice if it merely deals with the ruling Kuomintang," Lin said.

Wang Hsing-ching, another Taipei-based political commentator, said Hsieh was acting as the vanguard of former DPP chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen, who would find it inconvenient to visit Beijing right now.

"The DPP needs a heavyweight who is willing to take a risk by dipping a toe in the hot water of the knotty cross-strait relations issue, with Hsieh being the ideal veteran because he dares to sacrifice his political career to pave the way for Tsai's future mainland affairs reforms," he said.