DPP mulls credo ahead of 2016 bid

Shih Ming-teh's 'Greater One-China' concept seeks to close gap between camps as main opposition casts about for inclusive platform

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 4:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 7:00pm

A former chairman of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party is touting a concept of a "Greater One-China" that he hopes will help the pro-independence party return to power in the 2016 presidential election.

But analysts say the idea is unlikely to provide an answer for the DPP's new chairwoman, Dr Tsai Ing-wen, as she searches for a cross-strait policy that most Taiwanese can support. The party is reviewing its stance after she lost the presidential race to the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou four years ago.

The "Greater One-China" concept was put forward late last month by Shih Ming-teh, a former political prisoner and veteran politician who headed the DPP from 1994 to 1996.

"The idea is to seek political reconciliation between the blue and green camps," Shih said, referring to the mainland-friendly camp led by the KMT and the pro-independence camp led by the DPP.

The concept sets out five principles on cross-strait relations. It calls for the two sides to maintain the status quo and recognise they have evolved from two belligerent governments at the end of the civil war in 1949 into two ruled independently of each other.

It also calls for both sides to support replacing the "one-China" principle with the "Greater-One China" framework.

The "one-China" concept has been the bedrock of largely stable ties for decades. In 1992, unofficial representatives of Beijing and Taipei met in Hong Kong and reached an understanding that there is only "one China", but each side would have its own interpretation of what constitutes "China".

Beijing over the years has generalised the term to solely represent "the People's Republic of China", while Taipei maintains it refers to the "Republic of China".

Under Shih's framework, the two sides should also form a limited "international legal entity" to allow for consensus and decision-making over cross-strait affairs.

Both sides should also remain at peace, refrain from military threats and enjoy equal rights to join international bodies and forge normal ties with other countries.

Former president Lee Teng-hui put forward a special state-to-state relationship theory in 1999. Lee summed up cross-strait ties as "special state-to-state", given that the two sides have existed independently.

Tsai helped drafted the theory when she was a senior researcher in the Lee administration.

Shih's proposal was backed by six other members of the DPP and the mainland-friendly Kuomintang, including Su Chi, former secretary general of Taiwan's National Security Council, and Chen Ming-tong, who was head of the Mainland Affairs Council when the DPP was in power from 2000 to 2008.

Ma was re-elected with more than half of the vote in 2012, with voters expressing reservations about the DPP's ability to maintain stability across the Taiwan Strait. Following the loss, Tsai announced a review of the DPP's anti-mainland stance.

Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei, said Shih believed his proposal would benefit the DPP, but it could alienate hard-core supporters of independence.

"For them, any c1oncept that identifies 'one China' will only hurt international recognition for Taiwan's position, which could jeopardise Taiwanese sovereignty," Wang said.

Nor would Tsai have time to deal with the proposal, he said. Other issues were more pressing, including the cross-strait service trade pact, the draft of a law to increase scrutiny of future cross-strait agreements and November's local government elections.

"The fact that she won 94 per cent of votes cast, probably the most in any DPP leadership election, could also affect her choice for a more liberal cross-strait policy, given that a great number of hard-core anti-mainland members gave her their support," Wang said.

Wang Kao-cheng, also a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University, said Shih's proposal might help the DPP as it seeks to return to power.

"But the problem is whether the DPP and the mainland can accept it," he said, adding more discussions were needed to reach a position acceptable to the DPP, the KMT and the mainland.

Beijing has dismissed Shih's proposal, with the Taiwan Affairs Office under the mainland's State Council reiterating that all proposals by Taiwan to resolve cross-strait differences should conform to the "one-China" principle.