Go TO Content

The DPP Administration’s Logic and Policy on China

  • Date:2007-06-13

Mingtong Chen
Chairman of Mainland Affairs Council

Friends from the Media and ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!

I welcome all of you to visit us, it is an honor and privilege to hold this press conference and give a short briefing entitled “The DPP Administration’s Logic and Policy on China”. I will take this opportunity to share with you the essence of our cross-strait policy and the current state of cross-strait relations.

1. Preface

The DPP administration’s China policy has long been criticized as inconsistent. In fact, the party’s China policy has focused on several clear strategic objectives, and its plans for achieving these objectives are meticulous, logical, cautious, and consistent. Where there are changes, they are strategic adjustments in accordance with the external environment, and they do not reflect inconsistency as criticized.

Simply speaking, the DPP administration’s strategic goal in cross-strait relations is to normalize relations. The key concepts in the current phase of relations are peaceful development, equality, mutual benefits, and mutual trust. The guiding principles in reaching these goals are goodwill, reconciliation, active cooperation, and permanent peace. The party has designed the following policies to achieve those goals:

1. To reach a consensus on national identity: Taiwan is an independent sovereign nation, and its name is the Republic of China, as stipulated in the Constitution.

2. To promote a future of co-existence and co-prosperity: taking the integration model of the European Union as a reference when designing the future structure of cross-strait affairs.

3. To make interim arrangements for such a future: moving from economic and cultural integration to a new framework for political integration, including:

(1)Negotiating a cross-strait “framework of interaction for peace and stability” (also referred to as a “peace and stability framework for interaction”): mutually assuring that there are no unilateral changes to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait;

(2)Developing cooperative economic relations: from “proactive liberalization with effective management” to “proactive management with effective liberalization;” and

(3)Facilitating the democratization of the PRC government: dissolving fundamental cross-strait conflicts.

2. The Strategic Objective: the Normalization of Cross-Strait Relations

The normal cross-strait relations that we expect echo the goals that the DPP proclaimed in the 1999 “Resolution Regarding Taiwan’s Future.” The normalization of cross-strait relations is based on the historical fact and current reality that Taiwan is sovereign and independent, that it is called the Republic of China according to the current constitution, and that neither Taiwan nor the PRC belongs to the other. As people around the world call for reconciliation, stability, and prosperity, Taiwan and China cannot alienate themselves from such global trends. Two countries that share geographic proximity, economic benefits, and cultural origins cannot remain in a state of hostility and mutual isolation. Taiwan and China should abandon their suspicion and antagonism. Based on Taiwan and China’s long-lasting historical, cultural, and ethnic ties, the two should hold on to their mutual benefits rather than discrimination, peace rather than conflict, and equality rather than a hierarchical relationship. The two should carefully manage geopolitics, regional stability, and their economic interests; both sides should work together toward a future of co-existence, co-prosperity, mutual trust, and mutual benefit. This is the bright future of the cross-strait that members of the DPP have resolved to pursue, the commitment the party has made to the world, and the goal of normalization of cross-strait relations that the government has furthered since gaining the support of the people and becoming the ruling party.

3. Strategic Principles: Goodwill, Reconciliation, Active Cooperation, and Permanent Peace

Once we have a strategic objective, we must have clear strategic principles in order to achieve that objective. The strategic principles established by President Chen are goodwill, reconciliation, active cooperation, and permanent peace.

These strategic principles were chosen with a particular focus on Taiwan and China’s opinions on the issue of sovereignty, as well as each country’s beliefs about the other’s political status. Although there exists a difference of opinion that is difficult to reconcile at present, it is a fact that has resulted from years of historical developments. The government and leaders of each side should neither unilaterally deny the other’s sovereignty nor force the other to accept its definition of sovereignty. Since Taiwan began allowing its citizens to visit relatives in China in 1987, and since it later began allowing Taiwanese businessmen to travel to China to invest and conduct business, exchange between the people of both sides has grown in leaps and bounds, and trade relations have developed tremendously. Such positive exchanges in the economic and social realms are in fact helpful in mending the political gap. Exchange helps to enhance mutual understanding and cultivate the goodwill necessary for political reconciliation. Exchange advances and promotes active cooperation across the Strait, and hopefully it can bring permanent peace as well. When that time comes, the goal of normalizing cross-strait relations will naturally follow. For this reason, goodwill, reconciliation, active cooperation, and permanent peace are the strategic principles for the normalization of cross-strait relations.

4. Policies for Achieving the Strategic Objective

Proactive policies are necessary in order to achieve the strategic objective of normalizing cross-strait relations. The DPP administration has adopted three such primary policies: building a consensus on national identity, proposing a future of co-existence and co-prosperity, and making arrangements to move in the direction of such a future. Since 2000, the DPP administration has derived its China policies primarily from the three policies listed above. The content of these policies is described below:

Building a Consensus on National Identity

For more than a decade, Taiwan’s democratization has stimulated the people’s sense of identity, broken the illusory national identity of Great China established by the authoritarian leaders of the past, and has gradually built a new consensus on national identity. Through the efforts of the DPP administration over the past several years, a national identity that centers on Taiwan has gradually taken root. In the past, under the leadership of political strongmen, Taiwan’s national identity was fraught with illusions and was very different from the current reality. Now that two of those strongmen passed away one after another, this illusory national identity has faded. The democratization that ensued has caused the rise of a Taiwanese consciousness, and a new national identity, distinct from that of the past, has emerged. According to long-term studies of the experience of national identity transformation, only 41 percent of those surveyed in 1996 considered Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu as part of the nation’s territory, while 42 percent believed that the mainland should also be included. In 1998, however, these percentages rose to 65 and dropped to 27, respectively. After the DPP became the ruling party in 2000, a September 2003 survey showed that the former percentage increased to 71.1, while the latter dropped to 13.5.

Similarly, 44 percent of those surveyed in 1996 believed that only the 21 million people in Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu were their compatriots, while 39 percent believed that the 1.2 billion people of China should be included as well. In 1998, the former percentage rose to 64, while the latter decreased to 28. In a survey conducted in September 2003, the former increased to 77.2, while the latter dropped to 10.6.

China has been unwilling to face the awakening of Taiwanese consciousness and the new national identity that has developed thereof. China continues to criticize the new national identity as Taiwan independence or “creeping” Taiwan independence, using such language as “anti-Chinese” and “forgetful of one’s own origins.” The DPP made it clear in the “Resolution Regarding Taiwan’s Future” that the party is willing to follow the current constitution and accept the Republic of China as the country’s name, and President Chen made the Four Noes and One Without pledge in his inaugural address in 2000. Even so, Beijing still considers these actions to be a veil for Taiwan independence and insists that Taiwan accept the one China principle, which, in Beijing’s definition, is that “there is only one China, Taiwan is a part of China, and the PRC is the sole legal government of China.” Only when Taiwan accepts this definition will any further developments in cross-strait relations be made. Today, Taiwan’s governmental agencies propose various cross-strait policies based on a spirit of goodwill, reconciliation, active cooperation, and permanent peace. However, these policies have been either resisted or simply ignored by Beijing.

In an interview with the Washington Post, President Chen pointed out that China does not recognize the existence of the ROC, but it is not willing to see the name clarified or changed, either. Without a doubt, this presents a dilemma. This is a matter that the Beijing authorities need to consider seriously. If the Taiwan independence that Beijing refers to is a change in the status quo, Beijing should admit that the status quo, which includes the ROC government, is not Taiwan independence. Beijing should further respect what President Chen said in his Cross-Century Remarks: “…we would like to appeal to the government and leaders on the Chinese mainland to respect the existence and international dignity of the Republic of China; publicly renounce the use of force….” If China cannot do this, there is no difference in the eyes of the twenty-three million people of Taiwan between Beijing denying the ROC and Beijing denying Taiwan independence. It would also be unnecessary for the Taiwanese to uphold the ROC.

Proposing a Future of Co-Existence and Co-Prosperity

Simply speaking, before the DPP became the ruling party, it had already set a goal to co-exist and co-prosper with China. That goal is established on the basis of safeguarding the integrity of Taiwan’s sovereignty, in the hope of ending the confrontation between both sides and normalizing relations. Therefore, once the DPP won the opportunity to be the ruling party, President Chen promptly stated in his 2000 inaugural address that:

Today, as the Cold War has ended, it is time for the two sides to cast aside the hostilities left from the old era…. The people across the Taiwan Strait share the same ancestral, cultural, and historical background. While upholding the principles of democracy and parity, building upon the existing foundations, and constructing conditions for cooperation through goodwill, we believe that the leaders on both sides possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future “one China.”

But what is the “future one China?” What form would it take? How can we ensure Taiwan’s sovereignty and status under this model? President Chen further elaborated on this point in his Cross-Century Remarks in late 2000. In that remark, President Chen for the first time proposed a new framework for political integration, the well-known Integration Theory. The purpose of the new framework for political integration is to pursue co-existence and co-prosperity for Taiwan and China with the prerequisite that the government and leaders of the PRC must respect the space for existence and the dignity of the ROC in the international community, as well as publicly abandon the use of force. It is obvious that the political integration of the ROC (or Taiwan) and the PRC is a multi-sovereign associated system, which is different from the mono-sovereign system that the KMT and the CCP sought in the past. The past fifty years, however, have proven the mono-sovereign system (or unification) that the KMT and CCP sought to be unfeasible. In addition, this system does not suit the current interests of the Taiwanese people. A political stalemate existed for fifty years under KMT rule, and the tense political relations were never relaxed. Now that the DPP is the ruling party, the new government can adopt a new way of thinking. It was in this spirit that President Chen appealed to the PRC to demonstrate great tolerance and progressive thinking and search for a new framework for political integration in order to overcome the current confrontation and stalemate.

Political integration originates from the idea of a multi-sovereign system and includes all possible models ranging from the loosest, a commonwealth, to the more closely integrated European Union or confederation model. In his inaugural address in 2004, reflecting on the recent integration of the EU, President Chen encouraged all elements of society, and even the PRC leaders, not to rule out the integration model of the EU as a new paradigm for future cross-strait relations. Nevertheless, President Chen and the DPP administration maintain an open mind on whether Taiwan and the PRC should adopt a more traditional model of integration, such as a confederation; the EU model; or a commonwealth, or develop a new model of integration. Ultimately, however, any model of integration adopted by both sides must have the approval of the twenty-three million people of Taiwan.

Making Interim Arrangements for the Future

Seeking a political integration model of co-existence and co-prosperity is one of the focuses of the DPP’s China policy. Achieving this goal, however, is easier said than done; it requires a long process. Take the EU model that President Chen mentioned, for example. It began in 1951 when Germany and France signed the Treaty of Paris to establish the European Coal and Steel Community. Over forty years had passed when the Treaty of Maastricht was signed in 1992, establishing the EU. The most important reason for the EU’s success is that member states share common ground in their political systems (democracy), economies (capitalism), societies (free and liberal), legal systems (rule of law), and universal values (human rights). Unfortunately, there are large discrepancies in these areas across the Taiwan Strait, even opposition and conflict. Even though China gave up its communist command economy in 1978 and adopted “socialist market economy reforms,” approaching a capitalist system, the reality in China is still quite different from the political, social, and legal systems, as well as universal values, that Taiwan has adopted. For this reason, Taiwan and the PRC still have a long way to go if they expect to realize the EU model of integration. This matches President Chen’s point in his Cross-Century Remarks: in order to seek a new framework for permanent peace and political integration across the Strait, both sides must start from economic and cultural integration and then gradually cultivate mutual trust.

It will take a long time for Taiwan and the PRC to create a new framework for political integration that can provide co-existence and co-prosperity, and at the moment, opposition and conflict have rendered cross-strait relations quite unstable. In order to stabilize cross-strait relations, both sides must sign an agreement on an interim framework that does not decide an ultimate political arrangement. Only in this way can both sides expand cross-strait exchanges and create an environment for economic and cultural integration. The DPP considered this issue in its 1999 “Resolution Regarding Taiwan’s Future.” The seventh proclamation stated that Taiwan and China should engage in comprehensive dialogue to seek mutual understanding and economic cooperation, and that both sides should build a framework for long-term stability and peace. In other words, to move towards a new framework of political integration, it would not be sufficient merely to start from economic and cultural integration; there must be a full set of interim arrangements in order to bridge the gap between the two sides of the Strait. The content of such arrangements is threefold: (1) to negotiate framework of interaction for cross-strait peace and stability; (2) to develop economic cooperation; and (3) to assist democratization in the PRC and thoroughly resolve the basic contradictions between both sides. Further explanations please refer to my book from page 111 to page 130.

5. Conclusion

Although Beijing has challenged the DPP administration’s China policy a countless number of times, the above analysis shows that President Chen has held on to the normalization of cross-strait relations as a consistent objective. He has not only held on to clarity in his strategy and principles, but has also enacted a series of policies designed to achieve this objective. Judging from the past several years of his administration, President Chen will continue to strive for this goal. In looking ahead to the future of cross-strait relations, the world can be cautiously optimistic. The reason for this optimism is that peaceful development is a goal shared by both China and Taiwan, and it is in fact the greatest common denominator between them. We can make a bold leap of faith in assuming that the leaders of both countries are rational and willing to work as hard as possible to maintain this collective value and sharing of interests. Taiwan’s China policies reaffirm this assumption. In light of the twenty-year timeline for strategic development that Beijing continues to emphasize, it is likely that they will take advantage of the current atmosphere of peaceful development and will not be so cavalier as to completely sacrifice rationality and initiate a war.

The reason for maintaining caution is that cross-strait relations are still relatively dynamic and complex, containing three levels of interactive factors. These include the factors behind China and Taiwan’s own personal goals, cross-strait interactive factors, and international factors, in particular the Asia-Pacific strategic landscape, dominated largely by the US. The factors among these three levels are interrelated and are in fact highly interactive. If any one of them experiences a problem, it will affect the whole, and so the world must be cautious.

Being cautious and optimistic is a kind of attitude, and this can only become the predominant attitude in guiding cross-strait relations if there are interactions across all these levels in order to enhance mutual understanding. In addition, if Taiwan and China can put themselves in each other’s shoes, each can foster a sense of appreciation for the other’s position, and perhaps this historical dilemma can be solved within this generation.

Before the ending of my briefing, I would like to bring your attention to the shared value between international community and Taiwan that make both a democratic and prosperous community. Let me emphasize again, it is this administration’s policy to be a responsible stakeholder of the international community and contribute to the preservation of the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. Cross-strait relations are complex and constantly changing. Over the past years, our friends in the media have made earnest efforts to conduct news coverage of cross-strait relations and have offered their comments on related issues. In this regard, I would like to express my sincere respect and appreciation.

Thank you very much! I wish all of you a pleasant afternoon!