DPP values grip on power over independence
by Rodney Chan
Hong Kong Standard
There have been signs that both Taipei and Beijing are eager to mend ties since the crushing defeat of Taiwan's Kuomintang in the presidential poll earlier this month. But an insurmountable obstacle has arisen.
Beijing has been taking the Democratic Progressive Party's victory with a high degree of restraint.
The head of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office reportedly has said that Beijing is willing to return to the 1992 consensus, which allows both sides to define their own meanings of the "one China" principle, as long as they accept it as the precondition of cross-strait ties.
After eight tense years in cross-strait relations, Beijing seems to be ready for a restart with a virtual stranger who is potentially "history's sinner" - Chen Shui-bian from the pro-independence party.
In Taiwan, just after the election, the national legislature passed a timely law that allows the outlying islands to set up the so-called "mini three links" with the mainland, a gesture supporting the president-elect's promise to fully establish "three direct links" across the strait within a year of his administration taking office.
Mr Chen has been extremely low-key while addressing cross-strait issues, never mentioning anything about Taiwan's independence.
He has also promised to withdraw from party operations, which in theory would cleanse himself of the DPP's secessionist colours.
The DPP is also eager to peel off its pro-independence label, proposing to revamp the section of the party charter that seeks to establish a "Republic of Taiwan".
Despite the concessions both sides have made, the major discrepancy in their attitudes towards the "one China" principle still threatens to annul all fence-mending efforts.
While Beijing insists that "one China" is the un-negotiable principle - regardless of its definition - for all cross-strait talks, Mr Chen reduces it to merely one of the issues on the agenda.
The clash seems set to be deadly, as Mr Chen's refusal to accept the "one China" principle will be interpreted by Beijing as sticking to the pro-independence cause.
But Beijing should not be jumping to conclusions; Mr Chen may have his reasons.
Cross-strait relations is the most sensitive and complicated issue, and Mr Chen alone cannot dictate its course. Mr Chen, with his pro-independence label and his status as a "minority president", has to be doubly cautious in seeking consensus among the nation - a process highly treasured in a democratic country.
Mr Chen won the election not because of his cross-strait platform: The people believe in his ability and sincerity to uproot government corruption.
He could have full support from the people for his crackdown on corruption, but not for his mainland China policy.
Any false move in dealing with Beijing may expose him to unrelenting fire from his enemies and the general public.
Beijing says it is listening to Mr Chen's words and watching his moves. But Beijing should not be biased, or anything he says or does could be distorted.
Beijing should realise one fact: After years of struggle with the KMT, the DPP has finally taken over the helm of the country. The DPP is now more eager to keep its power than push for Taiwan's independence, a move that would definitely unseat the party.