DPP Legislators Propose to Remove Unification Clauses Governing Cross-Strait Policy
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators considered friendly to and part of the faction led by President Tsai Ing-wen have proposed to amend the Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations. In particular, they have called for removing the "unification" clause related to Taiwan's cross-strait policy. (Photo from:
DPP Legislators Propose to Remove "Unification" Clauses, Shaking Cross-Strait Relations
China Times, May 9, 2020
Before the second-term inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen on May 20, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Yi-yu, who is friendly to and considered part of President Tsai’s faction within the DPP, proposed draft amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution and Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations. The proposed revisions would remove “to meet the needs before national unification” in the preface and “before national reunification” in Article I and replace with new wording “in response to national development.” The draft amendment to the Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations passed the first reading, and the proposed revision of the Additional Articles of the Constitution will be processed by the Legislative Yuan once a constitutional amendment committee is formed. At this politically sensitive juncture before President Tsai’s second term, this critical move is viewed by observers as a move by the administration towards de jure independence.
Days before the January 11 presidential and legislative elections this year, DPP Legislator (at the time) and Tsai campaign spokeswoman Lin Ching-yi stated in an exclusive interview with Deutsche Welle, "China and Taiwan are two completely different countries and support for reunification is treasonous behavior." As it was only 10 days before the election, the statement caused an uproar. President Tsai did not respond, but Lin quickly apologized and said that her expression was inaccurate, which was the cause for misunderstanding, and then resigned. With regard to Legislator Tsai, who is regarded as belonging to President Tsai’s faction within the DPP, the situation begs the question: Did he discuss this with President Tsai before the proposal? To which he has responded: "No, this was my own idea."
The draft amendments to the Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations were jointly proposed by DPP Legislators Tsai Yi-yu, Chuang Jui-hsiung, and Chen Ting-fei. The first article of the Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations currently reads: "Before national unification, this regulation is hereby enacted in order to ensure the security of the Taiwan region and the well-being of the people, regulate the exchange of people between Taiwan and the mainland, and handle derivative legal events.” The revisions delete the words “before national reunification" and replace them with "in response to national development.”
Jurisdiction Over Taiwan and Neighboring Islands
Legislator Tsai's proposal pointed out that the relationship between Taiwan and China no longer focuses on "national reunification" as the sole ultimate goal. In light of Taiwan’s political reality and development, the approach to cross-strait relations should be amended. He stated that the Republic of China (ROC) respects the historical fact of the People’s Republic of China occupying the mainland and recognizes its sovereignty. The ROC’s current jurisdiction is limited to Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and other affiliated islets, including the corresponding airspace, territorial and adjacent waters under international law.
In this regard, Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lee De-wei warned that if the government goes ahead with the proposed amendments, the move will have severe consequences on both sides of the straight. He called upon the DPP not to directly confront mainland China, declare Taiwan’s independence, or even change the name of the country or national flag. It would not be wise for Legislator Tsai to attract such attention. However, KMT Legislator Lin Yi-hua thought that Tsai probably would not anger mainland China in her inaugural address. She, therefore, tried to placate supporters by proposing the revisions.
Provoking China, Towards Formal Independence
Beijing-based experts on Taiwan bluntly characterize this as a major challenge to the status quo of cross-strait relations and clearly a gesture of de jure Taiwan independence. The anonymous source said that Tsai has repeatedly stated that she would manage cross-strait relations by the Constitution and Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations. Thus, the proposed amendments before the May 20 inauguration undoubtedly challenges the mainland. The source explained that the original text implies that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are parts of the same country, both of which seek reunification. If deleted, it would be tantamount to de jure Taiwan independence.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday evening that while the executive branch respects the power of the Legislative Yuan to propose legislation, the administration’s policy on cross-strait relations would not change. It will continue to handle cross-strait affairs in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China, Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations, and other relevant laws in order to maintain the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. It will pay close attention to opinions from all walks of life.
With high popularity stemming from her re-election and Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, President Tsai Ing-wen has focused on overall stability by extending the term of incumbent Premier Su Tseng-tsang before the presidential inauguration on May 20.
Yet on the other hand, President Tsai has authorized Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators to propose amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution and Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations, along with prosecutorial indictment of Taiwanese businessmen, actions which have stirred harmful waves. The moves show how the Tsai administration is not thinking about de-escalating tensions with China. It is instead playing psychological warfare and walking the tight rope, which puts Taiwan in grave danger.
Provoking China Risks Unforeseeable Consequences
Huang Hsin-chieh, a founding veteran of the DPP, said in 1989 during the party’s internal debate on Taiwan independence: “Some things can be said but cannot be done. Some things cannot be said but can be done”. These words are viewed as referring to political slogans like “reclaiming the mainland” and “Taiwan independence,” respectively. The history shows Huang’s political intelligence and harmonious negotiation skills.
President Tsai’s policy of maintaining the status quo in cross-strait matters and promoting peace and stability under the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution, Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations, and other relevant legal and political foundations, has formed the political common ground among the Taiwanese people since the presidential elections in 2012, 2016, and 2020. But now, ruling party legislators want to delete the “unification” wording from the Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations, obviously to anger China and absolving President Tsai of any responsibility but recklessly putting Taiwan’s security in danger.
It should be known that even amidst freezing cross-strait relations, China has never viewed “maintaining the status quo” by Taiwan as justification for military invasion, according to the mainland’s Anti-Secession Act. One reason is that the R.O.C. Constitution and Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations are at least based upon the principle of “one China” and “one country, two areas.” But once this red line is crossed, the consequences are difficult to predict.
Political Moves Implicate Taiwanese Businessmen
As to the prosecution of the president of a Taiwanese business association before the presidential inauguration, the purpose is a demonstrative warning, like spanking one’s child for others to see. No wonder Taiwanese businessmen are condemning the Tsai administration for initiating bad practices, infinitely escalating matters for political purposes, making things more difficult for businessmen working on either side of the strait.
Actually, to fundamental supporters of Taiwan independence, Taiwanese businessmen are not part of them. Even Yao Jen-to, vice chairman and secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation, who has in the recent years developed close relations with Taiwanese businessmen and helped fight for their rights, suggested resigning before the inauguration.
Unwise to Ignore Cross-Strait Tensions and Rely on Pure Luck
Just like the psychological warfare of aligning your attitude before showing your hand is to have a calm attitude. Although one may wish for success, he must also prepare for loss. But one should avoid five possibilities of losing: from fear, lightness, hastiness, unpreparedness, and pure luck.
At this sensitive time before the presidential inauguration, the Tsai administration should not take advantage of its high domestic approval ratings and external hostility between China and the United States, thereby taking cross-strait tensions lightly and acting hastily. The moves to prosecute the Taiwanese businessman and amend the Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations in order to test the waters rely upon pure lock and are unwise. These are not only matters attracting mockery but are serious issues potentially implicating all the people.
The DPP administration in Taiwan may attempt to utilize methods like fragmented legislation, constitutional amendment, and disguised constitution-making to maximize the likelihood of formal independence. (Photo from:
Cross-Strait Relations Nearing Extreme Challenges
By Su Yung-lin
China Times, May 8, 2020
Liu Guoshen, a senior mainland Chinese scholar on Taiwan, recently predicted that “extreme explosion” may emerge in relations across the Taiwan Strait during the second term of President Tsai Ing-wen. Liu thinks that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration in Taiwan may try to use fragmented law-making, constitutional amendment, or disguised constitutional enactment to achieve the prospect of “de jure Taiwan independence.”
Right after Liu’s article was published, DPP Legislators Tsai Yi-yu, Chuang Jui-hsiung, and Chen Ting-fei proposed to amend the Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations to change the wording “before national unification” to “in response to national development.” The proposed amendment was supported and co-sponsored by cross-faction DPP legislators, passed first reading sent to committee for review. Liu’s prediction has come true quickly that the DPP has taken the critical step of “extreme explosion.”
In the past, the Pan-Green coalition has frequently advocated “Taiwan independence” or so-called “one country on each side” to reassure or respond to the demands of fundamentalist supporters. This time, however, the timing of the proposed amendment is on the eve of President Tsai’s May 20 inauguration. This is the sensitive time when the United States and China are exchanging verbal attacks and advocacy of unification by force is increasing in the mainland, so the significance and impact of the proposed amendment cannot be deemed as merely reassuring fundamentalist DPP supporters.
It is highly worrisome that while the cross-strait “extreme explosion” has not emerged, “extreme challenges” are closing in step by step. The challenges test the political bottom line, wisdom, and measures of the Kuomintang (KMT), DPP, Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), and Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
For the KMT, it was often on the front line to block DPP’s legislation on Taiwan independence and was always labeled by the DPP-friendly Internet users as “China’s agents” or “selling out Taiwan.” So in recent years, many KMT supporters feel that the KMT does not need to work so hard to safeguard cross-strait relations. They think that the KMT should let the DPP promote Taiwan independence, such that the DPP collide with Communist China directly. Otherwise, the pro-China “red hat” on the KMT can never be removed. This is because the KMT thinks that the DPP always engages in Taiwan independence and “state-building” by mouth only. Now, the test is here: Will the KMT block the amendment this time?
For the DPP, it has often used small actions such as amendments, co-sponsorship, and publications to advocate Taiwan independence or “one country on each side.” However, the senior levels of the Tsai administration and DPP should consider that the deletion of the wording “before national unification” at this sensitive juncture may not be a small action and may stir great waves across the strait. Has the national security team of the Tsai administration predicted or conducted simulations on possible reactions from mainland China and the United States?
For the TPP, which has just entered the Legislative Yuan, while upholding the stance of Chairman Ko Wen-je that “unification versus independence is a fake issue,” the situation that it faces has changed. By entering the Legislative Yuan, the TPP is now part of the establishment, so will the TPP agree to or oppose the proposed amendment? Recently, the TPP has been ambiguous on issues of passport and China Airlines name changes. Can the TPP remain ambiguous to pass the test this time?
Finally, for mainland China, Taiwan’s “Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations” defines the relationship between Taiwan and mainland China, and the law should be considered “quasi-constitutional.” If the proposed amendment enters into the second reading, its meaning is tantamount to the implementation of a referendum on unification or independence. Does such action constitute one of the six conditions for China to use force against Taiwan provided in the “Anti-Secession Law?” How will the senior leadership in Beijing play its hand? These challenges have just begun.
The regime in Communist China has three major characteristics: state ownership, party rule, and enjoyment by the people.
United Daily News)
U.S.-China Institutional Competition—
Part II: China
By Su Chi United Daily News, May 10, 2020
While still serving as the President of the Republic of China, Dr. Lee Teng-hui met an old friend who urged him to value the importance of mainland China to Taiwan. He said, "Take it easy. Communist China will collapse soon. Believe me, I have intelligence on it." A score of years later, they met again, and the old friend asked if the Communist China had collapsed. Lee waved his hand, "Hmm, let us not talk about this today.”
Because China’s system of government has always been authoritarian and opaque in nature, it is entirely possible for some to insist continually for years and years that “China is collapsing.” Indeed, during its first 30 years of rule, Communist China had suffered tremendously from political struggles, turbulence, and poverty. But over the following 40 years, not only did it not collapse, but quickly grew into the world’s second-largest economy, and the people’s livelihood improved significantly as well. This system featuring "development without democracy" is officially called "socialism with Chinese characteristics” by Beijing. In the West it is generally referred to as "state capitalism." I’d like to dissect it into three parts: "Of the State", "By the Party," and "For the People.”
“Of the State”means that the land, natural resources and key means of production in the Mainland are all state-owned. Their use and operation may partly be relegated to the private sector. This is the essential difference between "state capitalism" and Western capitalism. Over the past 40 years, China has always taken utmost care in balancing "state ownership" and "private ownership," tightening up or relaxing rules at times seen as appropriate.
“By the Party" is another distinguishing feature. As China’s economy grew rapidly, many party and government officials abused power for private gains, stoking huge public resentment. Meanwhile the party discipline was so lax that important officials dared to escape into a U.S. consulate to seek asylum. After Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he gave the Communist Party greater power to govern the country, tightened the party discipline, strengthened the ideological education of party members, and comprehensively fought corruption. Altogether 1.5 million officials, including the so-called “tigers” and “flies,” have been punished. Without this heavy-handed approach, local unrest is not impossible.
Its downside is also fairly significant. The partly free and open atmosphere has since been more constrained. More importantly, the party’s international image has further deteriorated, deepening Western suspicions over China’s rise.
"For the People"refers to the satisfaction of the population in material and spiritual aspects. Harvard University, Pew Center, and other large pollsters have found that China ranks among the best in the comparison of people’s satisfaction with their leaders’ performance.
The system of “Of the State,” “By the Party,” and “For the People” is so unique that it is literally the one and only in the world today and perhaps not to be duplicated easily elsewhere. That is because the system was born and nurtured in a land immensely unique itself.
According to a Western study, for more than a millennium and half until the late 18th century, China’s national production had been equal to the combined total of all the other advanced nations of the time. However, three periods of nationwide chaos, i.e., the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864), Japanese invasion (1937-1945), and Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), each costing tens of millions deaths, left this land tattered and dilapidated, and its people in utter destitution. This massive tragic memory of more than a century led to strong collective yearnings among the people today for social stability, economic growth and national dignity.
Geographically, in the words of former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, half of the Chinese population (approximately the entire population of Europe) is squeezed onto land the size of Texas with extremely diverse ethnic, religious, linguistic, and parochial regional complexities. Managing such a large, crowded, diverse country beset with numerous contradictions is a huge challenge, to begin with. By contrast to the United States who live alongside "friends and fish,” China shares either land or maritime borders with 19 countries, 5 of which have fought with China over the past century and 10 continue to haggle over unfinished territorial disputes.
At the risk of over-simplifying such a complex political picture, one could use the "bicycle" as an analogy. There are three elements to a bike. The most important is the cyclist, that is, the central leadership, which must remain stable and refrain from infighting. Otherwise the bike will lose its balance. The second and third are the two wheels of the bike, one for economic development and the other for nationalism. If both wheels are full and sturdy, the bike will run fast and stable. If the tires somehow deflate, the ride will be in jeopardy. This is why, during the past 40 years, Beijing has placed such a high premium on economic development and never showed weakness to the outside world.
With Xi on the driver’s seat, China’s wheels are at full strength, and the bike runs with speed and vigor, causing the jealousy and envy of other countries. Nevertheless, the bicycle has an inherent problem. It has only two wheels, hence less stable than three- or four-wheeled vehicles. China has been fortunate in the last 40 years, because it was blessed with the solidarity of riders, who happened to have all lived through the trials and tribulations of the Cultural Revolution. A large part of its fortune may be attributed to the fact that the 1.4 billion people still have a vivid memory of the country’s painful past and are reluctant to repeat the same mistakes. They are also grateful that their desire for the “For the People” and their longing for national dignity are being met. So, they can endure domestic deficiencies, restrictions and even disasters, and are not fearful of foreign challenges. In the future, once people’s self-consciousness awakes and self-expectation rises, this system of government will likely be subject to the pressure for qualitative change.
At present, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is testing the crisis management capabilities of the two distinct systems in both the U.S. and China. It is also impacting their economies and societies. In the context of the continued struggle between the two great powers, how systemic differences may affect the trajectory of their respective national strength should be worthy of our attention.
The author, chairman of Taipei Forum, formerly served as secretary-general of the National Security Council from 2008 to 2010.)
May 7: Premier Su Tseng-chang announced on May 4 that the government is expanding relief eligibility such that uninsured workers would be able to receive a NT$10,000 (about US$335) subsidy. Crowds of people flooded the local government offices to apply for the subsidy. However, application did not open until March 6, and the application process and computations were complicated, causing an outcry from the public and front-line civil servants. Premier Su apologized twice and decided to simplify procedures and dispense funds within two weeks.
May 8: President Tsai Ing-wen is about to begin her second term on May 20. She announced that Premier Su Tseng-chang would continue to lead the government. President Tsai asked the premier to manage the five tasks of surviving the pandemic, revitalizing the economy, caring for the people, deepening reforms, and balancing construction. Premier Su will soon reorganize cabinet personnel.
May 8: Since restarting games ahead of the world on April 12, Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) opened each of the games in New Taipei and Taichung to 1,000 fans, signifying to the world that Taiwan has put the coronavirus pandemic under control.
May 8: The Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office investigated mainland Chinese involvement in Taiwan’s elections and indicted seven Taiwanese businessmen for bribery. The prosecution pointed out that Ho Jianghua, chairwoman of Chinese Women’s Federation, and Lin Huai, chairman of the Taiwan Compatriots Investment Enterprise Association of Changsha, helped campaign for Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu last December. They hosted some 500 Taiwanese businessmen for a dinner at a restaurant in Changsha, Hunan Province, mobilized them to vote in Taiwan, then applied for grants totaling 1.49 million yuan (about US$210,000) from the Taiwan Affairs Office of Changsha City and Hunan Province.
May 9: On March 6, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called upon Director-General Tedros Adhanom of the World Health Organization (WHO) to invite Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) this year on May 18 and 19. Tedros avoided answering related questions directly at the WHO’s regular press conference on March 6. The chairs of both the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committee jointly wrote to 55 governments of Europe, Australia, and India, calling upon them to support Taiwan’s participation in the WHA.
May 9: Director Brent Christensen of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) was reported to have asked Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan the possibility of changing the name of CPBL (Taiwan's baseball league) to reflect “Taiwan” in its name. Mayor Cheng said that Christensen and he discussed whether the name of the baseball league was easily misunderstood (to be affiliated with mainland China), and neither of them proposed a name change. The responsibility lies with CPBL. In a statement, the CPBL stated that the AIT respects the baseball league’s name that has been in use for 31 years. In order to prevent misunderstanding by foreign fans that the CPBL is affiliated with China, the AIT recommended adding Taiwan to related English materials.