Two Sides, Two Constitutions (2011)

Two Sides, Two Constitutions (2011)

For decades, cross-strait relations have been a focus in international relations and international politics. Debates and discussions on cross-strait policies are also unavoidable in Taiwanese politics. As Taiwan’s position on such issues can affect the state of East Asia, the more stable and consistent Taiwan’s cross-strait policy is, the greater the stability in the region. Domestically, the greater the popular consensus on the cross-strait policy, the greater the benefit for the people of Taiwan.

What we seek is a cross-strait policy that garners over 60% popular support—the kind of cross-strait policy that not only can form an overwhelming consensus internally, but also is consistent externally in safeguarding the status quo and the integral values of Taiwan. The economic, social, and cultural relations between Taiwan and mainland China are by necessity different from before, following Taiwan’s opening up to mainland China. With the influx of students, spouses, and tourists from mainland China, trade and investment relations between the two sides have grown closer, and Taiwan’s laws and regulations have been revised accordingly. At this juncture, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) must be able to keep up with the times both nationally and internationally. Therefore, I propose a new cross-strait policy: “Two sides, Two Constitutions.”

What “Two Sides, Two Constitutions” means

Two Sides, Two Constitutions: There are two Constitutions across the Taiwan Strait. The Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC) governs Taiwan. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) governs Mainland China. The two sides are equal with neither subordinate to the other but have a special relationship according to the ROC Constitution.

Why advocate “Two Sides, Two Constitutions”?

  1. Taiwanese society is divided over cross-strait policies. Generally, there are two main currents of thought: the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)’s position and the DPP’s position. The KMT’s policy is called ‘One China, Respective Interpretations’, which means “There is only one China, with each side of the Strait having its own respective interpretation of what that China is”. The DPP’s position is termed as ‘One Country on Each Side’, which denotes that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent state and therefore, each side of the Taiwan Strait consists of one country.
  2. The KMT’s position on ‘One China’ is that there is only “one China,” and Taiwan is part of it. However, the “one China” for the KMT is the ROC rather than the PRC. The DPP views “One China” as the PRC in mainland China exclusively and advocates that in the future, the nation should be normalized with the drafting of a new Constitution that changes its official name to “Taiwan.”
  3. I believe that to safeguard Taiwan and maintain regional peace and stability, an ideal cross-strait policy must satisfy three primary objectives. It must:
  • Satisfy the people of Taiwan—Taiwan is a democratic society, so any policy must be scrutinized by the people. Any policy that fails to satisfy the people of Taiwan can never be implemented smoothly.
  • Be acceptable to the US—The Taiwan question is left over from the Cold War; thus, so long and deeply has the US been bound up with Taiwan’s history that it formulated a domestic law—the Taiwan Relations Act—in 1979, to ensure the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question and regional stability. As the US plays a pivotal role in East Asia, any cross-strait policy must be acceptable to the US before it can be effectively enforced.
  • Be tolerable for China—China’s stance on the cross-strait issue is unification. A policy that would be acceptable or satisfying to China would have to denote the unification of Taiwan with the PRC, which would leave the people of Taiwan feeling deeply anxious and insecure. However, any policy that is intolerable to China will heighten the cross-strait tension, create further uncertainty, and in turn affect America’s attitude. Therefore, we cannot expect a cross-strait policy that China can accept or seek one that leads to conflict, but one that China can tolerate.
  1. The cross-strait policies of neither the KMT nor the DPP have won the majority support in Taiwan.
  • The KMT’s cross-strait policy, though accepted by the US and tolerated by China, has not attained the ideal policy objectives.
    • The public satisfaction with the KMT’s cross-strait policy was found to be only 21.3% in the Want Want/China Times opinion poll in August 2013 and 35.0% in the DPP internal opinion poll in November 2013. The people of Taiwan are clearly not satisfied.
    • During the 2012 presidential election campaign in Taiwan, the US let it be known that it could accept the KMT’s cross-strait policy.
    • The KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began a series of party-to-party exchanges in 2005; and subsequently, based on the “1992 Consensus” have signed a number of cross-strait agreements. However, China has not accepted the “One China, Respective Interpretations” policy, indicating that it merely tolerates the KMT’s policy.
  • The DPP’s cross-strait policy also fails to meet the conditions of an ideal cross-strait policy.
    • Opinion polls indicate the satisfaction with the DPP’s cross-strait policy at only 13.4% (Want Want/China Times opinion poll of August 2013) and 27.3% (DPP internal opinion poll in November 2013). Evidently, the people of Taiwan are not satisfied with DPP’s policy, either.
    • During the 2012 presidential election campaign, the US State Department expressed concern that the DPP presidential candidate, if elected, might not only undermine cross-strait peace and stability, but also fail to maintain a constructive relationship with the US. This indicated that the US did not accept the DPP’s policy stance.
    • China publicly announced that it could not accept engaging in party-to-party exchanges with the DPP, signifying that it could not tolerate the DPP’s policy.
  1. I hope that we can find an ideal cross-strait policy that can meet the foregoing three objectives and earn the support of over 60% of the people in Taiwan. Beyond surpassing the KMT’s cross-strait policy in terms of satisfaction, I believe that the “Two Sides, Two Constitutions” formula is an ideal cross-strait policy that describes the status quo most precisely and accurately.

The Vision of “Two Sides, Two Constitutions”

Within Taiwan, making the ROC Constitution the basis for consensus on domestic policies can provide a force for stability and a robust framework of institutionalization. Then, no matter which party is in power, neither can transgress the Constitution. Thus, I propose the “Two Sides, Two Constitutions” formula in the hope that it gives the people of Taiwan peace of mind and establishes a foundation for cross-strait dialogues in order to maintain peace and stability in East Asia.

Across the DPP, the KMT and the CCP, there is only the 1992 Consensus between the KMT and the CCP. There is no consensus between the DPP and the KMT or between the DPP and the CCP. The latest opinion poll carried out by the Harbor Cities Exchange Foundation showed that 60.1% of the public would support ‘Two Sides, Two Constitutions’ as the foundation of the DPP Cross-strait policy and 57.9% agree with ‘Two Sides, Two Constitutions’ as a Cross-strait discourse. Therefore, I believe that if my initiative is further publicized and promoted, not only will it become the popular consensus within Taiwan but also can become the common denominator between Taiwan, the US and China and create a win for everyone.