l Former Kaohsiung County Magistrate Yang Chiu-hsin, formerly of the DPP, led a delegation to China last month and met with top Chinese officials, including the Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Wang Yi and Chairman Chen Yun-lin of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), responsible for cross-Strait relations.
l Though it’s no secret that a number of former DPP officials and pro-opposition scholars have visited China since 2008, those trips were very low-key and mostly not reported in the press, unlike Yang’s much-publicized visit in late March.
l Moreover, while Yang is no longer a part of the DPP, his trip to China was largely perceived as another step forward in Beijing’s outreach to those in the opposition. This strategy will likely continue in the foreseeable future as Beijing hedges against the possible return to power by the DPP.
l Though Yang had been to China on three previous occasions, the visit this week carried added political significance as Beijing, from now until the 2012 presidential election at least, plans to: (1) emphasize exchanges and interactions with people, things, and places in southern Taiwan, (2) enhance understanding of the opposition through meetings with former DPP administration officials and pro-Green scholars, and (3) expand cooperation with DPP-controlled cities and counties throughout the island, particularly in agricultural trade and infrastructural investment. However, a party-to-party platform between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the DPP appears unlikely, at least not until the presidential election is over next year.
l In addition, Beijing will broaden contacts with Taiwan’s grassroots and project a more benevolent image contrary to those often associated with Chinese missile threat and pressure on Taiwan’s international space. Therefore, it is almost certain that Beijing will have more procurement delegations visiting southern Taiwan this year, and after the signing of the mutual investment protection agreement, there will likely be more Chinese investments in places considered the DPP’s strongholds.
l As Beijing shifts its policy focus to southern Taiwan this year, there will also likely be reciprocal changes in the DPP’s position toward China. Other than the occasion rhetoric to keep the fundamentalists happy, the DPP’s presidential nominee—either Su Tseng-chang or Tsai Ing-wen—will present a more moderate cross-Strait policy.
l More importantly, the fifteen signed agreements since 2008, including the “Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement” (ECFA), will probably continue to be honored by the new DPP administration if it wins the presidential election next year. Therefore, the likelihood of a national referendum on the fate of ECFA, as once pledged by DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, has become increasingly remote since the political costs would be too much for any political leader in Taiwan to shoulder.
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