DPP Cross-Strait Narrative："Maintain Peace" to Replace "Resist China" to Protect Taiwan
United Daily News, January 1, 2023
After the crippling losses in the recent local elections in November, the cross-strait policy narrative of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), "resist China to protect Taiwan," became one of the items for review. Former Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan, who heads the review team, frankly recently admitted that the party’s cross-strait narrative has to adjust. In the last few days, Vice President William Lai and Acting Chairman Chen Chi-mai of the DPP coincidentally threw out the new paradigm "maintain peace to protect Taiwan” to replace "resist China and protect Taiwan." A party insider, however, opines that the essence of the DPP's cross-strait narrative did not change. It is a minor adjustment to reduce a sense of confrontation in the propaganda to the people. This has incrementally become the consensus within the party.
The new paradigm "maintain peace to protect Taiwan" first appeared in a DPP policy platform presentation on December 24 last year in Kaohsiung. Mr. Lai at the time advocated that Taiwan is a peace-loving country. He expressed deep hopes that all can maintain peace if there is no authoritarian country to invade and annex Taiwan. Later, at a press conference on December 28, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai used the same phrase when responding to a reporter's question on cross-strait relations.
According to this party insider, the DPP's cross-strait narrative may be divided into two categories: one for the international community and the other for people in Taiwan. To the international community, no matter if it is Mr. Lai or Mr. Cheng, their cross-strait narratives are all based on President Tsai Ing-wen's "Four Musts." Tsai's policy line did not change after the local government elections and will continue to hold in the post-Tsai era, he explained.
The insider added that the sudden policy adjustment is mainly for internal propaganda. Although the DPP's review report listed "fear mongering by the opposition party" as a reason for the failure of the party’s "resist China" card, it also indicated that their ignorance of how the social climate has been impacted by the Russia-Ukraine War, which changed the mind-set of the people, is the main reason behind the party’s heavy losses in the local elections.
According to the party insider, the essence of Mr. Cheng's call that "the DPP's cross-strait narrative has to adjust" is in keeping with Mr. Lai and Mr. Chen’s "maintain peace to protect Taiwan." They all aim to reduce the sense of confrontation in the propaganda to the Taiwanese people. Furthermore, this is to emphasize that peace is the ultimate goal of President Tsai's policy, not confrontation with China.
What is more, this insider indicated, at a time when the party’s chairmanship election is in full swing, adjusting its cross-strait propaganda was not a plan that was concluded in a formal meeting. This issue will have to wait to be finalized after the new DPP chairman takes office and further discusses it with the DPP, Office of the President, and the Executive Yuan. However, judging from recent comments by party heavyweights, reducing a sense of confrontation in the cross-strait propaganda is becoming more of a policy line.
Hung Chi-chang, former chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, stated that, in recent years, the DPP has become used to coining slogans to address serious issues. At the time of the Hong Kong protests in 2019, the party threw out "Hong Kong today, Taiwan tomorrow." The "maintain peace to protect Taiwan" slogan comes from the same simplified way. However, like reforming the military service system, the cross-strait issue is a topic that requires comprehensive communication and dialogue with the public. Therefore, President Tsai needs to explain in detail to the people on Taiwan how the DPP is going to "maintain peace to protect Taiwan!"