Between Strategic Change and Ideological Adjustment: The DPP’s China Policy Debate in the Aftermath of the 2012 National Elections





Published date: 

November, 2012


Gunter Schubert


Following the 2012 presidential elections, the DPP seems to stand at a crossroads. Facing intensifying interaction across the Taiwan Strait and a majority of voters who want to see stable cross-strait relations, its history and identity as Taiwan’s oldest independence party seems to have become a burden for electoral success. Arguably, most Taiwanese can now at least live with the ‘1992 consensus’ of “one China with different interpretations”. It is hence stated by a number of party leaders and advisors that the DPP must modify its China approach to accommodate the ‘1992 consensus’ and the ‘One China principle’. Others reject this and instead plead for a rebuilding of the party from the grassroots, reactivating its links with civil society and rejuvenating the DPP’s democratic values. This article reconstructs the DPP’s China policy since the change in ruling parties in 2008. It argues that the DPP “learned little” from its defeat in that year and mainly conducted strategic maneuvering in the run-up to the 2012 elections to neutralize Ma Ying-jeou’s pro-active China policy. The article then focuses on the current debate in the DPP on the necessary consequences of the 2012 election outcome for the party’s China policy, demarcating the space for an alternative approach and pondering if there might be a new ‘pragmatist consensus’ rising in the party leadership.