National policy conference is necessary, but not the DPP's
The China Post news staffPresident Ma Ying-jeou and Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang will hold a two-hour TV debate on Sept. 15 to try to outtalk each other on the cross-strait Trade in Services Agreement. This is a victory for Su over his predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen, who is also his formidable rival in the party primaries for the 2016 presidential election.
September 4, 2013, 2:20 am TWN
Tsai had proposed a national policy conference with a sine qua non to Ma. As she made the phasing out of nuclear power a prerequisite topic for the conference, Ma rejected her proposal. The president, however, jumped at the chance for a televised debate to boost his popularity, thereby setting the stage for Su to outmaneuver the DPP standard bearer in 2012, who passed over him to pick Su Jia-chyuan as her running mate.
A national policy conference (國是會議) is supposed to be a meeting of important political leaders to discuss and decide a national policy (國是). Few countries in the world have ever held such conferences, South Africa and Taiwan among them. The African National Congress of South Africa held one last year, and President Lee Teng-hui called two, one in 1990 and the other 1996.
Japan can arguably be said to have held the world's first national policy conference. Shortly before the Meiji Restoration, the Tokugawa shogunate called conferences of daimyo to determine national policies.
Perhaps drawing on the Japanese precedent, Lee called his first national conference in 1990, where the decisions were made to end the state of emergency, to give up the Republic of China's claim of representing the whole of China and to retire what is known as the permanent legislature. The Democratic Progressive Party did not take part in the 1990 conference. The opposition party was represented at the second one in 1996, known officially as the National Development Conference, to phase out the province of Taiwan.
There was a likely precedent Lee drew on. It's the conference of representatives of the provinces that declared independence following the successful Chinese Revolution of 1911. Called the Conference for Organizing the Government of the Republic of China, it was held for two months and culminated in the election of Dr. Sun Yat-sen as president of the new republic.