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Sunflower cause shakes up DPP's China policy

TAIPEI--The recent student-led protests have elicited different views within Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on what the movement means for the party's policy toward China, with some questioning the growing opinion that the party should adopt a softer line.

In a newspaper article, former DPP lawmaker Kuo Cheng-liang said the events of the Sunflower Student Movement have “shocked the DPP back to its original pro-independence state of mind.”

Calls for policy adjustments favored by former party chairpersons Frank Hsieh and Tsai Ing-wen have all but “collapsed in an instant,” Kuo said.

In turn, Lai I-chung, former head of the DPP's China affairs department, said the student movement has helped the party to mature.

The lesson is that the DPP's push for China policy reform has been based on fallacies such as the Taiwanese public's concern that the DPP “is opposed to anything that has to do with China, has adopted a China policy that is too radical and needs to use moderation in dealing with cross-Taiwan Strait relations,” Lai said.

He concluded that the Taiwan people believe President Ma Ying-jeou has been leaning too much toward China, and the DPP should therefore consider what is fundamentally wrong with the calls for reform in its China policy in the last two years.

Liang Wen-chieh, a DPP Taipei City councilor, expressed the view that the student movement would definitely have an impact on the party's cross-strait policies.

People in the 20-29 age group see safeguarding Taiwan as their common goal and consensus, he said, adding that this a phenomenon no political party can afford to overlook.

Liang said this generation of youth does not see the question of unification versus independence as an issue and instead takes it for granted that “Taiwan is a nation.”

When considering their cross-strait policies in the future, all parties should take the pre-existing general consensus of Taiwan's youth into consideration, he suggested.

There were some dissenting voices, however, among them Tung Chen-yuan of National Chengchi University's Graduate Institute of Development Studies, who thinks the student movement will not have a major impact on the DPP's overall China policy.

Calls for revision of the party's policy have grown louder, especially since Tsai Ing-wen lost the closely contested presidential election in 2012, with many concluding that the DPP's policy toward China was a decisive factor in her defeat.

Opinion polls have shown that most people in Taiwan favor a stable relationship with China as the economic ties between the two sides continue to grow closer.

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