By Lilian Wu CNA staff writer
Many political observers believe Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was defeated in the 2012 presidential race in large part because of voters' misgivings about her party's China policy.
That may have been why she proposed positions on China early on in this election cycle that will convince voters she and her party will manage the cross-strait relationship in a stable manner.
She said that she will abide by the Republic of China constitutional system and rely on democratic principles and the greatest possible public consensus to promote her China policy.
She has advocated "maintaining the status quo" with China and that she would do her best to "seek methods of exchanges acceptable to both sides of the Taiwan Strait."
It's a position that differs considerably from the "one country on each side" stance publicly advocated by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2002 and the "state-to-state relations" doctrine espoused by former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in 1999 that Tsai herself helped author.
Tsai has since been grilled by the ruling Kuomintang on how she is going to maintain the status quo if she does not recognize the "1992 Consensus," which has been the foundation for the China policy of incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) administration.
Tsai has acknowledged that in 1992, representatives of Taiwan and China did hold talks in Hong Kong and had different views but agreed on at least one thing -- "that based on mutual understanding and the need to move cross-strait ties forward, the two sides should try to seek common ground and set aside their differences."
"This part of the historical record we do not deny, and we accept it," Tsai said, adding that "everyone has a different view on how to interpret that part of history or how to term it," noting that the term "1992 Consensus" was only coined by the Kuomintang in 2000.
The KMT government has seen the "1992 Consensus" as a tacit understanding that there is only "one China," with each side allowed to interpret what that means.
China has seen the consensus as implying that Taiwan is part of China, while the KMT has said it upholds the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the "one China."
Tsai has argued that the "1992 Consensus" limits Taiwan's choices in the future and said her position of maintaining the status quo is "to ensure the options of the Taiwanese people."
"The 1992 Consensus is just an option, but not the only one," she said.
She said her cross-strait policy will be "communication, no provocation, no surprises, as well as continued safeguarding of cross-strait stability."
"We should continue to seek common ground while reserving differences. Let's sit down and talk. We can talk about anything. This is a very rational attitude, and I believe that China will also interact with the DPP in a rational manner," she said.
"After all, Taiwan is a democratic society, where there is bound to be power shifts and where political parties with different ideas will take turns being in power," she said.
Tsai has said she believes Chinese leaders and decision makers will give Taiwan a certain level of respect.
On the nation's economic woes, she acknowledged the problems created by the global economic slowdown and China's red supply chain, but she contends she will help industries upgrade and tap into new markets if elected.
She said the DPP's first step will be to promote five innovative research projects covering green technology, the Internet of things, biomedicine, intelligent machinery and the national defense sector.
As the election has moved closer, she has taken some controversial positions, including what appeared to be a shift on the party's position on importing pork from the United States that contains leanness-enhancing ractopamine.
The U.S. has hinted that accepting U.S. pork is a precondition for further bilateral talks on trade liberalization and for Taiwan's inclusion in the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The DPP has vehemently opposed allowing such imports, claiming it was protecting the public's health and the interests of domestic hog farmers.
But when asked about her position, Tsai said she would "refer to the criteria of Japan and South Korea, which have similar dietary habits as us." Both countries allow in U.S. pork with traces of the veterinary drug.
Tsai argued that joining the TPP is a serious matter, and it will also be the government's obligation to help the farm sector upgrade its practices and gain a niche amid global competition.
On the political front, Tsai has pledged to promote five principles -- generational justice, government efficiency, legislative reforms, transformational justice and an end to partisan wrangling.
She has also announced several projects to promote social stability, including the construction of 200,000 housing units in eight years.
Tsai has also advocated establishing a food safety network and a community care plan for children and long-term care for the elderly, promoting a sustainable pension plan and safeguarding social order, with drug prevention, fraud busting and the personal safety of women as priorities.
Noting that Taiwan is an aging society, she said that if elected, she will allocate between NT$30 billion (US$890 million) and NT$40 billion in tax revenues to build a long-term care system and will consider raising the inheritance and gift tax by between 5 and 10 percent to finance the plan.
Describing herself as a "problem solver," she promised to help address the concerns of enterprises for land, water, electricity and talent.
Tsai has pledged to form an infrastructure task force to check land use and idle land, ensure water and electricity supply and create an environment that will move toward the permanent residence of foreign professionals.
She also said that her government will be the best ever in "communication" to help resolve differences between the government and businesses, workers and environmental groups.
Arguing that the pension system has become a big financial burden, she has promised to complete a reform plan within six months of her inauguration.
Tsai has characterized Taiwanese society as seriously divided, but she pledged to activate four mechanisms on her inauguration day as the first step toward unity and reforms.
The first one will be an inter-party consultation mechanism that will allow different parties to regularly communicate and cooperate with each other, she said.
The second one will be a mechanism to support a change in Taiwan's industrial structure, in which members of the private sector will be invited to join an industrial innovation program to systematically restore Taiwan's economic momentum, she said.
The third one will be a pension reform mechanism, she said, adding that a national affairs conference will be held to muster a public consensus on the issue.
The last one will be an external communication mechanism that will allow Taiwan to have a channel of communications and mutual understanding with China and other countries, according to Tsai.