From 13th through 15th February 1998, Taiwan's Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) held a debate to hammer out its policy on
relations between Taiwan and China. The meeting at the Law School of
National Taiwan University was attended by 36 party members, 12 each
from Party Headquarters, the Legislative Yuan and the National
The party conference represent the first major debate on its China
policy since the DPP trounced the ruling Kuomintang in City Mayor
and County Magistrate elections in November 1997.
The conference decided on a two-pronged approach, which was
summarized as "Strengthen Foundation and Move Westbound".
"Strengthen Foundation" represented the primary emphasis
on building a strong Taiwan and enhancing Taiwan's status as an
independent nation, opposing any concessions to China on the issue
of sovereignty of Taiwan.
At the same time, it decided that it was not against talks with
China ("Move Westbound"), provided this did not compromise
the sovereignty of the island.
The conference agreed to a policy of gaining greater recognition
abroad, and of keeping China at arms' length by limiting trade and
investment, thus rejecting DPP Chairman Hsu hsin-liang's view of
increased economic ties with China through direct trade,
transportation and communications.
Relations with China and Taiwan's national identity are the cause
of major contention in Taiwan. The ruling Kuomintang has
traditionally emphasized the Chinese identity of the
people on the island, although only some 15 percent came to Taiwan
with Chiang Kai-shek after his defeat in China in the late 1940s.
However, recent opinion surveys show a trend towards the Taiwanese
identity of the majority 85 percent on the island, and a strong
increase in support for Taiwan as an free, democratic and
independent nation, instead of perpetuation of the fiction that
Taiwan is a "province" of China.
During a major national policy conference in December 1996, the
ruling Kuomintang and the opposition DPP agreed to disband the
provincial administrative and legislative structure, a left-over
from the days the Kuomintang still claimed sovereignty over China.
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