By Chun-Yi Lee.

“It is not easy for people outside of Taiwan to learn and communicate with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) directly about its Cross-Strait Policy. This is why Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, the former Chair of the DPP, and her recent seminar recently were so attractive to not only university staff and students at Nottingham, but also many audiences outside of  the University. What is the latest development of the DPP’s Cross-Strait Policy since it lost the 2012 Election, and how did the audience respond to her speech?  This blog reports observations you may find interesting”

This is the first time that the School of Contemporary Chinese studies has had to change seminar room right before the beginning of the talk. The turn-out was unprecedented; some latecomers were even asked to leave the room because they couldn’t sit on the stairs for safety reasons. Dr. Tsai was the official candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2012 presidential election. She was defeated by Dr. Ma Ying-jeou by a narrow margin. Dr. Tsai resigned from her position of chairwoman of the DPP, having served four years in that position since taking it up in 2008. Many people are convinced that the reason Dr. Tsai lost the election was her party’s China policy, and this was the assigned topic of her talk at the special lecture to the School of Contemporary Chinese studies.

Having been the Minister for the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in Taiwan for eight years (from 2000 to 2008), Dr. Tsai should have a lot to say about the cross-Strait relationship and Taiwan’s economic development. She could not really get into this topic during her talk, however one students’ question about ‘One China’ gave her great scope to express her thoughts. Standing firmly by her Party’s view, Dr. Tsai did not use the phrase “‘92 consensus” to describe the cross-Strait status; she used “’92 spirit” instead. She asserted that according to the DPP’s 1999 resolution, Taiwan is already an independent country; there is no need to call for independence. The DPP also accept the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a country. She mentioned that the DPP has no problem at all about having a normal trading relationship with China, as long as China doesn’t use her trading power to interfere with Taiwan’s domestic affairs. Derived from her past experiences as a negotiator for pushing Taiwan into the WTO, she once again emphasized that cross-Strait economic interactions should follow the legal framework of the WTO. She made the point very clearly that the DPP actually intend to have more direct interaction with China. In many ways, Dr. Tsai emphasized that peace across the Strait is the hope of the people, therefore it is also the hope for her Party. She pointed out that both China and Taiwan have lots of domestic issues yet to be resolved. In Taiwan, the DPP aims to work on a better social security net and also to improve the current democratic system into a more efficient model.

It was really like a campaign rally at the end of her talk; Dr. Tsai was surrounded by groups of students for pictures and signatures. For the audience, certainly this was a unique opportunity to understand the real politics of Taiwan and a Taiwanese politician’s view of the cross-Strait relationship. The DPP has been deemed as a troublemaker across the Strait, and even in the Sino-USA relationship. Through her talk, it was reflected that the DPP has a different picture of China and Taiwan from the KMT (Kuomintang), but it doesn’t change the fact that the DPP aims to pursue the best interests of the Taiwanese people. For Dr. Tsai, perhaps this was also an extraordinary experience to be able to talk to a different group of people. The influence of this talk could actually be more long-lasting than her possible visit to China (or her party member’s visit), because she directly talked to hundreds of Chinese students who could be the elites of society in the future. Dr. Tsai no doubt gave them a clear green (the colour of the DPP) idea of the cross-Strait relationship after the talk. This is a probably a more efficient way to close distance across the Taiwan Strait, through people to people interaction.

Dr. Chun-Yi Lee, is an ESRC Research Fellow based in the School of Politics and International Relations.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.


  1. A nice piece commissioned by DDP, highly recommend this reading to everyone. Also such a lovely picture of Dr Tsai, clearly can see she is a warm, caring and trustworthy person.

  2. I’m not sure that this piece would have been commissioned by the DDP. It is likely that it was requested as a seminar write-up by the China Policy Institute. However, if the CPI asked permission to write up the seminar from the DDP delegation, rather than either request a write up or receive one au naturale, it can be agreed it is a commissioned piece. So either the CPI knows it is commissioned or the author had it commissioned, or it was not commissioned, just written up. I don’t think the DDP will have commissioned it by request. Besides if it was considered biased by editors, it would not get published. CPI doesn’t require permission to write about politics. It could be regarded a slightly suspicious view to assume this was a commissioned piece. Thanks to the author for bringing the rapture of the night to this blog.

  3. Once again, from the speed of comments showed that it was a sensational seminar. Thanks for the comments however the debate here seems lost the focus. I tried to re-create the scene for people who couldn’t come for the seminar. I think what impressed me was Dr. Tsai’s interaction with the students. Students asked her difficult questions however she answered them with ease. I appreciate her attitude on this, and I think she is a respectful opponent of the KMT. Failing to deliver this perspective but created an illusion of ‘commissioned paper’, certainly is the responsibility of author to take the blame.

  4. I think it is a good piece and apolitical with an objective but enthusiastic feel. You should not apologise for it definitely. It is so important that Chinese visitors for education in England are able to experience independence and freedom of political thought, vision and process first hand and engage with that without feeling they will be in trouble back home for doing that. On the ebate, I recal Professor Tsang in his inaugural speech last week called on Chinese to be inspired by Taiwan. It sounds like we are in quadrilateral agreement (Taiwanese, Russia? China and UK) in these comments that the DPP ex chair was indeed an inspirational role model.

  5. I think it was not only for Chinese students’ experience, it was also valuable for Dr. Tsai’s experience. I believe she wouldn’t have so many audience from China whenever she delivered a talk in Taiwan.

  6. This is a timely and important blog, Chun-Yi Lee. I would add that in terms of the green cross-strait relationship Dr Tsai Ing-wen stated that China has much to gain by considering Taiwan’s experiences gained during its decade-long democratisation process. She specifically mentioned the areas of human rights, labour rights and environmental protection as possible venues for enhanced collaboration between Taiwan’s and mainland China’s civil societies. I personally have noticed that in the past few years Taiwanese civil society practitioners have started to engage with their counterparts in mainland China. I observed that due to their language capabilities, their cultural sensitivity as well as their political awareness Taiwanese practitioners are particularly well suited to engage with their mainland Chinese counterparts. Dr Tsai Ing-wen’s very well received public talk in Nottingham in front of audience with many students from mainland China is a case in point.

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