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Politics

Time to relate to China like any other country, chairman says

Huang Kou-chang, the New Power Party chairman, rose to prominence in 2014 during mass rallies against new trade agreements with China.

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's pro-independence New Power Party (NPP) was founded in late January 2015, and is now the island's third party with five seats in the 113-member parliament. During the recent elections, it allied itself to the incoming Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which took the presidency and parliament by a landslide. One of its higher-profile lawmakers is Freddy Lim, who fronts the heavy metal band Chthonic. NPP Chairman Huang Kou-chang spoke to the Nikkei Asian Review in early January ahead of the presidential and parliamentary polls.

     Huang, 42, became a household name overnight in 2014 when he led the Sunflower Movement. He had resigned a top academic position at Academia Sinica, a research institution, to run for a parliamentary seat in New Taipei City. He successfully defeated the longtime Nationalist incumbent in the Jan. 16 general election.

     Edited excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: What are your goals after the elections?

A: We want to focus on parliamentary reform to allow bills to be reviewed in committee sessions instead of being discussed and finalized in closed-door sessions by party whips.

Q: What position does the NPP take on Taiwan's independence?

A: We want to build Taiwan into a normal state. The status quo is that Taiwan is a country but not a regular state. We want to affirm Taiwan's status, but this does not mean we want to push for a declaration tomorrow. We are idealistic but we have not forgotten about being realistic. This will need a long process to achieve.

Q: Where does the NPP stand on China?

A: We do not oppose interaction with China, but we want to uphold Taiwan's economic and political independence at the same time, and we want a comprehensive democratic mechanism that allows us to check cross-strait dealings. We should maintain ties with China in the same way we manage relations with other countries.

     The New Power Party does not oppose a meeting between Taiwan's new president and China's leader, but such a summit needs to be approved by parliament first. The president also needs to inform parliament ahead of time what she plans to discuss with her Chinese counterpart, and what agreements she hopes to make.

     When DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen says she wants to uphold the status quo, we want further clarification. If the status quo means Taiwan remaining independent from China, then we are all for it. However, if it means maintaining the last Nationalist government's pro-China stance and pro-unification policies, we totally reject it. We believe that Taiwan should not rely too much on China's market because it is too risky. The more we rely on China economically, the less independent we will be politically. The NPP proposes closer trade relations between Taiwan and the U.S., Japan and Europe instead of putting all our eggs in one basket.

Q: How should the U.S. handle its relations with China and Taiwan?

A: I have been telling U.S. officials that they should reconsider the one-China policy because it is outdated and no longer reflects reality. The U.S. should also understand that allowing Taiwan to participate in international affairs is in the interests of the U.S. and boosts global stability. While the international community continues to mollify China, just look at the trouble China has stirred up in the South China Sea.

Q: Do you support opening up Taiwan's chip design sector to investment from China?

A: We absolutely oppose the idea. Chip design is core to the semiconductor industry. If we allow this, Taiwan will completely lose its advantage. We have used taxpayers' money to grow this industry over recent decades. How can you sacrifice the industry just because a small number of businessmen want to cash out? If we allow Chinese investment in the sector, companies might see their shares surge in the short run, but in the long run it will hurt Taiwan significantly.

Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Debby Wu

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