Referendums are expressions of direct democracy in most democratic countries. Their purposes are to make up for shortcomings in representative politics. They are viewed as a normal phenomenon of democratic political action. However, the call for referendums in Taiwan has been a contentious issue. It not only sparks violent partisan rows between the pan-blue camp and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but also meets with reactions of varying intensity from Washington and Beijing.
In Taiwan, people take pride in their right to participate political affairs. However, most of them think the referendum on March 20 is involved in campaign strategy, so that they suspect the necessity of holding the referendum, the legal basis of referendum, even the timing of referendum. The violent debate causes a great deal of dissension and breaks the hard-won democratic achievements of Taiwanese.
On the other hand, when President Chen Shui-bian proposes the defensive referendum, the U.S. becomes abruptly aware that Taiwan’s referendum aims to change cross-strait status quo. For this reason, Washington return the favor by shifting his stance on cross-strait policy from “strategic ambiguity” to “strategic clarity”, unequivocally defining his administration’s position on the Taiwan independence issue.
As to Beijing, since President Chen proposed “one state on each side” statement, the mainland authorities gave up the “listen and see” strategy to President Chen and heightened its opposition to Chen administration. Even the intention to hold a referendum is announced, Beijing thinks the Chen administration is taking the gradual path to Taiwan independence. Therefore, mainland China uses articles and public comments to criticize Taiwan. He even holds military exercises in an attempt to intimidate the people of Taiwan. More seriously, the mainland authorities make attempts to use the U.S. to put Taiwan under pressure.
Generally speaking, the referendum on March 20 influences the three-sided relations among Taiwan, the U.S., and mainland China. It makes Taiwan-America relations fall to a low, and the mutual trust between the authorities on both sides is broken. Even cross-strait relations are at their tensest. More importantly, Taiwan’s democratic images and achievements are destroyed by the referendum with campaign strategy.