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Tsai Ing-wen Will Pay A Price for Her Ignorance About the Mainland

icon2014/07/15
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 Tsai Ing-wen Will Pay A Price for Her Ignorance About the Mainland

China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)

A Translation

July 14, 2014

 

A Summary

It is hard to imagine how a former MAC Chairperson such as Tsai Ing-wen could be so ignorant of the fundamentals of cross-Strait relations. Tsai Ing-wen's recent remarks clearly ring hollow for now and for the future. In the short term, her superficial and naive remarks are sure to alert the Mainland authorities and cast a shadow on DPP-CCP relations, which have finally begun to show a glimmer of hope. In the long term, Tsai Ing-wen's mistaken grasp of the cross-Strait situation, and her misjudgment of the Mainland's position, can only lead to continued waffling regarding DPP policy reform. Swing voters will eventually be disillusioned. Tsai Ing-wen's much longed for electoral victory will be more distant than ever.

 

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See full text of the editorial below

 

Not long after Tsai Ing-wen became DPP chairperson, observers expressed hope that she would take concrete action to promote DPP reform. But to everyone’s surprise, under her leadership, the move to freeze the Taiwan independence party platform would itself be frozen. She did not lead any mass protests during the Wang-Zhang meeting, as a sign of change of her heart. She refrained from stirring up any trouble, but she failed to actively open a new phase of cross-Strait relationship. Worse still, some of her recent statements cast serious doubt on her political judgment.

 

Tsai Ing-wen has long been disparaged as "kong xin cai," aka "water spinach," a leafy green vegetable hollow at the center. This pun on her last name compares her to water spinach. The implication is that she lacks substance. People want to know "Where's the beef?" She talks a lot but presents no substantive policy proposals. Tsai Ing-wen of course considers the criticism unfair. But her nickname does have a basis in fact.

 

Tsai Ing-wen started out as a policy staff and bureaucrat. Politically she was tabula rasa, a blank slate. When she became a politician, this gave her tremendous latitude in positioning herself. Add to this an image as a political maverick. Many political aides or self-styled "kingmakers" soon flocked to her. They offered to help her craft just the right political image and deliver just the right political pitch. They knew full well that Tsai Ing-wen's political value lay in "creative ambiguity." That is why Tsai Ing-wen has talked a good game, shouted pretty slogans, and left the impression that she is championing a new political vision. In fact, her political rhetoric and proposals have always lacked substance.

 

Tsai Ing-wen had crafted a "Ten Year Political Platform" in a hope to change her "kong xin cai" image. She had found a "Thinkers Forum" of old and new writers to discuss new ideas and methods. But her "Ten Year Political Platform" is long forgotten by the public. Her "Thinkers Forum" merely muddled the political spectrum. Contributors' often held conflicting positions and failed to offer any political appeal.

 

Unfortunately, when Tsai Ing-wen returned to the DPP headquarters from the foundation she personally established, she has failed to learn from the lessons of the past. She has forgotten the price she paid for speaking before thinking and speaking before doing. The key to any DPP return to power is cross-Strait relations. On this she has reverted to her "kong xin cai" persona.

 

In a recent interview with the "CommonWealth Magazine," Tsai Ing-wen talked about cross-Strait relations. She maintained that "The most important factor in cross-Strait relations is sustainability and stability." She added that "If both parties (DPP-CCP) understand each other better, they will trust each other more." That of course is true. But Tsai Ing-wen's next remark shows that the DPP remains unchanged. It is still looking at cross-Strait relations in terms of tactics, including its perception of the Mainland authorities' position.

 

In Tsai Ing-wen's mind, the Mainland authorities are simply gambling. They are simply placing their bets on cross-Strait relations. As Tsai Ing-wen sees it, the Mainland authorities were merely gambling during the 2008 and 2012 elections. They happened to bet on the Kuomintang. Nothing more. As a result, Tsai Ing-wen wallows in feel-good sentiment. She thinks if the DPP can win the next two major elections, the Mainland authorities "will come around and deal with the DPP. If they feel that the DPP is likely to win in 2016, they will automatically make the necessary adjustments." Tsai Ing-wen sees the matter entirely as one of trickery. She has decided that "Other parties will come around to whomever has the power."

 

Tsai Ing-wen boldly proclaimed that "We are confident we can maintain a strong relationship with [Mainland] China in the future. Cross-Strait relations will not be affected in the event we become the ruling party." This is not entirely wrong. But the key is whether the DPP will change its political position, and once it comes to power, whether the political foundation for the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations will exist, stabilize, and make progress. In the end, cross-Strait relations and Taiwan's ruling party must impact each other. The key is not which party the Mainland authorities lay their bets on. The key is which party can win the support of the public on Taiwan and ensure the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.

 

Politics depends on power. No one questions that. But for the Mainland authorities, politics remains firmly rooted in principles. Cross-Strait relations still have a political foundation. Forgetting this or deliberately evading this means ignoring reality and ignoring history.

 

Based on Tsai Ing-wen's remarks, her view of cross-Strait relations remains mired in "Who has the power?" This is why upon winning the party chair, the first thing she did was promise to "win the election." She declared, “whether DPP-CCP bilateral relations must be based on the Taiwan independence party platform, it is something that can be discussed later." Tsai Ing-wen mistakenly assumed that an election victory, or the promise of an election victory, would make the Mainland authorities place their bets on the DPP. Tsai has completely forgotten what cross-Strait relations were like under the DPP between 2000 and 2008 when, the DPP and the CCP were in a constant state of unrest. Tsai Ing-wen has also forgotten, during eight years of DPP rule, the Mainland authorities did not bet on the DPP merely because it was the party in power. Instead Chen Shui-bian's fickleness and betrayals resulted in cross-Strait relations hitting rock bottom, eventually leading to the DPP's loss of power.

 

It is hard to imagine how Tsai Ing-wen, a former chairperson of MAC (Mainland Affairs Council), could be so ignorant of the fundamentals of cross-Strait relations. Tsai Ing-wen's recent remarks clearly ring hollow for now and for the future. In the short term, her superficial and naive remarks are sure to alert the Mainland authorities and cast a shadow on DPP-CCP relations, which have finally begun to show a glimmer of hope. In the long term, Tsai Ing-wen's mistaken grasp of the cross-Strait situation and her misjudgment of the Mainland's position can only lead to continued waffling regarding DPP policy reform. Swing voters will eventually be disillusioned. Tsai Ing-wen's much longed for electoral victory will be more distant than ever.

 

(Courtesy of China Times)

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