Are Ma Ho-ling and Tsai Chieh-sheng Running for President?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 22, 2011
The earthquake in Japan disrupted Tsai Ing-wen's campaign schedule. On the morning of March 11, she ceremoniously declared her candidacy. By that afternoon however, her announcement was totally drowned out by news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Tsai Ing-wen found herself buried beneath a landslide of news reports on the disaster of the century. Five days later, Tsai Ing-wen finally dug herself out from under the rubble. Who knew the very first election topic she would toss out, would be the funerary urn of President Ma's father Ma Ho-ling, and the headstone of her own father Tsai Chieh-sheng.
Tsai Ing-wen told reporters that her father's tombstone contained the inscription "Pingtung Feng Gang," whereas the funerary urn of President Ma's father contained the inscription, "defuse Taiwan independence, promote gradual reunification." Tsai Ing-wen said she was simply underscoring the difference between the headstone and funerary urn for the two fathers, and how these differences symbolized their differing allegiances.
Tsai Ing-wen has used this issue as the opening volley in her run for the presidency. We are both surprised and disappointed. How is this such demagoguery any different from previous DPP attacks on Ma Ying-jeou as a "poodle," as [afflicted with] "Hong Kong foot" (athlete's foot), and as "Ma Tong" (toilet bowl)? During the party primaries Tsai Ing-wen urged the nation to "Cease inciting confrontation and hatred," and to "Extricate Taiwan from the politics of mob passions, and lead it toward the politics of rational persuasion." Is this what Tsai Ing-wen considers rational persuasion?
Tsai Ing-wen has compared Ma Ho-ling's funerary urn to Tsai Chieh-sheng's headstone. Does this qualify as "the politics of rational persuasion?" Are we to understand that Tsai Ing-wen's ringing declaration during the party primaries, has not held up for even five days? Tsai Ing-wen insisted that she was merely underscoring a "difference in allegiances." She insisted that she was merely pointing out the fact that Tsai Chieh-sheng's tombstone identified him as a native of Feng Gang, not Zhangzhou. In fact of course, Tsai Ing-wen was conducting another form of "rectification of names." In fact she was implying that the inscription on Ma Ho-ling's funerary urn, "defuse Taiwan independence, promote gradual reunification" prove that President Ma is descended from someone who "pandered to [Mainland] China, and sold out Taiwan."
This was the opening volley in Tsai Ing-wen's presidential campaign. The gunpowder she used was "rectification of names." The bullet she used was "ancestry." Tsai Ing-wen put her own spin on the Two Ying's confrontation. She not only compared Tsai Ing-wen with Ma Ying-jeou, she even compared Tsai Chieh-sheng with Ma Ho-ling.
The fact is, Ma Ho-ling's last wish, calling for the "defusing of Taiwan independence, and the promotion of gradual reunification," was merely his personal wish. President Ma has proposed "no [immediate] reunification, no independence, and no use of force." That is national policy. By contrast, the inscription on Tsai Chieh-sheng's tombstone could read Zhangzhou. It could read Feng Gang. Either way, it too was merely his personal wish. It could have been inscribed with Yingchuan, Jinjiang, Longxi, or Quanzhou. None of this proves that anyone "did not love Taiwan." None of this supports Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait policy White Paper. In short, this is anything but the "politics of rational persuasion."
If Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen confront each other during the presidential election, they must compare their national policy proposals, and not the personal wishes expressed by Ma Ho-ling on his funerary urn, or Tsai Chieh-sheng on his headstone.
Tsai Ing-wen trumpets a "new generation." She aspires to the establishment of a "new political culture." But instead, she chose to demagogue funerary urns and headstones. If anything, her gesture is even more contemptible than taunting Ma Ying-jeou by calling him a "poodle," accusing him of "being afflicted with Hong Kong feet" (athletes foot), or referring to him as a "Ma Tong" (toilet bowl). That's because calling Ma Ying-jeou a "poodle" is directed only at Ma Ying-jeou as an individual. Demagoguing funerary urns, on the other hand, drags his ancestors into the picture.
Chen Shui-bian engaged in rampant corruption, and pocketed astronomical amounts of wealth. Yet Chen Chih-chung's "one nation on each side connection" is now an important faction within the DPP. Tsai Ing-wen has yet to issue a single word in condemnation of Chen Shui-bian and Chen Chih-chung's criminal complicity. Does she want President Ma to schlep his late father's funerary urn around with him, while she lugs her late father's headstone as they run for president? Does this qualify as the "politics of rational persuasion?"
It is true that allegiance to the nation, allegiance to the constitution, and cross-Strait relations, are likely to be the focus during any upcoming presidential election debates. But the debate should not be about Ma Ho-ling's funerary urn or Tsai Chieh-sheng's headstone. The debate should be over concrete policy measures that have already been implemented. These include questions such as whether Tsai Ing-wen recognizes the 1992 Consensus, One China, Different Interpretations, ECFA, whether the OECD will continue functioning, whether fruit and milkfish will be sold, whether she agrees with "No [immediate] reunification, no independence, and no use of force," whether she will continue direct flights, and whether she will continue the policies of the preceding administration. These questions have nothing to do with Ma Ho-ling's funerary urn or Tsai Chieh-sheng's headstone. They are however the questions that ought to be asked during any presidential election policy debate.
Over the past three years, President Ma's policy measures have been explicitly informed by his allegiance to the nation, allegiance to the constitution, and his cross-Strait policy premises. Tsai Ing-wen is the one who has exceeded her brief. She is the one whose policy proposals are diametrically opposed to allegiance to the nation, allegiance to the constitution and the current administration's cross-Strait policy. Answers to these issues will not be found in Ma Ho-ling's funerary urn or Tsai Chieh-sheng's headstone. That is because Ma Ho-ling and Tsai Chieh-sheng are not running for president.
Tsai Ing-wen's opening volley was both a surprise and a disappointment. Her take on the matter was so off base, it underscored the vacuum at the heart of her political rhetoric. Her rhetoric is tough on the outside, but hollow on the inside. Tsai Ing-wen said "We must travel a different road." Apparently the road she wants us to travel is strewn with funerary urns and headstones. It is different indeed.