How Will Su Tseng-chang Attack the Ball that Frank Hsieh Set for Him?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 18, 2012
Summary: Frank Hsieh is a volleyball player who has set the ball for Su Tseng-chang. Now Su Tseng-chang must decide how he will attack it. Su and Hsieh have long-standing grievances. But Su and Hsieh have an opportunity to join hands and rewrite history. But the opportunity is fleeting. They can hardly be "in no hurry." Will the two help each other, or will they hurt each other. Will both end up as losers? This will all be decided in a fleeting moment.
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Frank Hsieh has returned from his visit to the Mainland. He has met with Su Tseng-chang and shared his findings. Following the meeting, Frank Hsieh said, "In the end, the future of cross-Strait policy must be decided by Chairman Su." Su Tseng-chang said, "We are in no hurry to establish a China Affairs Committee." Frank Hsieh is a volleyball player who has set the ball for Su Tseng-chang. Now Su Tseng-chang must decide how he will attack it.
Let us return to 1999 and 2000. Chen Shui-bian was a rising star. His support was enormous. He had become the DPP's ideal candidate for president. Under Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung, the DPP adopted the "Resolution on Taiwan's Future." This camouflaged the party's "Taiwan independence party platform" and paved the way for Chen Shui-bian's election victory. The key figure in this political undertaking was Lin Yi-hsiung. He had two main virtues. One. He had a reputation for personal integrity and he had a high degree of name recogniton. Two. More importantly, he himself was not running for president.
Today the 2016 presidential election looms. The DPP must reform itself. DPP reform is even more urgent than it was in 2000. And yet "In the end, the future of cross-Strait policy must be decided by Chairman Su." But Chairman Su is also a 2016 presidential hopeful. This is a horse of a different color than 2000. Su Tseng-chang has assumed the role of Lin Yi-hsiung.
When Su Tseng-chang ran for party chairman, he touched off a major controversy. If the party chairman intends to run for president, he is bound to adversely impact the party's efforts at transformation. But this is precisely the situation we have before us. Su Tseng-chang is running for president. He must weigh the support he will receive from Taiwan independence hardliners against the support he will receive from party reformers. He will be forced to continually second guess himself. He will be incapable of throwing open the doors and embarking wholeheartedly on party reform. Conversely, if someone not running for president assumes responsibility for party reform, he can act boldly and decisively. He need only consider the future of the party. He need only set the ball for the party's presidential candidate. He need not worry about seeking support from opposing factions. This was the role Lin Yi-hsiung played back then. But this is not the role Su Tseng-chang is playing today.
Has Su Tseng-chang decided to abandon the work of party reform? From what we can see, Frank Hsieh is the only person providing Su with political leverage. This leverage, if passed up, may never come again. The DPP is talking about party reform. Assuming it is serious, it must meet four conditions. One. It must act from the top down. For example, the party leadership should launch a great debate. Two. If the party wishes to reform itself, it must get serious. It must forsake Chen Shui-bian era "rectification of names" campaigns. It must eschew word games such as "peace with differences," "peace while seeking common ground," or "transcendence." Three. It must enact dramatic and major reforms. Absent such a dramatic move, it probably will not succeed. Four. It must make someone with considerable resources and name recognition the star of the show, to serve as a pillar. Otherwise the show will not be able to go on.
From what we can see, Frank Hsieh meets three of the required conditions. He has undergone a sufficiently radical change. His change was radical enough that he could speak of a "one China constitution." His "bartender's trip" was sufficiently dramatic. With this move he knocked on Zhongnanhai's door. He sang the right tune. He carried a heavy load. All Frank Hsieh needs today is the support of Chairman Su. If Su Tseng-chang appoints Frank Hsieh Chairman of the China Affairs Committee, Hsieh will be strategically positioned. Top-down reform can then begin.
Su Tseng-chang must realize that as party chairman, leading DPP reform is his "destiny." Frank Hsieh is standing before him, precisely because he is the best leverage Su can get. There is nobody else. If Su Tseng-chang forsakes Frank Hsieh, he will not find a better champion of reform. He will be perceived as fleeing from responsibility. If this happens, there will repercussions. One. DPP reform will be delayed. The blame will fall on Su Tseng-chang. That is inescapable. Two. Party insiders and the general public will see Su Tseng-chang as a stumbling block, standing in the way of party reform. This will be disadvantageous to his bid for president. It will not prevent Tsai Ing-wen from joining forces with Frank Hsieh, and billing themselves as champions of party reform. Two years later they might even seize control of the DPP party leadership.
In other words, If Su Tseng-chang fails to attack the ball set up for him by Frank Hsieh, the damage will be incalculable, both for the party and for himself. Yet Su Tseng-chang insists that the current situation is "not urgent." In fact his main concern is that if the situation is not handled properly, it could hurt his 2016 election prospects. Can Frank Hsieh make allowances for Su Tseng-chang's dilemma? He appears to have made a genuine effort. Frank Hsieh should let Su Tseng-chang know that it is safe to make him Chairman of the DPP China Affairs Committee and entrust him with party reform. Hsieh should declare that he will not run for either president or vice president in the 2016 general election, and that he will not side with any of the DPP presidential hopefuls. Hsieh should declare that reform is for the future of the DPP and Taiwan, and must not become a part of intraparty power struggles. Such declarations would rebuild the relationships between Frank Hsieh, Su Tseng-chang, and Tsai Ing-wen. If Frank Hsieh wants to become the champion of party reform, he must assume a transcendent position. Perhaps Su Tseng-chang is waiting for such assurances from Frank Hsieh? Otherwise, if party reform becomes a part of intraparty power struggles, the party will debase itself. Words will not be adequate to describe the consequences.
Su Tseng-chang remains the key. But Su has a huge blind spot. He seems to think he must keep a lid on the pot. He seems to think that as long as no one shows his cards, he can avoid offending either party reformers or Taiwan independence hardliners. But the truth is the lid can no longer be kept on the pot. The more the DPP refuses to lift the lid, the more difficult it will be to resolve conflicts between these opposing forces. If the DPP waits to long to lift the lid, the bottom of the pot may have already burned through. When that happens, the blame will fall on Su Tseng-chang. Therefore Su's best strategy is to simply let go. He should turn over reform to party insiders who will subject the issues to democratic debate. He should submit the issues to the judgment of the public. He may wish to assume the role of a midwife. Whether the child is a boy or a girl will be determined through democratic debate within the party. The result may even be decided through a democratic vote within the party. Su Tseng-chang may be able to seize the high ground. He may be able to defuse the most controversial reform since the founding of the party. Will this be a crisis or an opportunity for Su Tseng-chang? That will depend on his political vision.
Anyone who has ever boiled water knows that once it comes to a boil, the lid must be removed. It must be allowed to boil from three to five minutes. This will enable to the chloroform to evaporate, leaving one with a pot of pure water. Su Tseng-chang's responsibility is to open the lid and let the chloroform boil away.
Su and Hsieh have long-standing grievances. But Su and Hsieh have an opportunity to join hands and rewrite history. But the opportunity is fleeting. They can hardly be "in no hurry." Will the two help each other, or will they hurt each other. Will both end up as losers? This will all be decided in a fleeting moment.