Su Tseng-change Does Not and Cannot Lead
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 19, 2013
Summary: Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office twice blasted the Su Tseng-chang led Democratic Progressive Party. Once over the "constitutional governance consensus" issue, and once over the ADIZ issue. Beijing will of course not discontinue exchanges with the DPP. But under Su Tseng-chang's leadership, political dialogue between the two parties will remain difficult. The Chinese mainland conducts exchanges with the DPP. But it also refuses to hold talks. It continues to divide the DPP from within. As a result, the DPP has lost its voice on cross-Strait issues. Is this really what DPP insiders want to see?
Full text below:
The DPP Taipei Mayoral primaries underwent a major direction change. Ko Wen-je, who vigorously supports the "Opposition Alliance," has expressed willingness to join the DPP. He has not made a firm commitment yet. But his preference is now known. Ko Wen-je is a major player. He is now halfway into the DPP cage. The prospects for the Opposition Alliance suddenly look bleak. It is unlikely to be much of a threat to the KMT in the future.
The dispute over Ko Wen-je joining the party provides a clear example of Su Tseng-chang's failure of leadership. For months, Su Tseng-chang refused to take a stand on the Opposition Alliance strategy, and what rights and obligations Ko Wen-je would have upon becoming a party member. He allowed pro-Su elements to attack Ko Wen-je, even as he remained ambiguous about the Taipei mayoral candidate issue. He turned the process into a farce. Voters became increasingly weary. Grassroots DPP supporters grew ever more anxious. The main reason was that Su Tseng-chang was a reluctant leader. He was unwilling to take on the burden of waging a campaign in Taipei City. His strategy remained unclear. The DPP candidate has yet to be named. It will probably be Ko Wen-je. But his chances for victory are gradually diminishing.
Su Tseng-chang was reluctant to run for Taipei Mayor even before his nomination. As a result, the DPP missed an opportunity to expand is support base. This of course also undermined DPP reform. But Su Tseng-chang's failure of leadership involves an even bigger problem. The DPP's biggest weakness has to do with cross-Strait policy.
Since its defeat in 2012, the public on Taiwan knows full well that the DPP must change its cross-Strait policy. It must win the trust of the public on Taiwan, of Beijing, and of Washington. Otherwise the chance of victory in 2016 will remain slim. This is why the China Affairs Committee has become the focus of attention within the party. Despite repeated urging, Su Tseng-chang rejected Frank Hsieh as committee chairman. Hsieh's cross-Strait policy thinking is flexible and pragmatic. The purpose of the committee is to clarify DPP party policy toward the Chinese mainland. Su Tseng-chang decided to "lead" this important platform himself. But by "lead" Su Tseng-tsang really meant "drag his feet." The Huashan Conference engaged in nothing more than armchair strategizing. It refused to open the doors to debate. It bore no resemblance to the China Policy Debate sponsored by Hsu Hsin-liang many years ago.
The Huashan Conference went on for some time. The DPP apparently concluded that a "constitutional governance consensus" would form the basis for exchanges with the Chinese mainland. This was the result of a compromise between Hsieh supporters and the New Tide faction. As it turned out, it was the result of Su Tseng-chang's failure of leadership. It made Su Tseng-chang's failure of leadership on cross-Strait policy abundantly clear.
On the surface, the "constitutional governance consensus" differs from Frank Hsieh's "constitutional consensus" by only one word. In fact, the difference is enormous. The "constitutional consensus" refers to the two sides' "two constitutions." The ROC Constitution governs Taiwan. The PRC Constitution governs the Mainland. The two sides are equal. They are not subordinate to each other. But according to their constitutions they have a special relationship with each other. The constitutional consensus is not quite the same as the "one China Constitution." It is less clear about the two sides' sovereignty and connection to each other. But at least it moves in the direction of the "constitutional one China" concept. It also keeps its distance from the Taiwan independence party platform, and one nation on each side.
Now consider the meaning of "constitutional governance consensus." According to the DPP, it means the party must actively promote constitutionalism, implement national sovereignty, enhance awareness of the nation's constitution, and use Taiwan's constitutional consensus as the basis for cross-strait dialogue.
The "constitutional governance consensus" make no attempt whatsoever to deal with the 1992 consensus and one China framework that Beijing is most concerned about. It clings to the Taiwan independence path. Its "national sovereignty" and "constitutional consciousness" refers to a newly authored constitution and a newly founded Nation of Taiwan. The DPP's political rhetoric is merely old wine in new bottles. Obviously this is completely unacceptable to Beijing. Any sort of dialogue is unlikely.
Su Tseng-chang cannot lead when it comes to cross-Strait policy reform. He cannot lead on major political issues that involve in cross-Strait relations. The most obvious is the East China Sea ADIZ issue. No sooner had controversy erupted, than Su Tseng-chang denounced the Ma government for failing to attack, while simultaneously advocating an "alliance of democracies." He attempted to return to joint US-Japan Cold War containment of the Chinese mainland. Su Tseng-chang deliberately evaded the issues regarding "constitutional consensus." He ignored Beijing's line in the sand. On the East China Sea ADIZ and Diaoyutai Islands issues, he challenged the Mainland authorities on territorial sovereignty and national dignity, again ignoring Beijing's line in the sand.
These moves did Su Tseng-chang no good whatsoever. During his meeting with Raymond Burghardt he blasted the Ma administration for weakness on the ADIZ issue. But the AIT publicly affirmed the Ma government's response as "constructive." It said Taipei and Washington enjoyed a good working relationship. Basically it issued Su Tseng-tsang a resounding slap in the face. As one can imagine, if Su Tseng-chang continues demonstrating a failure of leadership on cross-Strait and international issues, the Democratic Progressive Party is unlikely to recapture the presidency. And even if it did recapture the presidency, it would continue to be regarded as a troublemaker, and bring even greater disaster to Taiwan.
Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office twice blasted the Su Tseng-chang led Democratic Progressive Party. Once over the "constitutional governance consensus" issue, and once over the ADIZ issue. Beijing will of course not discontinue exchanges with the DPP. But under Su Tseng-chang's leadership, political dialogue between the two parties will remain difficult. The Chinese mainland conducts exchanges with the DPP. But it also refuses to hold talks. It continues to divide the DPP from within. As a result, the DPP has lost its voice on cross-Strait issues. Is this really what DPP insiders want to see?
社論－蘇貞昌不領導 不能領導 不會領導