Tsai Ing-wen and the KMT: Content Free
China Times News (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
January 14, 2014
Summary: Tsai Ing-wen's transformation efforts remain hollow. But they serve as a reminder to the KMT. In the remaining two years that Ma Ying-jeou has as president, the KMT must concentrate efforts to revive the economy and ensure full employment. Ma Ying-jeou is party chairman. He must do his utmost to rebuild the KMT's public support. The two go hand in hand. Only then can the KMT revitalize itself. Tsai Ing-wen's ersatz transformation of the DPP will not fool voters.
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The DPP faces a critical choice in its cross-strait policy path. Tsai Ing-wen has suddenly decided to speak up. She said the DPP has its traditional view of cross-strait relations. But its views must also acknowledge political reality. It must view cross-strait issues from Taiwan's perspective. But it must also dialogue and interact with [Mainland] China. This was classic Tsai Ing-wen. Rattle off all manner of feel-good terms, including "values," "reality," and "dialogue." In fact, none of these terms contain any substance, because she is simply unwilling to reveal where she actually stands.
Tsai Ing-wen said that a DPP China policy debate would require comprehensive and precise planning. Otherwise the DPP could lose maneuvering room. She said cross-strait policy is a sensitive issue. She said some topics are suitable for debate, while others are not. Obviously she has reservations about the DPP debating its cross-strait policy path. Tsai Ing-wen has a short memory. Many years ago, when Hsu Hsing-liang promoted a major debate, he did not shrink the DPP's maneuvering room. Just the opposite. He won rave reviews. Nor did Tsai Ing-wen explain which topics were suitable for debate and her own position on sensitive issues.
Tsai Ing-wen's attitude is both conservative and ambiguous. There can be only one real reason for this. She wants to avoids taking any position whatsoever. She wants to come across as flexibile and pragmatic. But she cannot bring herself to forgo the support of Taiwan independence fundamentalists. Therefore she utters meaningless euphemisms. On key issues she casts herself as a pragmatist charged with DPP reform.
Tsai Ing-wen wants to play the role of helmsman in the DPP's transformation. On the one hand, she evades cross-strait issues, while in practice, she clings to Taiwan independence. On the other hand, she panders to civic groups. She appeals to them, hoping to win political support. Tsai Ing-wen says the DPP must undergo reform. The party must "decide how to relate to civil society." She says it must not "relinquish the streets to civic groups" and allow the DPP "to become just another onlooker." Tsai called for "a progressive alliance to transform Taiwan." She is trying to present herself as the political representative of civic groups.
Consider Tsai Ing-wen's family background and political path. She originally had nothing in common with lower middle class voters, the pro-democracy movement, or social movements. When she served as a cabinet official, her dominant policy concerns seldom had anything to do with human rights and social justice. Examine her past record. Her positions on nuclear power plants and Guoguang Petrochemical underwent huge changes. She has totally reversed herself on many issues. But once she found herself out of power, Tsai Ing-wen began holding forth on human rights, social justice, and social movements. She began establishing foundations and online fora, recruiting talent, extending her antennae, parroting social movement rhetoric, all in an effort to burnish her halo. But was she using the social movements, or genuinely lending them her support? Was Tsai Ing-wen really born again? Or merely given a makeover? The answer is clear.
Tsai Ing-wen's nominal "transformation" gained wide applause. It was not because Tsai Ing-wen became chummy with the lower middle class and socially disadvantaged. It was not because she offered a clear agenda. It was because the ruling Kuomintang left a huge political vacuum that the DPP could exploit
The ruling KMT government's policies and personnel appointments reflect its obliviousness to public sentiment. They provoke public discontent. They have become the primary target of civic group protests. The KMT is increasingly chummy with powerful plutocrats, It is increasingly alienated from ordinary people. The KMT has never reversed this image. KMT political rhetoric is uninspiring. It cannot inspire enthusiasm among the electorate. The above highlight the serious disconnect between the KMT and the new era and the new generation.
The KMT has been steady and forward-looking on cross-strait issues. On these it has been more trustworthy than the DPP. It currently wields political power. As long as the KMT formulates sound policy and makes full use of its resources, it can connect with the larger society and enable the party to remain in power. But this entails a number of related conditions. First, its personnel appointments must recruit the right people, with fresh perspectives. This will ensure that its policies achieve a better balance between economic development and social justice. Second, the KMT needs to communicate better with civic groups. It must reflect the values and issues held by civil society. It must accept advice from civic groups on specific policy, and put them into practice. It must not go through the motions, such that "the ship passes and leaves no trace upon the waters." Third, the KMT organizational structure must be more flexible. It must attract qualified people from different walk of life. Politically, it must be more inclusive. It must allow "center-right" to "center-left" forces to gain a foothold within the party, enhance its vitality, and expand its social base.
Unfortunately, over the past five years, the KMT leadership has lacked such thinking. Call for reform reverberated, but remained on the surface. The KMT has promoted many young people. But it has not allowed them to engage in creative thinking. The KMT has many representatives from social organizations and academia on its roster of legislators without portfolio. But their performance in the Legislative Yuan has remained lackluster. They have not been able to set the agenda, increase popular support, or rebuild the image of the party.
Tsai Ing-wen's transformation efforts remain hollow. But they serve as a reminder to the KMT. In the remaining two years that Ma Ying-jeou has as president, the KMT must concentrate efforts to revive the economy and ensure full employment. Ma Ying-jeou is party chairman. He must do his utmost to rebuild the KMT's public support. The two go hand in hand. Only then can the KMT revitalize itself. Tsai Ing-wen's ersatz transformation of the DPP will not fool voters.