Student Movement: Laying Track for the Xiaoying Express
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
April 16, 2014
Summary: Water can float a boat, but it can also capsize it. In 2012 Tsai failed to negotiate the last mile. The 24 day long student movement has positioned Tsai Ing-wen at the crest of a political wave. Tsai must avoid being crushed by this wave. Only then can the "Xiaoying Express" carry her across the last mile. But student leaders have been shouting anti-China and pro-Taiwan independence slogans. If they want to help Xiaoying win, they must take them all back. Can they?
Full text below:
Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh have pulled out of the DPP party chairmanship election. Tsai Ing-wen is now a shoo-in. The 2016 DPP presidential nomination is hers. The Sunflower student movement collided head on with the Ma administration. To everyone's surprise, it undermined Su's leadership. This was truly an unexpected consequence of the student movement.
The Sunflower student movement led to Su's exit and Tsai's entrance. It has long been said that "who controls the party machinery, controls the strategic picture." But this is a myth. When navigating political storms, one must exercise rational and effective leadership. Otherwise helming the party machinery will merely lead to self-injury. Take Su Tseng-chang for example. Tsai Ying-wen's momentum is surging. Ma Ying-jeou is already a lame duck, one deaf to advice, both from the inside and the outside. For Ma, this has been a costly lesson.
The student movement proved that Tsai has solid support on college campuses. Many student leaders are graduates of her Thinking Taiwan Organization work-study program. The stature of the DPP Youth Corps has steadily grown, honed by social movements. The student movement enabled it to demonstrate its public relations and organizational skills. Following the DPP defeat in 2008, Tsai Ing-wen spared no effort recruiting pro-Green intelligentsia and community organizations. Two years ago, as a Tsinghua professor, she delivered a touching concession speech. The student movement has clearly sunk its roots among the younger generation on college campuses.
Su served as party chairman for two years. Tsai Ing-wen used the opportunity to create a heroic public image. She may not have been center stage politically. But this had an upside. It kept her in the clear each time the DPP engaged in obstructionism and trouble-making. Also, when progressive intellectuals denounced the ruling and opposition parties, Tsai's Teflon image kept her free from harm. By contrast, Su Tseng-chang was never able to implement this many hidden agendas. He suffered the consequences of his penny wise pound foolish tactics.
Was Tsai Ing-wen the sole beneficiary of the student movement? No. That would be an exaggeration. The student movement opposed black box operations, opposed the CSSTA, and promoted hatred of Mainland China. Tsai Ing-wen seeks a more pragmatic and stable cross-strait relationship. The student movement differs from and clashes with Tsai's cross-strait policy.
If Tsai Ing-wen wants the support of the student movement, she must endorse its hardline anti-Mainland proposals. On the other hand, if she wants to ensure the Democratic Progressive Party's return to power, she cannot afford either extremism or fence-straddling. Otherwise, more mature middle class voters will reject her. In fact, this was the main reason Su Tseng-chang gave for his withdrawal. He did not want to have to clean up the mess left by the student movement, while Tsai Ing-wen reaped its benefits. He wanted to force Tsai Ing-wen to clean up her own mess, and the dilemma the student movement left the DPP.
Su and Hsieh pulled out of the election, one after the other. On the surface, Tsai Ing-wen became the student movement era DPP leader. Her political future seems bright. But she now faces a dilemma. The CSSTA and the Articles for the Oversight of Cross-Strait Trade Agreements will lead to a ruling vs. opposition party clashes in the legislature. Can she formulate a strategy better than Su Tseng-chang's? Can she provide effective checks and balances? Can she avoid being hijacked by the student movement?
If the baton can be passed to the younger generation, the DPP's public image will immediately become younger. But ideologically it will be informed by the student movement's intense Sinophobia. That being the case, political and economic issues already clarified may once again become muddied and confused. Tsai Ing-wen must help the DPP formulate a rational policy trusted by the majority. Otherwise insoluble factional disputes will make it impossible for her to remake the DPP's image among moderate voters.
Can Tsai Ing-wen lead the DPP through a successful transition? Can she pass muster during the year end elections? If she can, then an opposition party with a clean image, adept at offense and defense, will pose a serious threat to the ruling KMT in the 2016 election, and an even greater threat afterwards. The KMT would find itself on the defensive. From this perspective, the political repercussions of Su Tseng-chang's withdrawal are akin to a nuclear explosion. The KMT must tread cautiously.
Water can float a boat, but it can also capsize it. In 2012 Tsai failed to negotiate the last mile. The 24 day long student movement has positioned Tsai Ing-wen at the crest of a political wave. Tsai must avoid being crushed by this wave. Only then can the "Xiaoying Express" carry her across the last mile. But student leaders have been shouting anti-China and pro-Taiwan independence slogans. If they want to help Xiaoying win, they must take them all back. Can they?
2014.04.16 03:41 am