Tsai Ing-wen: Final Mile, or Back to the Starting Line?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
April 22, 2014
Summary: The ECFA controversy six years ago resembles the STA controversy six
years later. They are similar but different. How different is Tsai
Ing-wen six years later from Tsai Ing-wen six years earlier? Will she
provide different answers to the same exam questions? Will this be Tsai
Ing-wen's "final mile?" Or will she return to the starting line?
Full text below:
Tsai Ing-wen is about to become DPP Chairman a second time. Will she complete the final mile? Or will she return to the starting line?
Will history repeat itself? Tsai Ing-wen's situation today is virtually identical to her situation in 2008, when she first became party chairman. In 2008, confronted with ECFA, Tsai denounced ECFA as "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan," as "forfeiting sovereignty and humiliating the nation." Today, Tsai Ing-wen is confronted with the STA, the MTA, and the "Articles for Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight." In 2008, Tsai Ing-wen led mobs onto the streets around the hotel where ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin stayed on his first visit to Taiwan. The mobs greeted Chen with Molotov cocktails. How will Tsai Ing-wen greet Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun on his first visit to Taiwan?
Will this be Tsai Ing-wen's final mile? Or will she be returning to the starting line?
These two scenarios, six years apart, appear identical. But they are also different in fundamental ways. One. Six years ago the issue was ECFA. It was largely a cross-Strait relations issue. But six years later, the controversy over the STA has underscored issues such as the TPP, RCEP, and globalization. Tsai may still be turning a blind eye to the facts. She may still be trying to convince herself that the STA "panders to [Mainland] China and sells out Taiwan." But can she get away with demanding that Taiwan reject globalization? Two. Six years ago, mulish opposition to ECFA led to a DPP debacle that eventually motivated the DPP to consider reform, in order to win presidential elections. In order to complete what Tsai termed the "Final Mile." But six years later, the DPP is still waffling, still hesitant about reform. The Sunflower Student Movement has erupted. The Taiwan independence movement has passed the baton to a younger generation. This development could force Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP back to the starting line.
Six years ago, Tsai Ing-wen and older generation Taiwan independence advocates opposed ECFA and the 1992 consensus. Six years later younger generation Taiwan independence advocates oppose the STA and globalization. If Tsai goes along with them, she will not be completing the final mile. She will be returning to the starting line.
Tsai Ing-wen's "Final Mile" actually spans thousands of miles. One. Take the intractable issue of globalization. We must be competitive with other countries. We must ensure that we are on an equal footing with our international competitors. Vulnerable industries have no chance of survival. Try to protect them, and the entire country will be marginalized. Currently we do not even have the courage to enter the overseas market, let alone stimulate domestic transformation. Two. Take the issue of national identity. Using the "two states theory" to establish a Republic of China identity is backdoor listing. It does not address the problem. Taiwan must become more Chinese. Taiwan must become more closely identified with the Republic of China. That is Taiwan's only way out of its dilemma. Yet DPP opposition to [Mainland] China has become terror of [Mainland] China. The DPP lacks the courage to fight Beijing inside the "Greater One China Framework." Take the the Sunflower Student Movement's stubborn opposition to globalization and its abject terror of [Mainland] China. How can this possibly represent a "Final Mile?" Isn't this more like "thousands of miles away?"
Does Tsai Ing-wen really think the "Final Mile" involves only the presidential election? Tsai may attempt to take advantage of the Sunflower Student Movement's opposition to globalization. Does Tsai Ing-wen think the "Final Mile" will begin only after she is elected president? Only when she attempts to save Taiwan from social division and economic decline? Tsai must attempt to lead the public in the right direction -- now. She must attempt to lead the public toward globalization and the proper national identity -- now. She must not wait until after the election to "unconditionally accept" the policy positions of her predecessor.
Tsai Ing-wen still retains some credibility among the public, mainly because people still believe in her promise of a "Final Mile." But the influence of the younger generation Sunflower Student Movement has been considerable. If the tail begins wagging the dog, Tsai Ing-wen is likely to become the movement's political hostage, and find herself back at the starting line, just as she did six years ago.
The past and present political circumstances are similar. In 2012, just before the election, Douglas Paal expressed distrust in the DPP. His remark was directed at Tsai Ing-wen. David Brown and Daniel Russel recently issued strongly worded criticisms of the DPP, just as Tsai Ing-wen is about to resume her role as party chairman. From beginning to end, U.S. government distrust of the DPP has remained unchanged. Over the past six years, Washington, Beijing, and the public on Taiwan have had their eye on Tsai Ing-wen. They are familiar with all her tricks. Tsai Ing-wen has much less maneuvering room than she had before. Therefore when Tsai Ing-wen resumes her role as party chairman, she will no longer be able to play the same old political games. She will no longer be able to accuse her opponents of "pandering to [Mainland] China, selling out Taiwan." She will no longer be able to hide behind declarations that "I unconditionally accept the policies of my predecessor." This will be true for the DPP, for Washington, for Beijing, and for the public on Taiwan. Instead she will have to accept the necessity of globalization and a Chinese national identity. If she flip flops and refuses to commit, she will merely paint herself into a corner, the way she did in 2012.
Su Tseng-chang retreated in the face of swift currents. One reason was his reluctance to reconcile DPP policy reform with Sunflower Student Movement political pressure. He left the decision of choosing between the "Final Mile" and "returning to the starting line" to Tsai. He seized the opportunity to counterattack as Tsai Ing-wen deals with these problems. Will Tsai Ing-wen see the Sunflower Student Movement and the resurgence of Taiwan independence as good news, and return to the starting line? Will she realize that the DPP must deal with the Sunflower Student Movement before it implements policy reform? Will she realize she must complete that "final mile?"
The ECFA controversy six years ago resembles the STA controversy six years later. They are similar but different. How different is Tsai Ing-wen six years later from Tsai Ing-wen six years earlier? Will she provide different answers to the same exam questions? Will this be Tsai Ing-wen's "final mile?" Or will she return to the starting line?
2014.04.22 02:10 am