Tsai Ing-wen Will Pay A Price for Her Ignorance About the Mainland
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 14, 2014
Summary: It is hard to imagine how a former MAC Chairperson such as Tsai Ing-wen could be so ignorant of the fundamentals of cross-Strait relations. Tsai Ing-wen's remarks clearly ring hollow. In the short term, her superficial and naive remarks are sure to worry the Mainland authorities. They are sure to cast a shadow on DPP-CCP relations, which have finally shown a glimmer of hope. In the long term, Tsai Ing-wen's mistaken grasp of the cross-Strait situation, and her misjudgment of the Mainland's position, can only lead to continued waffling regarding DPP policy reform. Swing voters will be disillusioned. Tsai Ing-wen's longed for electoral victory will be more distant than ever.
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Not long after Tsai Ing-wen became DPP chairperson, observers expressed hope that she would take concrete action to promote DPP reform. But lo and behold, under her leadership, the move to freeze the Taiwan independence party platform would itself be frozen. She did not lead any mass protests during the Wang Zhang meeting. But she had an apparently change of heart. She refrained from stirring up any trouble. But she failed to actively improve relations. Worse still, some of her recent statements cast doubt on her political judgment.
Tsai Ing-wen has long been disparaged as "kong xin cai." This pun on her name compares her to water spinach, which is hollow on the inside. The implication is that she lacks substance. People want to know "Where's the beef?" She talks and talks, but presents no substantive policy proposals. Tsai Ing-wen of course considers the criticism unfair. But her nickname does have a basis in fact.
Tsai Ing-wen started out as a policy wonk and bureaucrat. Politically she was tabula rasa, a blank slate. When she became a politician, this gave her tremendous latitude in positioning herself. Add to this an image as a political maverick. Many political aides or self-styled "kingmakers" soon flocked to her. They offered to help her craft just the right political image, and deliver just the right political pitch. They knew full well that Tsai Ing-wen's political value lay in "creative ambiguity." That is why Tsai Ing-wen has talked a good game, shouted pretty slogans, and left the impression that she is championing a new political vision. In fact, her political rhetoric and proposals have always lacked substance.
Tsai Ing-wen hoped to craft a "Ten Year Political Platform," to change her "kong xin cai" image. She hoped to found a "Thinkers Forum," of old and new writers to discuss new ideas and methods. But her "Ten Year Political Platform" is long forgotten. Her "Thinkers Forum" merely muddled the political spectrum. Contributors' positions conflict and fail to offer any political appeal.
Unfortunately Tsai Ing-wen has abandoned the foundation she established and returned to the DPP. She has failed to learn from the past. She has forgotten the price she paid for speaking before thinking and speaking before doing. The key to any DPP return to power is cross-strait relations. On this she has reverted to her "kong xin cai" persona.
In a recent interview with "Tian Xia magazine," Tsai Ing-wen mentioned cross-Strait relations. She maintained that "The most important factor in cross-Strait relations is sustainability and stability." She added that "If both parties (DPP-CCP) understand each other better. they will trust each other more." That of course is true. But Tsai Ing-wen's next remark shows that the DPP remains unchanged. It is still looking at cross-Strait relations in terms of tactics. This includes its perception of the Mainland authorities' position.
In Tsai Ing-wen's mind, the Mainland authorities are simply gambling. They are simply placing their bets on cross-Strait relations. As Tsai Ing-wen sees it, the Mainland authorities were merely gambling during the 2008 and 2012 elections. They happened to bet on the Kuomintang. Nothing more. As a result, Tsai Ing-wen wallows in feel-good sentiment. She thinks if the DPP can win the next two major elections, the Mainland authorities "will come around and deal with the DPP. If they feel that the DPP is likely to win in 2016, they will automatically make the necessary adjustments." Tsai Ing-wen sees the matter entirely as one of trickery. She has decided that "Other parties will come around to whomever has the power."
Tsai Ing-wen boldly proclaimed that "We are confident we can maintain a strong relationship with [Mainland[ China in the future. Cross-Strait relations will not be affected in the event we become the ruling party." This is not entirely wrong. But the DPP must change its political position. If it does, and the DPP comes to power, it will have a political foundation for the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. Only then will that foundation be solid. Only then can there be true progress. In the end, cross-Strait relations and Taiwan's ruling party must impact each other. The key is not which party the Mainland authorities lay their bets on. The key is which party can win the support of the public on Taiwan, and ensure the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
Politics depends on power. No one questions that. But for the Mainland authorities, politics remains firmly rooted in principles. Cross-strait relations still have a political foundation. Forgetting this or deliberately evading this, means ignoring reality and ignoring history.
Based on Tsai Ing-wen's remarks, her view of cross-Strait relations remains mired in "Who has the power?" This is why upon winning the party chair, the first thing Tsai Ing-wen did was promise to "win the election." She declared that DPP-CCP bilateral relations need not be based on the Taiwan independence party platform. This can be discussed." Tsai Ing-wen mistakenly assumed that an election victory, or the promise of an election victory, would make the Mainland authorities place their bets on the DPP. Tsai has completely forgotten what cross-Strait relations were like under the DPP between 2000 and 2008. Relations between the DPP and the CCP wre in a constant state of unrest. Tsai Ing-wen has also forgotten, during eight years of DPP rule, the Mainland authorities did not bets on the DPP merely because it was the party in power. Instead Chen Shui-bian's fickleness and betrayals resulted in cross-Strait relations hitting rock bottom, eventually leading to the DPP's loss of power.
It is hard to imagine how a former MAC Chairperson such as Tsai Ing-wen could be so ignorant of the fundamentals of cross-Strait relations. Tsai Ing-wen's remarks clearly ring hollow. In the short term, her superficial and naive remarks are sure to worry the Mainland authorities. They are sure to cast a shadow on DPP-CCP relations, which have finally shown a glimmer of hope. In the long term, Tsai Ing-wen's mistaken grasp of the cross-Strait situation, and her misjudgment of the Mainland's position, can only lead to continued waffling regarding DPP policy reform. Swing voters will be disillusioned. Tsai Ing-wen's longed for electoral victory will be more distant than ever.