Burn Your Bridges: Eric Chu's Four Levers
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 29, 2015
Executive Summary: The edifice is on the verge of collapse. It is time to save the day.
Eric Chu is now KMT chairman. The party's circumstances are dire. He
must make full use of four levers. One. The Chu Xi meeting. Two. The
National Affairs Conference. Three. The constitutional amendment
process. Four. The 2016 legislative and presidential elections. Sunzi's Art of War says: "If soldiers have their backs to the wall, they
will not fear, they will fight to the death.” If Chu controls these
four levers, he could improve the KMT's chances in 2016. But even if the
party loses the election, it may be able to lead Taiwan back onto
the right path. This would be the KMT's contribution to Taiwan. It might
even enable the KMT to make a comeback.
Full Text Below:
The edifice is on the verge of collapse. It is time to save the day. Eric Chu is now KMT chairman. The party's circumstances are dire. He must make full use of four levers. One. The Chu Xi meeting. Two. The National Affairs Conference. Three. The constitutional amendment process. Four. The 2016 legislative and presidential elections.
These four levers are complementary. Although 2016 is the target, 2020 is also a possibility. Based on current trends, the KMT would find it difficult to win the presidential election in 2016. But Eric Chu must use the election to slow the KMT's fall. The Kuomintang cannot remain in free fall until 2016. Even if it expects to be defeated, the KMT must discuss its policy platform. It must formulate a strategy for a comeback in 2020.
Eric Chu must have a strategic goal for 2016. The DPP may win the election, but lose the policy path debate. The KMT must continue its struggle. Although it is likely to lose the election, it must win the policy path battle.
Take the National Affairs Conference. Chu has indicated a willingness to participate. But he must not allow himself to become one of Tsai Ing-wen's props. The organization of the conference must meet with KMT satisfaction. There must be a proper role for the Ma government, and equal status for the political parties. There must be diversity and balance among the participants. There must be clarity in the agenda, particularly on issues of national identity, amendments to the Constitution, globalization, energy policy, cross-Strait relations, the 1992 consensus, ECFA follow-up negotiations, and other issues troubling Taiwan The Kuomintang must not pass up this opportunity. It must use the conference as a basis for consensus-building.
Tsai Ing-wen wants the National Affairs Conference to serve as a stepping stone in her presidential campaign. Following the nine in one election victory, she has been either silent or highly selective about the issues she is willing to address. But Eric Chu must insist that the conference be a genuine, in depth debate. The KMT must set the agenda. It must have the determination to get to the bottom of things. If Tsai Ing-wen ducks the issues, the KMT must hold her feet to the fire, then turn them into 2016 election issues.
A constitutional amendment is imminent. Tsai Ing-wen apparently has reservations. The KMT, however, must not miss the opportunity to force the nation to hold a constitutional debate. Three themes should be addressed: National identity, cross-Strait relations, and government institutions. None of these should be overlooked. If these issues are not made crystal clear, constitutional reform will be impossible. Therefore Tsai Ing-wen must not be allowed to duck these issues again and again. What would the constitutional amendment include? It could include a referendum on whether 18 year olds may vote in the 2016 election, and whether the Legislative Yuan's authority to approve of premier appointments should be restored. Once the 2016 elections are over, the KMT should demand further constitutional amendments, and a public referendum during the 2018 county and municipal elections. By then, the Legislative Yuan's authority to approve premier appointments may have been restored, and serve as a benchmark. If the KMT can maintain the momentum for constitutional reform from 2016, even if it loses the presidential election, it will retain access to the bully pulpit.
The Chu Xi meeting is the most crucial of the four levers. The KMT may lose the 2016 election. Beijing may not be happy. Any Chu Xi meeting should therefore reaffirm the 1992 Consensus and even go beyond the 1992 Consensus.It should establish a new benchmark for cross-Strait relations. It should establish a new "divided rule but not a divided nation” concept. On the one hand, the KMT could break new ground for 2016. On the other hand it could pressure the DPP to reform. During the Chu Xi meeting, Eric Chu should encourage Beijing to help the DPP reform. The Chu Xi meeting should echo, then surpass the cross-Strait achievements of the National Affairs Conference.
Now take the 2016 presidential election. As mentioned above, the KMT may well lose the election. But it must not allow it to become a crushing defeat. It must make full use of these four levers, rhetorically and strategically. It may lose the election, but it must win the policy path high ground. Eric Chu must be willing to burn his bridges. The National Affairs Conference, the constitutional amendment process, and the Chu Xi meeting will allow him to shrug off the albatross on his back. They will allow him to plan for 2020. Should Eric Chu throw his hat in the ring for 2016? That can be debated. But if the KMT fields another candidate, one unable to wage a respectable campaign, it might never rise again.
For Taiwan, 2016 is a crisis and an opportunity. As mentioned earlier, the shock waves from 2016 will soon buffet Taiwan. A consensus must be reached on national identity, constitutional amendments. energy policy, globalization, the 1992 consensus, cross-Strait relations, and ECFA. If the Democratic Progressive Party returns to power, it cannot dodge these issues. Otherwise it may win the election, but lose the national policy debate. The KMT may indeed lose the election. But it need not shrink from the prospect. It must take an even tougher line, and remind itself that even though it lost the election, it won the national policy debate.
Sunzi's Art of War says: "If soldiers have their backs to the wall, they will not fear, they will fight to the death.” If Chu controls these four levers, he could improve the KMT's chances in 2016. But even if the party loses the election, it may be able to lead Taiwan back onto the right path. This would be the KMT's contribution to Taiwan. It might even enable the KMT to make a comeback.
2015-01-29 01:40:30 聯合報 社論