Ma Ying-jeou and Eric Chu: The Big Picture
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 4, 2015
Executive Summary: The KMT faces an uphill battle in 2016. A united KMT may not win. But a disunited KMT will surely lose. Peace most precious may not be enough. Only cohesion, ideas, and vision can win popular support. When all is said and done, the blue camp has a distinctly different stand on Chinese cultural identity and cross-Strait peace than the green camp. The pan-blue forces must unite and consolidate a pan-blue consensus. This will not be easy. It all depends on whether Ma, Chu, and the KMT leadership have the necessary wisdom and tolerance.
Full Text Below:
Should the KMT take on the Wang Jin-pyng litigation case? The KMT says no, on the basis of "peace most precious" and "familial harmony, assured prosperity". This has resulted in a peculiar interaction between Ma, Wang, and Chu. The three shook hands during the KMT executive and legislative seminar. It means the battle over Wang Jin-pyng's continued party membership is over. Ma did not release any sky lanterns. Chu will not attend the party affairs meeting. These actions suggest that while these two party chairmen may have forsaken confrontation for cooperation, they still need to exercise greater wisdom and tolerance.
We have several suggestions for Ma and Chu. First, Ma and Chu must maximize what they share in common, namely, how to turn the tide and win the 2016 presidential and legislative elections. This means they must reduce not increase the distance between themselves. The KMT may lose both the presidential and legislative elections in 2016. Ma must understand that even though he is no longer party chairman, he was nevertheless in office for eight years. Therefore he will bear substantial responsibility for any party defeat. This will affect the issue that most concerns him -- his legacy. Chu must realize that the situation in 2016 is highly unfavorable to the Kuomintang. He need not assume as much substantive responsibility for the defeat as Ma. But as party chairman, he cannot totally escape responsibility. A defeat would still impact Chu's political prestige and political momentum. If he loses in 2016, any talk of winning in 2020 would be moot, and involve far too many variables.
More importantly, the election is not just about Ma and Chu's personal prestige. It is not just about a KMT party victory. It is about the KMT's cross-strait policy. If this policy is not maintained, Taiwan will suffer significant harm and be placed in grave danger. The DPP is confident it will emerge victorious. It believes it can persuade the United States to change, and compel the Mainland to follow suit. Therefore it no longer talks about how to complete the final mile to the presidency. Cross-Strait relations may once again be shrouded in uncertainty. How can the KMT win and maintain its cross-Strait policy? That is the Big Picture that Ma and Chu must keep in mind.
Second, Chu is now party chairman. Peace most precious may be necessary for victory, but it is not sufficient. Familial harmony may be necessary as well, but neither is it sufficient. Chu chose “familial harmony” when dealing with the Wang Jin-pyng party membership battle. But “assured prosperity” may require a more aggressive approach. Peace most precious is a means, not an end. Voters will not vote for the KMT because it values “peace most precious”. Political realities may require giving Wang Jin-pyng a free pass in the influence peddling case. Personal enmities may be bygones. Current laws contain legal loopholes. Even if Wang Jin-pyng was guilty of influence peddling, he cannot be prosecuted. Chu cannot be blamed for that. But as ruling party leader, Chu must fight corruption and champion reform. Public expectations are high. Legislation pertaining to the obstruction of justice will make influence peddling actionable, ending judicial influence peddling and the absurdity of immunity from prosecution.
In September the year before, during the influence peddling scandal, President Ma was viewed as a disputant. As a result his push for legislation forbidding the “obstruction of justice" lacked legitimacy. Chu is in a different position. He had no part in the September controversy. He is in a better position than President Ma to demand reforms. If Chu can make influence peddling illegal, he will have seized the moral high ground from President Ma. President Ma is constrained by political realities. All he can do is take a stand. Chu can implement reforms. This is the only way to let the people see that besides “peace most precious”, the KMT deserves its support.
This would constitute a positive response to President Ma's demands for justice. It would help mend relations between Ma and Chu. Of course, one must also consider Wang Jin-pyng's feelings. Chu can make clear to Wang that this is not about Wang personally, but rather reforms necessary to ensure the integrity of the government. Wang Jin-pyng has emerged victorious in the party struggle. He should display magnanimity and let the matter slide. Besides, familial harmony must not apply only to Wang, it must also apply to Ma. President Ma's popularity may be low. But the 8% to 15% who support him are KMT loyalists. If these supporters feel betrayed, a KMT victory is even less likely.
Third, President Ma should relinquish all control. He should allow Eric Chu to mastermind the 2016 election. He can do this in two ways. The first pertains to the Wang Jin-pyng party membership battle. President Ma has already gone on record and spoken his peace. He has demanded justice. He must now relinquish control and allow Eric Chu to deal with the matter, for better or worse. Second, he might as well dispense with the formality of the party political meetings and prove that he has relinquished control. He should concentrate on doing what a president should do. He should interact with the public more, enabling them to understand his policy prescriptions and years of hard work. He should avoid any further involvement in party and electoral affairs. Critics may question President Ma's tolerance. But that would be preferable to maintaining the pretense of a substantive meeting, only to have critics make an even greater fuss.
The KMT faces an uphill battle in 2016. A united KMT may not win. But a disunited KMT will surely lose. Peace most precious may not be enough. Only cohesion, ideas, and vision can win popular support. When all is said and done, the blue camp has a distinctly different stand on Chinese cultural identity and cross-Strait peace than the green camp. The pan-blue forces must unite and consolidate a pan-blue consensus. This will not be easy. It all depends on whether Ma, Chu, and the KMT leadership have the necessary wisdom and tolerance.