Tsai Ing-wen's Ability Compared to Wen-Je Ko
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 14, 2015
Executive Summary: With a single declaration that "One China is not a problem", Wen-Je Ko won the approval of Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office. Tsai Ing-wen meanwhile, vowed to "maintain the cross-Strait status quo". Yet the Taiwan Affairs Office responded with, "If you cling to a "one country each side" Taiwan independence separatist stance, it will undermine the political foundation for peaceful development of cross-Strait relations."
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With a single declaration that "One China is not a problem", Wen-Je Ko won the approval of Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office. Tsai Ing-wen meanwhile, vowed to "maintain the cross-Strait status quo". Yet the Taiwan Affairs Office responded with, "If you cling to a "one country each side" Taiwan independence separatist stance, it will undermine the political foundation for peaceful development of cross-Strait relations."
When confronted with the 1992 consensus, Wen-Je Ko passed muster. Tsai Ing-wen on the other hand, did not. Some say that Ko was more effective than Tsai. In fact, the two have very different roles. Such comparisons wrongly compare apples and oranges. Ko is a city mayor. He is not a DPP member. A little lip service is enough to earn him a free pass. But Tsai Ing-wen may become the next President of the Republic of China. She is bound by the Taiwan independence party platform. She has also a hostage of the Sunflower Student Movement. Therefore she cannot sweep the matter aside with a simple pledge to "maintain the status quo". Tsai and Ko have different roles. That is why Beijing has different strategies for dealing with them. They allow Ko to quickly pass muster, but make Tsai bear the brunt of responsibility.
A politician's abilities must be commensurate with his responsibiities. Ko is a city mayor, unconstrained by partisan loyalties. He was able to pass muster merely by proposing a "New Perspectives for 2015". HIs abilities were commensurate with his responsibilities. But Tsai Ing-wen aspires to be the next president of the Republic of China. Her perfunctory lip service to "maintaining the status quo", was intended to draw attention away from her rejection of the 1992 consensus. Instead they merely showed that her abilities fell short of her responsibilities as president.
One's abilities must be commensurate with one's responsibilities. A plumber must be able to fix a leaky faucet, but need not deal with a building's structural frame. A structural or civil engineer must deal with a building's structural frame, but need not repair a leaky faucet. Wen-Je Ko characterizes himself as "deep green". But he is not bound by the DPP's Taiwan independence party platform. He can ignore the DPP altogether. Nor is he competing for the ROC presidency. As long as he is willing to say that "One China is not a problem", he has done his duty. But Tsai Ing-wen is DPP Chairperson. She is also seeking the presidency. Beijing is exerting more pressure on her. The US is imposing tighter constraints on her. She must wear many hats. She must demonstrate many abilities. She cannot rattle off a pledge to "maintain the status quo". Naturally she cannot be compared with Wen-Je Ko.
A person's abilities must be commensurate with his or her responsibilities. Is Tsai Ing-wen a chairperson who can uplift and transform the DPP? Can she be an effective President of the Republic of China, and ensure peace? The answer hinges on two questions. One. Can Tsai Ing-wen be an effective DPP party chairperson? Two. Can Tsai Ing-wen be an effective ROC president in 2016?
A politician's ability must be commensurate with his or her responsibilities. A politician's responsibilities vary with the times. A current Chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party, and a future 2016 President of the Republic of China must face a major challenge. He or she must deal with 1992 consensus or the "one China premise". Tsai Ing-wen's general competence is not in doubt. But she must now deal with the 1992 consensus. If a faucet is leaking, Tsai Ing-wen must be able to stop the leak. Whether she can deal with a building's structural frame is irrelevant.
Tsai Ing-wen faces a test. One. The DPP must upgrade and transform itself. Two. The two sides of the Strait must not be destabilized. Over the years, Tsai Ing-wen has resorted to deception to secure her political status. For this, she has paid a price. She has been drawn, step by step, into the Ah-Bian supporters vortex. She has been taken hostage by the Sunflower Student Movement, and must parrot its Taiwan independence rhetoric. So far, Tsai Ing-wen has equivocated well enough to mollify her political support. But she has forfeited the ability to set the agenda and determine the direction taken by her political supporters. In other words, Tsai Ing-wen has the same limited ability that DPP leaders have always had. When addressing the party and the nation, she is unable to change with the times. Is this what the DPP expects of its chairperson at this critical moment in time? Is this what the nation expects of the President of the Republic of China in 2016? Wen-Je Ko need not be concerned about such matters. But Tsai Ing-wen must.
Ability involves gradations. Lee Teng-hui said the DPP "only knows how to campaign, not how to govern." Ma Ying-jeou has been blasted as "incompetent". But what about Tsai Ing-wen's competence? Ma Ying-jeou's mistakes included gasoline price and electricity rate hikes and the capital gains tax. These were not mistakes in policy. They were merely mistakes in execution. Sometimes they merely revealed an inability to deal with the DPP. In particular, Ma's 1992 consensus and "one china, different interpretations" ought to be deemed policy achievements. The DPP found it difficult to undermine these achievements by citing technicalities. By contrast, Tsai Ing-wen's ability, like that of past DPP leaders, is purely technical. Her shortcomings, by contrast, are often at the policy level. For example, Tsai Ing-wen successfully demanded the abolition of nuclear energy. But her "non-nuclear energy" policy is wanting. Tsai Ing-wen successfully blocked ECFA. Yet she has no choice but to "unconditionally accept the cross-Strait policies of the previous administration". Finally, the DPP has successfully stirred up Taiwan independence sentiment. But it has been unable to resolve the problems posed by the 1992 consensus. That is why Tsai Ing-wen's pledge to "maintain the cross-Strait status quo" has been dismissed by the other side as idle chatter.
Tsai Ing-wen has never been able to shake off her "content-free Tsai" nickname. Her abilities have proven inadequate relative to her responsibilities, whether as current chairperson or future president.