Tsai Ing-wen: From Anti-Business to Anti-Labor?
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 15, 2015
Executive Summary: The DPP has never been a leftist political party. During Chen
Shui-bian's eight years in power, it swiftly cozied up to Big Business.
It was even worse than the Kuomintang. Therefore the anti-business image
of the DPP is mere appearance. From this perspective, Tsai Ing-wen's
remark "Taiwan has too many holidays” was no surprise. To be a competent
national leader, Tsai Ing-wen must resolve the contradiction between
paying lip service and speaking from the heart. She cannot continue
using ambiguity to avoid taking a stand, and citing “verbal gaffes” to
Full Text Below:
Tsai Ing-wen recently launched a traveling lecture series in the business community, in an attempt to clean up the DPP's anti-business image, and to gain the trust of the business community. To everyone's surprise, while addressing industrialists in the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park, she said, "To be honest, I think Taiwan has too many holidays!" Her comment caused an uproar, and provoked labor groups to blast her. Tsai Ing-wen immediately went on Facebook and apologized.
Let us return to that day. When Tsai Ing-wen made that comment, she was responding to industry-related work hours and vacations. Industrialists object to the draft amendments to the Labor Standards Law adopted by the legislature on first reading. Work hours were reduced to 40 hours a week. She blamed her political opponents, saying "That was something the KMT advanced on its own", implying that she disagreed with the reduction in working hours. She then said unequivocally, "Taiwan has too many holidays." Tsai Ing-wen said the DPP actually has a "more flexible plan”, and that she had no idea how the Kuomintang draft law got passed.
The Japanese distinguish between "jian qian”, or “paying lip service”, and “ben ying”, or “speaking from the heart”. Tsai Ing-wen told industrialists “Taiwan has too many holidays”. Was she paying lip service or speaking from the heart? Was she speaking from the heart, or making a verbal gaffe? If she was speaking from the heart, why did she apologize?
These are questions even Tsai Ing-wen cannot answer. In Tsai Ing-wen's heart of hearts, she probably does think Taiwan has too many holidays. Otherwise she would not have blurted it out so readily. She even prefaced her remark with “To be honest." Those seated opposite her were heads of small and medium enterprises. She was clearly “feeling them”. Of course, if Tsai Ing-wen had been visiting a labor group, such words would never come from her mouth. We must conclude that Tsai Ing-wen "let slip her true feelings". When cozying up to management, she really has no time for labor.
Tsai Ing-wen attempted to clean up the green camp's anti-business image. But while doing so, she fell into an anti-labor trap. This trap was of the DPP's own making. The DPP has habitually polarized every debate on public issues. Any proposals that deviate from their own, are demonized. Therefore when they seek the labor and environmental vote, they demonize business owners. When they obstruct cross-strait relations, they denounce Taiwan businessmen and the blue camp, calling them “Communist sympathizers”. When they incite young people to take to the streets, they repudiate the contribution of past generations. This is the political atmosphere the public is immersed in on Taiwan. Naturally any compromise is difficult. Naturally the public uses this simplistic dichotomy to evaluate politicians.
Taiwan politicians are long on lip service and short on speaking from the heart. In this, Tsai Ing-wen ranks among the best. For the longest time, Tsai Ing-wen has never remained fuzzy on specific issues. She speaks in vague terms to conceal her inner thoughts. For example, during the previous election she used the catchphrases "peace despite differences" and "peace to diminish differences" to duck the 1992 consensus. This time, she is using "maintaining the status quo". On the one hand, she denounces the Ma government's cross-Strait policy. On the other hand, she stresses that if elected, she would unconditionally continue the Ma government's ECFA agreement, flagrantly ignoring the glaring self-contradiction.
Recently, Tsai Ing-wen has brimmed over with confidence about the 2016 election. She has visited major industry and business tycoons, as well as small and medium enterprise owners. Nominally, she was "seeking advice". In fact she was seeking political support. She was attempting to win over the business community. Why did she call on the business community first? Why did she not call on labor or activist groups first, and ingratiate herself with them? We know the answer without asking. The sequence reflects her priorities. The former are those she most wants to cozy up to. Lest we forget, back in 2102 Tsai Ing-wen said Big Business supports the 1992 consensus. That means "the KMT and Big Business stand together". If this logic holds, and she is now “seeking advice” from Big Business, then who stands with whom?
What we want to know is not whether Tsai Ing-wen in her heart of hearts is "anti-business" or “anti-labor”. Our concern is that she and the DPP have no comprehensive, non-contradictory strategy to govern the nation. All she does, day after day, is spout empty rhetoric and make feel-good gestures. Once in power she will no longer be able to flip-flop from day to day, without any clue where she wants to go. Tsai Ing-wen may appear confident and poised when speaking. But just how much true faith does she have? Just how much does she really want to help Taiwan? Does she cares only about becoming president, and the DPP wielding full power?
The DPP has never been a leftist political party. During Chen Shui-bian's eight years in power, it swiftly cozied up to Big Business. It was even worse than the Kuomintang. Therefore the anti-business image of the DPP is mere appearance. From this perspective, Tsai Ing-wen's remark "Taiwan has too many holidays” was no surprise. To be a competent national leader, Tsai Ing-wen must resolve the contradiction between paying lip service and speaking from the heart. She cannot continue using ambiguity to avoid taking a stand, and citing “verbal gaffes” to evade responsibility.