China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 23, 2015
Executive Summary: The year 2016 will be a turning point for Taiwan. This election is of critical importance. Candidates must tell voters what they think the current problems are, and how they intend to remedy them. We cannot allow voters to be deceived into supporting candidates, only to become disillusioned upon learning otherwise. The harm inflicted upon the nation, the winning candidates, and the voters is unacceptable. We solemnly urge Tsai Ing-wen and Hung Hsiu-chu to begin debating the issues.
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DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's election prospects are bright. Victory appears to be at hand. The DPP has a good chance of gaining a majority in the legislature as well. KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu's momentum is weak. She lacks both manpower and funds. Nevertheless she exhibits willpower and determination. Her own party is apathetic. Rivals from within her own party are pressuring her. Yet she stands alone, resolute in her opposition to populist demagoguery and Taiwan independence fanaticism. The election campaign has now reached the point where the candidates must face each other. The two main candidates have begun to share their political views. Voters must set aside their prejudices and look at what the candidates actually advocate.
The DPP recently held a party wide "pledge session". Tsai Ing-wen gave a speech, calling for responsibility, tolerance, reconciliation, unity, commitment, and vision. Taiwan does indeed require unity before it can achieve any sort of vision. All of this requires a responsible government. Tsai's pledges will probably win public support. But how does she intend to fulfill them? How will she bring them to fruition? She refuses to say. She scrupulously avoids mention of specific policies or programs. Energy policy is highly controversial. Tsai Ing-wen pledged that there would be no power shortages following the DPP's return to power. Last week Tsai Ing-wen announced her green energy policy. Green power, including wind power and solar power, would be increased to over 20%. Given current technology, green power is more costly than thermal power and nuclear power. Therefore others have predicted price increases. Yet Tsai immediately fired back, saying that she "did not expect prices to rise within 10 years."
Tsai Ing-wen has made three pledges. But those in the know realize that Taiwan's more serious crisis involves disunity, myopia, and paralysis. The existence of problems is common knowledge. Pointing them out is easy. Solving them is hard. How can Taiwan be united? Tsai Ing-wen says "We are at a crossroads. Division or reconciliation hangs in the balance". In other words, whether we are blue or green, we must unite. These are pretty words. This is the right direction. But how does she intend to achieve this? She refuses to say.
At the very moment Tsai Ing-wen was making her pledge, DPP politicians and party members were red-baiting, accusing others of "selling out Taiwan". So where was the tolerance, reconciliation, and unity Tsai trumpeted? Does it really boil down to "Obey me and live, defy me and die"? Taiwan is wracked by unprecedented political divisions. Whither the tolerance? Whither the reconciliation? Whither the solidarity? Tsai Ing-wen needs to walk the walk. She needs to do so, up close and personal.
Candidates can of course propose specific programs. But Tsai has no intention of proposing any. Besides, the major obstacle to unity on Taiwan has been disagreement on matters of national identity and cross-Strait relations. Allegiance to the Republic of China vs. allegiance to a would-be "Republic of Taiwan", guarantee blue vs. green incompatibility. Today the DPP is holding high the banner of the Republic of China. Tsai Ing-wen has pledged to uphold the existing constitutional framework. But suspicions of "backdoor listing" remain. That said, consensus has been increased. The issue of allegiances has been partially resolved. A basis for unity has perhaps emerged, Tsai Ing-wen enjoys the home court advantage. She is obligated therefore to make concrete changes.
Consider cross-Strait relations. When the KMT was in power, it reached an agreement with the CCP to treat the 1992 Consensus as the basis for cross-Strait relations. This was not a formal agreement. It was an implicit understanding. Is "one China" the Republic of China? Or is it the People's Republic of China? Each side has its own interpretation. The DPP has long clung to Taiwan independence. It now finds it difficult to accept one China, different interpretations. Today Tsai Ing-wen says she intends to uphold the status quo. She says she has accepted the Republic of China. In doing so, she has implicitly recognized the 1992 Consensus. Tsai Ing-wen might as well publicly recognize the 1992 Consensus, or suggest an alternative rationale. This would be the first step in unifying Taiwan, and stabilizing cross-Strait relations.
Consider the past. The DPP's pretty slogans have usually contradicted reality. President Chen Shui-bian shouted "higher standards" during his election campaign. But the moment he won, lower standards were the rule, leading to the "Cape 700 million" embezzlement scandal. When Frank Hsieh ran for president, he championed "reconciliation and coexistence", even while his aides were brazenly engaing in red-baiting Hsieh's opponents. Hsieh alleged that the liberalization of cross-Strait exchanges would result in "workers on Taiwan unable to find work, women on Taiwan unable to find husbands, and children on Taiwan would be exiled to Heilongjiang". Hsieh said this to frighten people. Tsai Ing-wen calls for solidarity on Taiwan. But if she fails to offer action, programs, or implementation, the entire exercise will merely become another case of political deceit and rubber checks.
Tsai Ing-wen has stressed vision and responsible government. She elaborated on the vision part. But unfortunately it failed to withstand scrutiny. On energy policy for example, she diverges from Hung Hsiu-chu. But more importantly, experts have exposed Tsai Ing-wen's fallacies. Yet the Tsai Ing-wen camp has yet to offer a satisfactory response. What manner of "vision" is this? How is evasion consistent with "responsible government"? In order to achieve victory, Tsai Ing-wen is relying on current momentum. She is attempting to muddle her way to victory. if so, Tsai Ing-wen's victory will mean the demolition of yet another politician's fancy rhetoric.
Hung Hsiu-chu has also offered her vision and political views. They include opposition to populist demagoguery and opposition to Taiwan independence. These two views have been challenged by the DPP and green camp supporters. Her public policies have been criticized by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Will these policies benefit Taiwan? Will they enable voters to enjoy the good life? They too need to be scrutinized.
The global economy faces great uncertainty. The national strength of the United States is waning. This has led to volatility in the East Asian strategic situation. Mainland China's economic and military rise has led to shifts in the international political equilibrium. Consider three factors. The year 2016 will be a turning point for Taiwan. This election is of critical importance. Candidates must tell voters what they think the current problems are, and how they intend to remedy them. We cannot allow voters to be deceived into supporting candidates, only to become disillusioned upon learning otherwise. The harm inflicted upon the nation, the winning candidates, and the voters is unacceptable. We solemnly urge Tsai Ing-wen and Hung Hsiu-chu to begin debating the issues.