United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 23, 2016
Executive Summary: Take the president's four-year term. The first 100 days in office is merely the beginning. The coffin lid has yet to be sealed. The government's legacy has yet to be determined. But the first 100 days has been utter chaos. The President and the Premier's poll numbers have plummeted. The public is thoroughly disillusioned. Tsai Ing-wen must wonder how she can possibly stay the course. The DPP will be in power for four years. But the public has not been able to tolerate Tsai Ing-wen's policy path for even 100 days. What will Taiwan do for the next four years?
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President Tsai has been in power for over three months, but the political atmosphere on Taiwan has not changed one iota. Bureaucratic arrogance persists. Domestic governance, foreign affairs, and national defense have all gone off the rails. Social antagonisms have intensified. Tsai Ing-wen wants to avoid being judged according to her first 100 days in office. We would warn her against allowing the tail to wag the dog. She must deal with this problem as soon as possible. Otherwise during the next 100 days public anger will boil over.
Actually, if one begins counting from January 16, when Tsai Ing-wen was elected, seven months or 200 days have already passed. In other words, Tsai's record has been far from satisfactory. She wasted her four months preparation period. Her administrative team was overconfident. Her cabinet's performance has been hit or miss. Her administration's strategic direction remains a huge question mark. It is overwhelmed. All it can do is put out fires. It cannot offer a new vision for Taiwan. How can people not be dismayed?
For the new government, the tail is wagging the dog. This phenomenon has manifested itself in two ways. Way Number One. The president is confused about her national priorities. She is having difficulty differentiating between what is important and what is not, what is primary and what is secondary. She is having difficulty establishing a convincing value system. Way Number Two. Tsai Ing-wen is attempting to differentiate herself from Chen Shui-bian. She is attempting to take a more rational, middle road. But she is finding it hard to hold her course when confronted by the DPP and various pressure groups. She has been constantly forced to compromise or cave in. Her repeated changes in direction, her constant course corrections, have gradually blurred her policy path.
Take the former. The President has a responsibility to lead the government in a direction that enables the nation to grow. The President must offer a vision able to inspire people. The new government has already been in office 100 days, yet it remains preoccupied with electioneering. It remains mired in its opposition party mindset, preoccupied with political spin doctoring, historical grievances, revenge seeking, political purges, or personnel reshufflings. Such a preoccupation with the past, prevents it from seeing the problems it faces now. How can it possibly offer a vision for the future?
Some of the reforms Tsai has proposed make sense. For example, pension reform has reached a point where it is a matter of extreme urgency. Judicial reform has been the focus of popular resentment. These reforms should be implemented. But the recovery of Kuomintang assets, the promotion of transitional justice, the rewriting of history texts, are merely cut-throat political battles. They are manifestations of political tyranny, because they trample over the rule of law, they lack legitimacy, and they incite social unrest.
The Tsai government has placed so much emphasis on reform, it is completely overlooking what most people care about, their livelihood. Taiwan's economy has shown no improvement for a very long time. But few hear any words of wisdom from President Tsai. Her Minister of Economic Affairs cares olnly about keeping up appearances on the President's "nuclear-free homeland" initiative. He has little time for anything else. The Minister of Finance has become the Invisible Man. On election night, Tsai swore that "The DPP will give priority to bills that the people are concerned about". But all anyone sees today, is the DPP's abuse of its majority in the Legislative Yuan to wage all out war. The bills it has passed have nothing to do with people's livelihood. Even more distressing, the government has no qualms whatsoever about importing US pork containing Clenbuterol or foodstuffs from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster zone. How are people supposed to feel about such betrayals by the DPP once it was in power?
Now consider the "tail wagging the dog" phenomenon. Tsai Ing-wen initially hoped to free herself from the constraints that bound Chen Shui-bian. She drew clearer boundaries between the party and the government. But the Tsai faction is having difficulty sticking to its path. The distribution of political pork has been met with challenges from within the party. The Lin Chuan cabinet's performance has been poor. This has given rival DPP factions a pretext to engage in extortion. During her election campaign, Tsai Ing-wen viewed pressure groups that attacked the Ma government as “partners”. She has rewarded them handsomely. In some cases, she has even spun their narrow agendas as mainstream values. She has ignored the fact that they are inapplicable to the nation as a whole, and may provoke a backlash. Such decisions have resulted in Tsai Ing-wen's loss of direction. Pandering to a tiny minority may pass for idealism. But it is utterly impractical. After all, a president is supposed lead a majority, and not be led by a minority. Such administrative practices violate the rule of law. They cannot win the approval of the public. They implicitly encourage people to take to the streets in protest. They can only provoke greater dissatisfaction, and make problems harder for the government to solve.
Take the president's four-year term. The first 100 days in office is merely the beginning. The coffin lid has yet to be sealed. The government's legacy has yet to be determined. But the first 100 days has been utter chaos. The President and the Premier's poll numbers have plummeted. The public is thoroughly disillusioned. Tsai Ing-wen must wonder how she can possibly stay the course. The DPP will be in power for four years. But the public has not been able to tolerate Tsai Ing-wen's policy path for even 100 days. What will Taiwan do for the next four years?