Tsai Ing-wen's Attempt to Please Everyone is Unsustainable
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 16, 2016
Executive Summary: President Tsai Ing-wen's nominations for Judicial Yuan president have encountered intense resistance. As a result, the President withdrew her nomination of Hsieh Wen-ting and Lin Ching-fang. This is the most serious defeat she has encountered since taking office. Her policy of "one fixed day off and one flexible rest day", and her policy on South China Sea arbitration caused her popularity to plummet. Her nominations for the Judicial Yuan touched off a firestorm within the green camp. Her attempt to curry favor with everyone has hit a brick wall.
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President Tsai Ing-wen's nominations for Judicial Yuan president have encountered intense resistance. As a result, the President withdrew her nomination of Hsieh Wen-ting and Lin Ching-fang. This is the most serious defeat she has encountered since taking office. Her policy of "one fixed day off and one flexible rest day", and her policy on South China Sea arbitration caused her popularity to plummet. Her nominations for the Judicial Yuan touched off a firestorm within the green camp. Her attempt to curry favor with everyone has hit a brick wall.
Tsai's hasty withdrawal of her nominations humiliated Hsieh Wen-ting and Lin Ching-fang. Tsai Ing-wen realizes her nominations were ill considered. But she is afraid to defend her decision. Even more seriously, the Tsai government trumpeted "judicial reform". But her actions led to heavy casualties, and scorn heaped upon her nominees. They muddied the waters of the judicial system, and left all parties in a state of anxiety.
Tsai Ing-wen's setback is comparable to that suffered by Ma Ying-jeou in 2008. Ma Ying-jeou's victory led to a second change in ruling parties. He nominated non-KMT member Shen Fu-hsiung as vice president of the Control Yuan. But Shen was brutally rejected by blue camp members of the Legislative Yuan. The next day, Chang Chun-yen, Ma's nominee for President of the National Chiao Tung University, was rejected by the blue camp. Chang was implicated in the Wayne Pai suicide incident, and forced to withdraw his name from nomination. Shen Fu-hsiung and Chang Chun-yen were rejected as nominees. Ma Ying-jeou's victory was undermined by anti-Ma blue camp legislators, sowing the seeds for the KMT's downfall.
Tsai Ying-wen withdrew her nominations. Ma Ying-jeou sat back and watched as blue camp legislators rejected his nominations. Eight years later, Tsai Ing-wen is covering the same ground. It is difficult to say which approach was more sensible. Both approaches treated the affairs of state as child's play. Failed nominations represent more than personal defeat. They represent an undermining of authority. The Justice Yuan nomination was supposed to promote "judicial reform". No progress has been made in judicial reform. Meanwhile a bungled nomination humiliated two heavyweights. When the political climate is this vicious, when pitfalls are everywhere, who is going to want to join the cause of reform?
President Tsai announced the withdrawal of her nominations. One the one hand, she sought to appease opponents within the legal profession and the green camp. On the other hand, she “regretted” the attacks against Hsieh and Lin, and said they must bear personal responsibility. Tsai has adopted this "hedging one's bets" tactic consistently during her three months in office. This ambiguous and evasive approach has only made policy making more difficult.
The examples are too numerous to list. For example, when China Airlines flight attendants went on strike, Tsai Ing-wen initially expressed support. But doing so encouraged unions in every industry, particulary the transportation industry, to follow suit. When she publicly called for a "two-day weekend", she created a dilemma for the Executive Yuan, which could not reconcile "one fixed day off and one flexible rest day", with "one day of rest every seven days". When pandered to Washington in the South China Sea case, she undermined our sovereignty over Taiping Island. When she pandered to Tokyo, she elevated Cong Zi Niao Reef to the status of an “island”, while demoting Taiping Island to the status of a “reef”. She persecuted fishermen who asserted our sovereignty over Taiping Island, provoking widespread public outrage.
Tsai Ing-wen has made numerous 180 degree policy reverals. She and her cabinet have committed a long string of faux pas, one after the other. Many say the new government needs more time to coordinate with the party. But President Tsai has been in office for three months, and has yet to achieve anything of substance. The DPP government continues to make political hay from historical grievances. It talks a great game of reform. But talk is all it is. Most disappointing of all, are the personnel changes at state-owned enterprises and foundations. They are pure political patronage among factions within the party. They are textbook examples of the good driving out the bad, per Gresham's Law.
In fact, the president's job is not to please everyone. It is to present a vision to the nation, and to allocate resources to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number. Tsai Ing-wen's over-eagerness to please certain groups, has made her lose sight of the big picture. For example, excessive favoritism towards taxi drivers, may deprive consumers of the convenience provided by Uber. Unscrupulous promotion of solar energy, may bring disaster to agricultural land. Modifying the curriculum to please students may create a educational Frankenstein. Pandering to certain “ethnic” groups while demonizing others, may perpetuate hatred within society.
Tsai Ing-wen withdrew her nomination for Justice Yuan President. This was more than a failed appointment. It was a badly needed wake up call for her leadership policy. At this point, Tsai really does need to "think again".
2016-08-16 01:18 聯合報 聯合報社論