The Truth Tsai Ing-wen Needs Most To Speak
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 12, 2016
Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen is growing weak. Ending in one fell swoop the DPP's long term dependence on the sacred cow of Taiwan independence may seem cold-blooded and ruthless. But the fact remains, it is all up to Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen need merely utter a single sentence, and she can silence Taiwan independence advocates forever. "The rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution is impossible. Impossible means impossible. Lee Teng-hui couldn't do it, and I can't do it. Stop kidding yourself.”
Full Text Below:
On January 16, Tsai Ing-wen received 6.89 million votes, or 56% of all votes cast. She defeated the KMT candidate by over 3 million votes. She won because the KMT was unpopular, but also because she made a series of changes to her election platform during her campaign. In particular, she moved significantly closer to the KMT on cross-Strait policy. This won her the public trust and led to her sweeping victory.
Immediately following the election, she pledged to govern with "humility, humility, and more humility". On May 20, during her inaugural address, she made a goodwill gesture toward the Mainland. It failed to break the cross-Strait deadlock because it was incomplete. But at least it avoided an immediate “earth shattering” break between the two sides. She attempted to appoint blue camp members to her cabinet as diplomatic and cross-Strait representatives. This showed Tsai Ing-wen's desire to continue moving towards the middle. This is the right path. If Tsai's transformation succeeds, it will be good not just for Tsai, but for the DPP, for Taiwan, and for both sides of the Strait. Unfortunately the government has repeatedly flip-flopped on its policies, and the cabinet has repeatedly dropped the ball. Taiwan's economic outlook remains grim. Tsai's administration is inexperienced. It has mishandled crises. Like a hemophiliac, it can't seem to stop the bleeding. As a result Tsai Ing-wen's poll numbers have been in free fall. She has rapidly lost her credibility.
Blue camp supporters have regrouped. Support from swing voters has fallen. Deep green Taiwan independence groups have begun rubbing their hands, eager to go into action. Taiwan independence elements have blasted Tsai Ing-wen, wondering “Does she really have so little respect for Taiwan independence advocates?” Green camp elders Wu Li-pei and Koo Kuan-min have continued blasting Tsai Ing-wen. They have attacked Lin Chuan. They are ven demanding that Tsai step down after only one term. They are taking advantage of Tsai Ing-wen's weakness to pressure her, and force her back into the deep green fold. They have deliberately thrown her a bone, hoping she will turn back.
Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP have begun caving in. Tsai Ing-wen has appointed deep greens as President and Vice President of the Judicial Yuan. She has yielded to deep green pressure. Deep green influences have come into play. DPP morale has been shaken. Deputy Secretary-General Li Chun-yi echoed Taiwan independence groups, saying that “When people demand membership in the UN under the name “Taiwan”, the DPP will be there". The Tsai government immediately slapped him in the face and slammed on the brakes. But this revealed how fearful DPP politicians are of deep green pressure. When that happens, it's every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost. The result it internal panic and chaos.
Tsai Ing-wen faces a dilemma. She must break with one of two groups of supporters. Should she break with swing voters, and cave in to Taiwan independence demands? Or should she break with Taiwan independence elements, and pick up her pace down the centrist path? Tsai Ing-wen has three choices. First consider choice number two. Continue tap dancing and continue her incrementalism. Mollify deep greens while continuing to take a centrist path. This choice may have been feasible while Tsai rode high in the polls. But now that Tsai's prestige has plummeted, she can no longer keep a lid on the deep greens. Tap dancing and incrementalism will only inspire deep greens to trip her up. It will only increase the determination of Taiwan independence forces to hijack the Tsai administration. It will only mire Taiwan in turmoil.
The worst choice however, is to pander to Taiwan independence forces and backtrack. This is extremely unwise. Leave aside for the moment cross-Strait and international strategic considerations. Taiwan independence is a dead end. Even from the perspective of mainstream public opinion on Taiwan, deep green supporters of Taiwan independence are a vanishingly small minority. Embracing Taiwan independence is not huddling in front of a warm fire in winter. It is binding oneself to a stake to be burned alive. Not only will it burn the Tsai government to a cinder, it will spell the end of the DPP as a political force.
Deep green Taiwan independence forces have made the first move. Therefore the best choice for Tsai Ing-wen, assuming she possesses the wisdom, is to use this opportunity to draw a line in the sand, and tell deep elements, “Stop kidding yourself. Taiwan independence is impossible”. If Tsai Ing-wen has the courage to do this, four things will happen. Tsai Ing-wen will have demonstrated leadership and restored her credibility. She will have liberated herself. She will ended deep green Taiwan independence power over Taiwan. The DPP must liberate itself totally from Taiwan independence influences. Only then can Tsai Ing-wen truly lead the DPP down a centrist path. Only then can the DPP ensure stable governance. Tsai Ing-wen surely realizes this. On cross-Strait relations, Tsai Ing-wen must demonstrate good faith above and beyond that embodied in the 1992 Consensus. She has the chance to to reverse in one fell swoop the current downturn in cross-Strait relations. Cross-Strait relations are the foundation of Taiwan's economy. If cross-Strait relations are good, Taiwan's economy will be good. Tsai Ing-wen's long-term crisis of governance can then be fundamentally resolved. Taiwan can then rid itself of the specter of Taiwan independence. Taiwan has squandered so much time and energy on the infeasible and impossible pipe dream of independence. Every day this source of friction is not removed, Taiwan will remain marginalized and stagnant.
Tsai Ing-wen is growing weak. Ending in one fell swoop the DPP's long term dependence on the sacred cow of Taiwan independence may seem cold-blooded and ruthless. But the fact remains, it is all up to Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen need merely utter a single sentence, and she can silence Taiwan independence advocates forever. "The rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution is impossible. Impossible means impossible. Lee Teng-hui couldn't do it, and I can't do it. Stop kidding yourself.”
This sentence, uttered by former president Chen Shui-bian, was the unvarnished truth. Unfortunately Chen Shui-bian turned his back on his centrist path and reverted to Taiwan independence. Only then did he admit that Taiwan independence was self-deception. The lesson is clear. What Tsai Ing-wen needs, now more than ever, is the above words of truth.