The DPP Promised the Sky then Became Drunk with Power
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 18, 2016
Executive Summary: During her presidential campaign, Tsai Ing-wen boasted that her government would be "the most communicative government in history". She even suggested that young people who seek redress the government but are ignored twice, slam their fists down on the table the third time. Her words still echo in our ears. Yet when the public vociferously protested the importation of food products from Japan's nuclear disaster area, the implementation of longer work weeks, and pension cuts for military personnel, civil servants, and public school teachers, what we saw was the least communicative and least willing to be communicative government in history.
Full Text Below:
During her presidential campaign, Tsai Ing-wen boasted that her government would be "the most communicative government in history". She even suggested that young people who seek redress the government but are ignored twice, slam their fists down on the table the third time. Her words still echo in our ears. Yet when the public vociferously protested the importation of food products from Japan's nuclear disaster area, the implementation of longer work weeks, and pension cuts for military personnel, civil servants, and public school teachers, what we saw was the least communicative and least willing to be communicative government in history.
During the pension reform process, the Presidential Office chose to listen only to people with political agendas who distorted the facts and demonized military personnel, civil servants, and public school teachers. The result was over 100 thousand people took to the streets in protest. When the Legislative Yuan reviewed longer work weeks, DPP legislator Chen Ying pretended not to hear legislators who loudly called out "Dissenting opinion!" He rammed the bill through in under one minute, pretending that no objections had been raised. Labor and youth voiced their objections hundreds of times. Yet the government pretended not to hear them. The situation was long past slamming one's fist down on the table. Protesters crashed their way into the Legislative Yuan and DPP headquarters, but the Tsai government still refused to listen. The Council of Agriculture presented false information on food products from Japan's nuclear disaster area. It even fabricated lies, alleging that only Mainland China and Taiwan prohibited their importation. It deliberately concealed the fact that the United States and many other nations prohibited their importation. Even during public hearings, it hastily attempted to ram the measure through. This eventually led to violent struggles and bloody conflicts.
As the three cases show, Tsai Ing-wen government political communications are riddled with distortions, defamation, brutality, deceit, and opacity. The Tsai government has neither the desire to engage in genuine communications, nor the ability. It is riddled with all manner of problems that should never have arisen in the first place. It is a clear example of what a government must not do.
Political communication is one the basic skills political leaders in a democratic society must learn. The most essential element of communication is knowing oneself, making the most of one's own advantages, minimizing one's shortcomings, and perceiving threats and opportunities in order to gain public support. During the communication process, one must not be too egocentric and egotistical. One must understand the needs of the citizens and not overestimate one's own ability. One must adopt an open and transparent attitude when interacting with the community, and seek common ground. Only then can one establish predictable and enforceable public policy.
The Tsai Ying-wen government understands these basic principles of communication. But despite its understanding, it repeatedly makes mistakes during actual communications. As a result the president's job approval rating has plummeted, so much so that she has complained that “I am in great pain". Actually the reason behind all this is quite simple. First, the when the DPP was in the political opposition, and Tsai Ing-wen was still waging her presidential campaign, they made too many impossible promises. Upon assuming power they found these promises impossible to fufill. They were forced to make repeated 180 degree policy reversals. The imposition of longer work weeks was a typical example. Second, in cross-Strait relations, their ideological obstinacy prevented them from recognizing the 1992 Consensus and arriving at a compromise. Cross-Strait tensions rose. The Tsai government compensated by seeking closer relations with Japan. This forced it to make endless concessions to the Japanese, even at the expense of the feelings of ordinary ROC citizens. This is why it was determined to allow the importation of food products from Japan's nuclear disaster area. Third, the Tsai Ying-wen government lacks the temperament necessary to govern. Its governance could not be any further from “humility”. Instead it is arrogant in every imaginable way. It views military personnel, civil servants, and public school teachers as political enemies to be liquidated. It views pension reform as a political struggle, and an opportunity to demonize its foes.
The KMT was in the same plight when it was in office. It was blasted mercilessly by the DPP. Now that it is in the opposition, it will naturally argue that “What's good for the goose, is good for the gander”. The KMT is considerably less adept at anti-government political struggle than the DPP. Nevetheless Taiwan has long been trapped in a situation where the ruling party cannot govern the nation. It cannot communicate with the opposition party, which invariably demands “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. If partisan political struggles and economic stagnation cannot be resolved, the nation can only decline.
Tsai Ing-wen prided her government on being the most communicative government in history. She cannot sit idly by as her own government becomes the least communicative government in history. After all, the victims of government incompetence are hardly confined to President Tsai Ying-wen, who complains that “I am in great pain”. They include the vast majority of the public on Taiwan whose lives are filled with suffering.
Does Tsai Ing-wen really seek to redeem this uncommunicative government and make it government truly responsive to the people of Taiwan? If so, he must communicate correctly. She must acknowledge that the DPP was wrong to engage in political obstructionism when it was in the political opposition, and that it was wrong to make false promises. Second, in cross-Strait and foreign affairs, she must set aside political and ideological antagonism, and return to policies necessary for Taiwan's prosperity. Third, she must abandon electioneering oriented political struggles. She must take the high road, and seek to communicate with the KMT and other sectors of the nation. Only rational policy communications can get the nation's policies back on track. Only this will enable the Tsai Ying-wen government to get past the current political dilemma, strengthen the nation, and enable the nation to begin a new wave of development.