Su, Tsai, and Hsu: How They Did During the First Primary Debate
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 10, 2011
The DPP has held its first presidential primary debate. The debate however, failed to lay out the candidates' policy positions. But judging by the candidates' presentations so far, one would have to say that Tsai Ing-wen's was hollow, that Su Tseng-chang's was evasive, and that only Hsu Hsin-liang evinced any sincerity.
In order to come across as convincing during a political debate, two conditions must be met. First, a candidate's speech must be reasoned and logical. Only then can his speech take flight. But if his speech is all flash and no substance, if it is transparent subterfuge, he will lose credibility. Secondly, only a heartfelt appeal will ring true. The candidate must be in tune with his presentation. If the candidate is not in tune with his presentation, it will ring false. Yesterday Su and Tsai delivered eloquent closing arguments. But their 10 minute closing arguments were filled with evasions. Their words failed to ring true. Therefore they as candidates failed to ring true. Hsu Hsin-liang on the other hand, was in tune with his presentation. As a result he moved listeners, who repeatedly broke out into applause and laughter.
Last April, during the "Two Yings Debate," Tsai Ing-wen took on Ma Ying-jeou. The result was disappointing. The consensus was that Tsai Ing-wen lost the debate over a single issue -- ECFA. Yesterday the framework of the debate was expanded to include a wider range of issues. But Tsai Ing-wen's rhetoric was even emptier than before. She was unable to reconcile the internal contradictions in her own position. This was truly unexpected.
Yesterday Tsai Ing-wen clung to the same line as during the "Two Yings Debate." If anything, she was more evasive. When responding to questions about cross-Strait issues, she said that cross-Strait issues cannot be decided by individual leaders. They must be made democratically. They must be made collectively. The day before she said "they should be made by the next generation." But 40 minutes later, during her closing arguments, she said leaders must make the decisions. She said "Problems cannot be left to the next generation." On the very same dais, she advanced truly incomprehensible contradictions. In recent years, Tsai Ing-wen has refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus. She has opposed ECFA, and she has opposed the Chiang-Chen Summits. But which of these was not a unilateral proposal by the DPP? Were any of these submitted to the public for their approval? How does Tsai Ing-wen stand on them? Does she still support them as she did before?
Tsai Ing-wen reiterated that macro level problems cannot be resolved in piecemeal fashion. But she boasted that during DPP rule, charter flights and the three mini-links were quite successful. She addressed cross-Strait relations in piecemeal fashion, isolating it from the ruling DPP's macro level policy failure. Next, she opposed the pursuit of economic growth. She said the policy of favoring industry over agriculture should be reversed. But she failed to take into account economic growth, without which she can hardly realize her welfare state. Finally, she reiterated her desire for "multilateral international relations." But she failed to explain how such a state of affairs could be achieved given her advocacy of "globalization without [Mainland] China."
Su Tseng-chang was the first to present his political platform. He pontificated about "not taking the wrong road, lest we miss important opportunities." Listeners can be forgiven for thinking he was conducting a post mortem of the DPP's eight years in office, when it "took the wrong road, and missed important opportunities." But as it turns out, he was referring merely to public transportation and public housing policies. Such a political platform might have made sense four years ago. But four years later, it left the impression that Su was blowing smoke for 10 minutes. Not "everyone on Taiwan is smiling." The reason they are not, is the result of issues far more critical than public transportation and public housing.
Su Tseng-chang apparently engaged in greater soul-searching than Tsai Ing-wen. He was apologetic and beat around the bush. He said that on Taiwan, if a political party comes to power, half the people feel abandoned. He described the problem, but offered no solution. Su Tseng-chang did not say, "Leaders cannot decide cross-Strait policy on their own." He reaffirmed the Resolution on Taiwan's Future. He adopted a clearer posture than Tsai Ing-wen. But the DPP remains a political party that persists in walking the Taiwan independence high wire. Besides, Chen Shui-bian has already discredited the Resolution on Taiwan's Future. Isn't this precisely why "when one political party comes to power, half of the people feel abandoned?"
During this political debate, Hsu Hsin-liang gave voice to political views once regarded as "betraying the party and selling out Taiwan." This was the debate's greatest achievement. Hsu believes that the One China Principle is not a problem, because today's globalized political and economic system is sufficient to maintain the cross-Strait status quo. When addressing industrial policy, he said that as long as we boldly open our doors and discontinue our past policy of "be patient, avoid haste," Taiwan's economy will grow by leaps and bounds, The wealth earned can then be used to increase social equality. He even characterized the Ma administration's opening to the Mainland as overly conservative. He said if we were to open to the same degree as Hong Kong, and allow 20 million Mainland tourists onto Taiwan each year, we would enjoy a boom in domestic demand. Hsu Hsin-liang said that if Acer had not bowed to the policy of "be patient, avoid haste," it would already have become the world's largest electronics company. He blasted the DPP for exploiting social movements while it was in the opposition, but then abandoning the weak and the poor once it was in power.
Hsu's speech may have bordered on the fanciful, but his words were sincere. In particular, he recalled the frustrations of political life. He addressed Green Camp members, both those on and below the dais. He reminded them that no one in the DPP had sacrificed more. He asked them which DPP official was the poorest while in public office? The audience roared with laughter. The DPP exploited then discarded this party elder. Was the Green Camp laughter tinged with regret? One has to wonder.
The candidates each had 20 minutes to read their speeches. Each was asked softball questions. Even the questioners used the opportunity to snipe at the Ma administration. A political debate such as this has little real significance. During the next three debates, the media should be allowed to ask questions, Either that, or the three candidates should ask each other questions. The candidates should stop talking past each other. The candidates should stop talking to themselves.