Tsai Ing-wen's Achilles Heel
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 28, 2011
Tsai Ing-wen has won the DPP presidential primary poll, and become the party's presidential candidate. She must now address the damage done to the legitimacy of the party primary by the "exclusive support" and "Tsai/Ma/Ma" controversies. She faces an even greater test. She must change her tune on cross-Strait and economic policy, and move closer to the political center.
Tsai Ing-wen has three Achilles Heels. They are: her economic policy, her cross-Strait policy, and her split personality.
Tsai Ing-wen refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus. She questions ECFA. She opposes nuclear power generation and the construction of the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant. Her opposition to "growth oriented" economic policy forces her to champion "non-growth oriented" economic policy. She proposes a slow down. She wants to de-emphasize economic growth, and emphasize environmentalism. The inevitable result of her proposal to slow economic growth, is to de-emphasize cross-Strait exchanges. In 2000, Tsai Ing-wen prevented Chen Shui-bian from recognizing the 1992 Consensus. By doing so, she painted herself into a corner. How can she extricate herself from her dilemma? How can she reconcile slowing "growth oriented" economic policies with promises of full employment and social welfare? How can she do so, while resisting the magnetic attraction of the Mainland? All this has made the public question her integrity, and wonder if she has a split personality. Tsai Ing-wen's economic policy, cross-Strait policy, and split personality, will be her Achilles Heels on the road to the presidency. Ultimately, they will be a test her character.
Tsai Ing-wen painted herself into a corner when she refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus, and "questioned ECFA." She must extricate herself from her predicament as soon as possible, before the presidential election. The public has no desire to see a suicide bomber who "refuses to recognize 1992 Consensus" elected president and butt heads with Beijing. Beijing could slow official exchanges, cut the number of Mainland tourists allowed to visit Taiwan, reduce the amount of milkfish purchased from Taiwan, and reduce the number of scheduled cross-Strait airline flights. Beijing could announce that it is "listening to what she says, and watching what she does." That would be something Taiwan could not withstand. That is why Tsai Ing-wen dared not incorporate her refusal to recognize the 1992 Consensus and her call for a public referendum on ECFA into her campaign platform. That is why she cannot make these part of her governing strategy in the event she is elected. Tsai Ing-wen must turn back now. She must not wait until she is forced to jump from a moving vehicle.
Tsai Ing-wen's hawkish cross-Strait policy has influenced her economic policies. According to her logic, economic development pressures on Taiwan make it impossible to reduce economic and trade exchanges with the Mainland. Therefore her answer is to overturn our "growth oriented" and "pursuit of economic growth only" economic policy, and develop an agriculturally oriented "local economy" in our villages and towns. In other words, we must diminish our desire for economic development, and support her hawkish cross-Strait policy. Tsai Ing-wen's opposition to nuclear power generation and the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant also force her to champion an "anti-growth" policy. Her political platform has become Utopian rural economic self-sufficiency. This of course is flagrant self-deception.
Cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges cannot be blocked. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian tried to block them for nearly two decades and failed. Besides, cross-Strait relations have already passed the point of no return. The signing of ECFA heralded a new era. Tsai Ing-wen cannot cut back on cross-Strait economic and trade relations. She can no longer question EFCA. She cannot justify her hawkish cross-Strait policy. She can no longer refuse to recognize the 1992 Consensus. All she can do is change her cross-Strait political rhetoric, and reconcile it with cross-Strait economic and trade relations.
During last April's Two Yings Debate, Tsai Ing-wen advocating overturning our "growth oriented" economic policy. She questioned our "export-oriented" economic policy. But during the last round of primary debates, she said that "for the past four centuries, Taiwan has been a trading nation." Tsai Ing-wen's presidential primary speech surely must have been written and rewritten a hundred times. How could it contain such a glaring contradiction? Just exactly what is it that Tsai Ing-wen advocates? A nation founded on trade? Or opposition to an export-oriented economy?
Furthermore, the local economy, the cross-Strait economy, and the global economy are not mutually exclusive. They fit within each other. The global economy contains the cross-Strait economy, which in turn contains the local economy. The local economy is contained within the cross-Strait economy, which in turn is contained within the global economy. Each includes the other. As long as one starts from Taiwan, one will end up on Taiwan. How can one distinguish between "moving toward [Mainland] China by way of the world," and "moving toward the world by way of [Mainland] China?" Look at the swarms of Mainland tourists at the night market in Kaohsiung. How can one distinguish between the "local economy" and the "cross-Strait economy?" Look at the Flora Expo. How can one distinguish between the "global economy," the "cross-Strait economy," and the "local economy?" If Taiwan adopts Tsai Ing-wen's "local economy," it will be unable to afford increased welfare spending. It will be even less able to resist the siren call of the Mainland.
The presidential race has begun. Such cross-Strait and economic issues should be thoroughly debated. For Tsai Ing-wen, this presents a serious problem. This requires a public assessment of Tsai Ing-wen's integrity. Consider her environmental policy. When Tsai Ing-wen was Vice Premier, she lobbied on behalf of the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. Now, with the wave of a magic wand, she has transformed herself into an environmentalist standard bearer, standing up against the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant. With another wave of a magic wand, she has transformed herself from the Vice Premier who urged the swift completion of the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant, into the opponent of of commercial operations for the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant, and the champion of a nuclear-free homeland by 2025. Was her about face really the result of earnest soul-searching? Or merely the behavior of an opportunistic turncoat? Consider her cross-Strait policy. Tsai Ing-wen helped concoct the "two states theory." In 1999 the theory landed Lee Teng-hui in diplomatic hot water, without and within. Does Tsai Ing-wen really intend to repudiate the 1992 Consensus, and One China, Different Interpretations? Does she really intend to return the nation to the internal social divisions and external diplomatic crises of the Lee/Chen era? Tsai Ing-wen prevented Chen Shui-bian from recognizing the 1992 Consensus in 2000. She made it impossible for Chen Shui-bian to proceed down his "new centrist path." Does she truly intend to "refuse to recognize the 1992 Consensus?" Tsai Ing-wen talks of "strengthening democracy through rationality" Does she truly intend to make people wonder "What in the world is she is talking about?"
Tsai Ing-wen dismisses the 1992 Consensus as an "historical framework." But it was Tsai Ing-wen who imposed this "Tsai Ing-wen framework" on herself, in 1999 and 2004. Tsai Ing-wen refuses to divest herself of this framework. She wants the public to consider her framework a collective framework. She would have Beijing believe that this Tsai Ing-wen framework has public endorsement and support. Is Tsai Ing-wen merely ambitious? Or is she a raving lunatic?
All these questions reflect poorly on Tsai Ing-wen's character and integrity. She was a beneficiary of the 18% preferential interest rate for civil service employees. But now she denounces it. She lobbied on behalf of the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant. But now she denounces it. She expedited construction on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant. But now she denounces it. She boasted that "Taiwan was founded on trade." But now she opposes export-oriented economic policy. Her own family's cemetery is costly and extravangant. Yet she demonized Ma Ying-jeou's late father merely over the inscription on his funerary urn. She championed clean primary elections. Yet she exploited "exclusive support" and "Tsai/Ma/Ma" tactics. Her two states theory harmed Lee Teng-hui. Yet she remains obdurately opposed to "One China, Different Interpretations." Her opposition to the 1992 Consensus harmed Chen Shui-bian. Yet she refuses to divest herself of her "Tsai Ing-wen framework."
Tsai is capricious and self-contradictory. Tsai Ing-wen's character must be able to withstand public scrutiny. Tsai Ing-wen's advantage is her clean image. But a clean image is not the same as character and integrity. As the public begins to scrutinize Tsai Ing-wen's character, doubts will arise about her integrity. The election may change from one based on electioneering skill, to one based on fundamental principles. Tsai Ing-wen has won the party primary. She must now address her policy contradictions and her split personality.