China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 2, 2015
Executive Summary: Given the current social atmosphere, Tsai Ing-wen is likely to win the presidential election, and the DPP and its allies are likely to win a majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan. But Taiwan's external security and internal strength have both reached a 30 year low. The public must not demand ruling party change merely to vent its spleen. It must also demand that Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP tell them where they intend to lead the nation. Starting today, this newspaper will explore the matter of Taiwan's post 2016b survival and development. We hope that all parties will engage in rational debate. We look forward to the candidates debating each other. We hope that social cohesion and consensus will emerge from the debate.
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Given the current social atmosphere, Tsai Ing-wen is likely to win the presidential election, and the DPP and its allies are likely to win a majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan. But Taiwan's external security and internal strength have both reached a 30 year low. The public must not demand ruling party change merely to vent its spleen. It must also demand that Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP tell them where they intend to lead the nation. Starting today, this newspaper will explore the matter of Taiwan's post 2016b survival and development. We hope that all parties will engage in rational debate. We look forward to the candidates debating each other. We hope that social cohesion and consensus will emerge from the debate.
Tainan City mayor and DPP political star Lai Ching-teh is rumored to be under consideration for the vice presidency. The day before yesterday, Lai unequivocally told the Tainan City Council, "I advocate Taiwan independence". DPP leaders and DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen meanwhile, have been reassuring voters that they are committed to "maintaining the status quo", and "abiding by the ROC constitutional framework". They have been underscoring their support for the ROC National Day, the national flag. They have been reassuring the international community that they are committed to maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait. Lai Ching-teh's bombshell shined a spotlight on the DPP's fundamental nature. It ripped the carefully cultivated mask of moderation off the face of the party. It confirmed that if Tsai Ing-wen is elected and the Democratic Progressive Party acquires a majority in the Legislative Yuan, cross-Strait relations may be in serious trouble.
Lai Ching-teh's declaration that "I advocate Taiwan independence" was no slip of the tongue. Let us reconstruct the event. During interpolation, KMT Tainan City Councilor Wang Chia-chen confirmed that Lai Ching-teh visited the Mainland. The city government established a cross-Strait group. So far, everything was well and fine. But then Wang asked Lai how he viewed cross-Strait relations. Did Lai think in terms of "killing Zhu De and Mao Zedong"? Wang asked Lai Ching-teh to tell people where he stood. Wang said, if Lai truly wants Taiwan independence, why not get rid of the Chinese Communist Party? Why not say so out loud? Or was Lai hoping for cross-Strait reconciliation?
Confronted with Wang's question, Lai Ching-teh could have answered any number of ways. He could have recited Tsai Ing-wen's "maintaining the status quo" mantra. He could have equivocated, and made vague references to Taiwan centric ideals. He could have mentioned cross-Strait peace and the importance of reconciliation. After all, cross-Strait exchanges and peaceful development are conducive to the welfare of Tainan citizens. He could have said that Taiwan independence was not within the purview of the Tainan City government. Yet lo and behold, Lai Ching-teh rejected the more prudent choices. Instead, in a clear and firm voice, he declared that "I advocate Taiwan independence. My advocacy of Taiwan independence does not mean we must go to war. I think that [Mainland] China should respect the people of Taiwan and their conviction that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent nation."
From the perspective of sticking to one's beliefs, Lai Ching-teh could be considered courageous and responsible. But this sort of courage and responsibility raises an important question. Cross-Strait relations appear stable. But behind the DPP's superficially moderate rhetoric, cross-Strait relations are entering a danger zone. Or to invoke a term used by the Mainland media, the two sides are about to enter a new "crisis management period".
Lai Ching-teh's Taiwan independence rhetoric highlighted several problems. One. Lai Ching-teh has long been seen as Tsai Ing-wen's deputy, as a future cabinet member, or as a New Taipei City mayoral candidate. He will play a even more important role than he does today within the DPP. Lai Ching-teh was ingratiating himself with both newer and older generation Taiwan independence advocates. The word is that Lai's aides publicly thanked the KMT city councilor for asking the question. It enabled Lai to say what was on his mind. Lai Ching-teh is gradually making his way up the political ladder. The destructive effect he has hd upon cross-Strait relations is sure to increase.
Two. Lai Ching-teh's Taiwan independence rhetoric comes on the heels of his declining popularity. The Dengue fever epidemic continues to spread. It is difficult not to recall the Democratic Progressive Party's eight year long period of misrule. Taiwan independence and cross-Strait issues gave the DPP carte blanche. They enabled the DPP to manipulate Taiwan independence mob sentiment. Tsai Ing-wen may have given Taiwan independence a coat of whitewash. She may avoided mention of the Taiwan Independence Party Platform and Resolution for a Normal Nation. DPP advocacy of Taiwan independence may rise or fall with the political climate. But its fundamental nature has not changed. It has undermined domestic politics, but more importantly, it will undermine cross-Strait relations.
Even more important, is the DPP's response to Lai Ching-teh's statement. DPP insiders have pointed out that Lai Ching-teh declaration is the position long held by Lai and the party. "What Lai said is no different from what the party has been saying." This was not a case of Lai "putting his foot in his mouth". The Democratic Progressive Party has clearly endorsed Lai Ching-teh's remarks. DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng's official statement makes the DPP's position quite clear. Lai Ching-teh reaffirmed that "We are an independent and sovereign state called the Republic of China. This is the consensus within the party, and Mayor Lai is no exception." Cheng Yun-peng's explanation was important. First, the DPP expressed solidarity with Lai Ching-teh. Secondly, it made clear that the DPP's distorted definition of the "Republic of China" is merely a variation on Taiwan independence. Or, more accurately, it constitutes backdoor listing of Taiwan independence advocacy.
Lai Ching-teh's Taiwan independence rhetoric is even more direct and dangerous than Lai's remarks from last year. Lai mentioned Taiwan independence while visiting Fudan University in Shanghai on June 7. Some asked Lai about the DPP's Taiwan independence party platform. Lai said that for the public on Taiwan, "Taiwan independence is an overarching consensus". Lai said, "One can eliminate the DPP's Taiwan independence party platform, but one cannot eliminate the belief in Taiwan independence." Back then, Lai Ching-teh did not state his own position. This time Lai Ching-teh publicly declared that he is a "true green" political leader, and intends to be an important leader of the Democratic Progressive Party.
Lai Ching-teh openly declared his advocacy of Taiwan independence. The DPP responded by endorsing his remarks. This exposed the true face of DPP cross-Strait policy. This ripped away the mask Tsai Ing-wen created with her "Republic of China" rhetoric. But most importantly, it showed that a mere 100 days from election day, DPP leaders refuse to consider the Mainland's position and feelings. They care only about their personal political status as "true green political leaders" and the management of the Dengue fever crisis. Does such a party deserve the public trust?
Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait rhetoric may come across as moderate. But she refuses to establish a platform for pragmatic cross-Strait political dialogue. She is even less willing to recognize the 1992 Consensus, or abolish the Taiwan independence party platform. How can a political party that cares only about appearance and not substance, possibly warrant public trust?