Tsai’s bid for president brings changes, worries for Taiwan
While the ruling Kuomintang ( KMT) continues to drag its feet with the presidential elections less than a year away, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced their champion this week and seemed confident of a surefire victory.
Tsai Ing-wen’s ( ) bid to run for president — and the possibility of her success — signals a great many changes that Taiwan may or may not be ready for. This would not be her first attempt to oust the ruling party from the Presidential Office; she lost to the KMT by 800,000 votes (6 percent) in 2012, and the defeat was bitter.
The previous election indicated that the DPP was garnering more approval than ever since its downfall after former President Chen Shui-bian’s ( ) corruption scandal, and that Taiwan was ready for a woman to take the helm.
Shortly after Ma’s re-election, many in Taiwan believed they had made a mistake. They saw the government’s vague handling of national controversies and refusal to heed the people’s voices when waves of protests broke out. Disappointment would be a small word to fit the scale of pan-green annoyance.
Tsai’s idea this time was to build a new government focused on the people’s needs instead of acting on decisions made behind closed doors. She said that over the past few years, the country’s leadership has gone to pot and the errors it made fell to the people to shoulder. “When the younger generation no longer has dreams — this is the biggest nightmare for a country to suffer,” said Tsai.
She now embodies hope for many who are looking for a fresh change in Taiwan’s political scene.
As anti-KMT as many have been in recent years, many would rejoice at the fall of the KMT, but this would not mean the people would be able to settle back and relax at her victory.
Ma’s friendliness with the Beijing government has become a touchy subject with the people. How Tsai and the DPP would handle cross-strait relations would be her biggest challenge, and a source of the people’s main concern. In 2011, she proposed the vague Taiwan Consensus as to replace the “1992 Consensus,” the basis of the KMT’s relationship with China. The “1992 Consensus” is an informal agreement between the R.O.C. and the mainland that there is only one “China,” but both sides are able to interpret what that means for themselves. The proposal did not go as she planned, as Tsai’s choice of words confused people and failed to communicate that the consensus was aimed to surpass blue-green feuds and unite the nation.
It seemed that Tsai’s concern is always to put the people first, to heed the people’s voices, gather their opinions, and act accordingly. This has not changed in four years, but Tsai still has to elaborate on her stance regarding cross-strait relations.
“To maintain the status quo” was her recent announcement, and it came without further explanation. It is true that Tsai still has time before the KMT decides its candidate, but to take over the leadership of the country is no small feat; the challenge goes beyond convincing your people that there would be enough affordable public housing or that the health care system can be further improved.
Does it mean she would be accepting the “1992 Consensus” in future discussions with Beijing, or would she plod forth with the DPP’s status quo — the Resolution on Taiwan’s Future, or the party’s Taiwan Independence Clause? The DPP only claimed last year that the latter would not be scrapped or frozen in the short term.
Perhaps Tsai is aiming for the swing votes, trying to please all at once. With the people watching and hoping, Tsai would have to step out of her soft-spoken self and display her determination in making every part of her proposals work.
Taiwan is sorely in need of change, and perhaps Tsai is the answer to that.