Tsai’s bid for pres­i­dent brings changes, wor­ries for Tai­wan

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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