‘Lit­tle Red Pep­per’ vs. ‘Wa­ter Spinach’

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

So it’s go­ing to be a battle of “Lit­tle Red Pep­per” against “Wa­ter Spinach” come next Jan. 16. Hung Hsiu-chu, Lit­tle Red Pep­per, will face-off with Wa­ter Spinach, Tsai Ing-wen, in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Tsai, chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP), has no prob­lem what­so­ever bear­ing the stan­dard of the op­po­si­tion party that is try­ing to claw back to power. Not so lucky is Hung, deputy speaker of the Leg­isla­tive Yuan. The 67-year-old has fought ev­ery inch on her way to earn her even­tual nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent by the Kuom­intang (KMT).

Hung was ridiculed as a Dona Quixote when she de­clared her can­di­dacy. She en­coun­tered the un­com­pro­mis­ingly peev­ish op­po­si­tion of the KMT old guard. Though she was the only con­tender in the party pri­mary, she was re­quired to un­dergo the test of two party pri­mary straw polls: one to find out whether she was sup­ported by KMT mem­bers as their stan­dard bearer and the other to as­sess her odds against Tsai. Should her voter sup­port in the two polls be be­low 30 per­cent, she wouldn’t be nom­i­nated and the party’s all-pow­er­ful Cen­tral Stand­ing Com­mit­tee would draft a can­di­date more likely to win.

She passed the test. The rul­ing party an­nounced the re­sults of the

JOE HUNG

polls yes­ter­day, but she won’t be nom­i­nated right away. She has to wait to be for­mally nom­i­nated at the KMT’s na­tional party congress on July 19, the rea­son be­ing that the old guard is con­tem­plat­ing de­lay­ing ac­tions to find a more “electable” stan­dard bearer.

Nev­er­the­less, the KMT sim­ply has to field Hung, bet­ter known as “Xiao-la-jiao” ( ) or “Lit­tle Red Pep­per” be­cause her provoca­tively pi­quant opin­ions con­trast with the vague, con­cil­ia­tory Tsai, nick­named “Kong-xin-cai” ( ) or “Wa­ter Spinach,” be­cause her words lack sub­stance like the hol­low stem of the popular veg­etable found on the dining ta­bles of Tai­wan.

In the process of win­ning the nom­i­na­tion, Hung is ac­quir­ing a charisma like Ko Wen-je, or Ko P (P. stand­ing for Pro­fes­sor) who started as a Don Quixote and wound up get­ting elected mayor of Taipei, Tai­wan’s cap­i­tal city. Where is the source of her newly ac­quired charisma?

Un­like al­most all politi­cians, Hung is hon­est and sin­cere. She calls a spade a spade. She has crit­i­cized the KMT for be­ing par­a­lyzed by the mantra “sell­ing out Tai­wan” that the DPP’s uses to crit­i­cize the KMT’s “China-lean­ing” poli­cies — so much so that the crit­i­cal CrossStrait Trade in Ser­vices Agree­ment, signed in Shang­hai in June 2013, has been stalled in the Leg­isla­tive Yuan al­most in­def­i­nitely.

The KMT de­nied Hung a party elec­tion broad­cast, forc­ing her to make a cam­paign speech be­fore its Cen­tral Stand­ing Com­mit­tee in­stead. She prof­fered her prin­ci­ple of “one China” to re­place the “1992 Con­sen­sus” as the modus vivendi for the on­go­ing peace­ful devel­op­ment of re­la­tions be­tween the two sides of the Tai­wan Strait. Tsai, who re­jects the modus vivendi, of­fers the main­te­nance of the cross- strait sta­tus quo in ac­cor­dance with “the will of the peo­ple and the ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tional or­der.”

It’s an ex­am­ple of Tsai’s gob­bledy­gook. Hung’s “one China prin­ci­ple” is un­mis­tak­ably clear. She de­scribed Tai­wan and main­land China as “one na­tion with two po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties shar­ing sovereignty” ( ) , and in­sisted that a peace ac­cord be signed to end the Chi­nese Civil War. Her China pol­icy ba­si­cally is the same as Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou’s, ex­cept her in­sis­tence on the con­clu­sion of the peace ac­cord that he promised in the run-up to the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion but re­neged on af­ter his elec­tion.

In her cam­paign speech, ti­tled “The Roads,” Hung vowed to tear down the two an­ces­tral tablets of “Tai­wan in­de­pen­dence” and “aban­don­ing nu­clear power,” the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party’s Holy Grail. She pointed out that the Tai­wan in­de­pen­dence pop­ulism of the op­po­si­tion party is threat­en­ing na­tional se­cu­rity, im­pos­ing self­seclu­sion on na­tional devel­op­ment, pro­long­ing eco­nomic stag­na­tion and car­ry­ing on the communal feud in so­ci­ety. Aban­don­ing nu­clear power, she said, is an ir­re­spon­si­ble pop­ulist op­tion turn­ing the prob­lem of mul­ti­ple choice into a true/false ques­tion. The right road lead­ing to the end of nu­clear power gen­er­a­tion in Tai­wan is through in­creas­ing the use of low-car­bon power and de­vel­op­ing re­new­able en­ergy.

Born in New Taipei City in 1948, Hung speaks Hoklo or Amoy much bet­ter than Tsai drawls her na­tive Hakka. It’s a big as­set to win the hearts of the ma­jor­ity of Hok­los­peak­ing vot­ers of Tai­wan, where the Hakka are a small ma­jor­ity. A main­land Chi­nese, Ma isn’t truly liked by the Hoklo speak­ers, be- cause he can’t han­dle their na­tive tongue.

There is one more as­set that Hung hasn’t let peo­ple know about. Her main­land Chi­nese fa­ther was a vic­tim of the bloody Feb. 28 In­ci­dent of 1947. He was the deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of a sugar mill at Houli, near Taichung. Ar­rested dur­ing the sup­pres­sion of the ri­ots, he was im­pris­oned for three years and per­se­cuted af­ter­ward dur­ing the reign of white ter­ror in Tai­wan. Lit­tle Red Pep­per grew up in poverty, worked through col­lege, and started her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer af­ter serv­ing as a high school direc­tor of stu­dent af­fairs.

Above all, Hung is a rare politi­cian of pro­bity. Even Ma, with a very clean im­age, was in­volved in Ac­count­gate, re­main­ing the de­fen­dant in the trial of mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of his ex­pense ac­count while run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2008. Tsai was ac­cused of con­tract­ing gov­ern­ment work out to the TaiMed Bi­o­log­ics while she was vice pre­mier.

Lit­tle Red Pep­per’s charisma will grow as she cam­paigns in the next seven months. Wa­ter Spinach, buoyed by the land­slide victory for the DPP in the na­tion­wide com­bined lo­cal elec­tions last Nov. 29 and her suc­cess­ful “cam­paign” tour of the United States, now does not ap­pear as in­vin­ci­ble as she was be­fore the once de­rided starry-eyed day­dreamer emerged as her ri­val in next year’s pres­i­den­tial race.

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