Soong 2016: Does this declaration now mark a hat trick of stumbles?
James Soong said one thing right in his official announcement to seek the presidency in 2016: being Taiwan’s next leader would not be a walk in the park.
Though he was also correct about Taiwan’s political deadlock being centered on the green-blue divide, his presumption that by entering the race he would offer voters a credible alternative seemed disingenuous. While Soong’s remarks on Thursday reflect a recognition of Taiwan’s longstanding political stalemate, they provide no hint of a roadmap to bring those problems to an end.
Taiwan’s problems are not only a matter of the lack viable options for president, they are endemic to power hierarchies and a weak civil society that are often subsumed by political party interference. The “centering” of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in its willingness to wear the mantle of current cross-strait policy to be handed over by the Ma administration sig- nals that a status quo of ambiguity, unaccountability and black box operations is likely to thrive.
Youth Discontent Cannot Be
As student protests abandon their occupation outside the Ministry of Education, political elites are breathing a sigh of relief that further strife may be temporarily ended. What Taiwan really needs are leaders who are ready to work with the nation’s youth in order to ensure that the next generation can continue to contribute and build a future on this island. This type of responsibility requires brave moves to reform our education system, which strengthens the critical thinking that will create the relevant debates to move our country beyond xenophobia and toward mutual tolerance and respect.
The action of Taiwan’s major political parties on the curriculum guidelines reveals a disconcerting reflection of ideological myopia that has ripped rational debate asunder. While one side was ready to discredit youth participation by erasing any of their demands as legitimate based on their ideology, the other would not acknowledge the power its ideology had on impressionable minds. Soong’s decision to shelve the issue until the next president is sworn in shows a lack of inspiration to encourage the rational participation of civil society to work out problems themselves.
Ambiguous Remarks on
Soong’s remarks on economic competitiveness and accusations of current protectionism do little to balance his recognition of the growing gap between rich and poor in Taiwan. He makes no mention of how a domestic workforce that has been mentally and physically taxed to spend more time working for no rise in material benefits can continue to sustain itself, much less survive without higher wages.
If Soong or any leader wants to transcend the so-called blue-green divide, they must be ready to serve a society that will not be willingly categorized as merely pan-blue or pan-green voters. Ultimately, this depends on an awakening of the people, coming to their own conclusion that they can no longer depend on the current party system to work in the greater interest of the nation.
The face of James Soong, covered in mud, is featured as part of a campaign video shown in Taipei, yesterday. Soong announced he would seek a third run for president as a member of the People First Party. Mentioning his previous defeats and dilemmas, Soong described the mud as the “nutrients for growth.”