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

Imag­ined Away

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

Eco­nomic Pol­icy

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.”

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