Sun, Nov 21, 1999 - Page 6 News List

Chang benefits Soong'scampaign

Julian Kuo

James Soong (宋楚瑜) stunned political circles when he chose Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄), President of Chang Gung University (長庚大學), as his running mate. More surprising is the fact that Chang has close links with both the KMT and DPP. He is good friends with both Premier Siew and DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian, and has been a generous patron of the DPP for some time. The Chang Gung Community (including the university, hospital and surrounding residential communities, all run by the Formosa Group) is also well-known for its enthusiastic support of the DPP ticket. Yet for all of this, Chang chose to run with James Soong. What's the deal?

Soong's choice of Chang is not that surprising. For Soong, Chang has three advantages. First, Chang will help Soong to dodge the issue of ethnicirty. With a strong native Taiwanese identity and close connections with opposition groups, Chang will deflect some voters' unease about Soong's mainland Chinese background. Next, Chang's involvement in the Formosa Plastics empire will help Soong to curry favor with its chairman, Wang Yung-ching (王永慶), and tap into local business support. Last, Chang will bolster Soong's image as being above party politics and distance Soong from internal KMT squabbles.

In short, Chang is just what Soong needs to fend off both KMT and DPP attacks.

Soong is conscious of Chang's importance, shown when he put Chang in charge of drawing up a China policy soon after he was announced as Soong's running mate, silencing attacks from the other parties. Some have attacked Chang for "betraying the opposition party," but Chang replied: "The only betrayal possible is a betrayal of the people," adding to Soong's appeal to voters dissatisfied with the ruling party.

Unlike KMT and DPP vice-presidential candidates Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) and Anette Lu (呂秀蓮), Chang is without political experience, but this just makes it more difficult for opponents to target his weak spots. Chang's connections with the opposition, his clean image and his background with Formosa Plastics (台塑) make Chang someone who could add a lot to Soong's campaign. But this depends on the interaction between Soong and Chang.

Chang's opposition party connections will also help Soong to tone down his own KMT dominated past, but this may not last. Soong's camp is dominated by former KMT members who were with him when he was Provincial Governor. Even if Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄), current senior advisor to the president, Wu Tun-yi (吳敦義), previous mayor of Kaohsiung, and former Minister of Justice Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪) announce their support for Soong, his power base will remain firmly in the non-mainstream faction of the KMT. Only the addition of influential non-KMT members will change this.

Overall, Soong's selection of Chang is favorable for Soong in the short-term, and may work to Soong's advantage in the long-term if the two are able to cooperate well. His entry into the race seems to have cast a pall over both the KMT and DPP camps. If Chang can help prevent the specter of ethnicirty from being raised in the election, and reduce some of the mud-slinging, then whatever the results, it will be a victory for democracy in Taiwan.

Julian Kuo is assistant professor of Political Science at Soochow University.

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