Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) is still the “presumptive” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential nominee, awaiting confirmation by a party congress scheduled for next month.
However, with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) purportedly dropping out of the running in the name of party unity, and the ecstasy with which the nomination of Hung was met by pan-blue supporters — who had been anxiously waiting for a candidate who they could focus their support on — it will be hard for the KMT to surrender its support for Hung.
However, as many of her critics have pointed out, Hung has demonstrated a naivety — even to the point of ineptitude — when it comes to strategic thinking on foreign relations, including cross-strait affairs, an area that the KMT has long touted as its field of expertise.
She brazenly proclaimed she would not visit the US unless she were to be received by higher-ranking officials than those who welcomed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), resisting an “interview-like” visit and asking the US to come to her if they have misgivings about her. She later backtracked, saying she had merely been “flirtatious” (sa jiao, 撒嬌), only to days later again say that she is not running for “overseas [Taiwanese] representative.”
To say she is a “loose cannon” would be a serious understatement, although Hung might gladly accept the label, as it was once used to describe Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). However, while Ko was a political novice, Hung has been immersed in politics for more than 25 years.
It is all the more surprising, then, that a recent poll found an overwhelming majority of respondents deemed Hung far less globally oriented than Tsai. In the same poll, Hung’s cross-strait platform, which is based on her proposed “one China, same interpretation” policy, was also not welcomed. On Monday she further stressed that it is an “enhanced version” of the so-called “1992 consensus,” which she admitted had met with opposition from the public and indirectly led to the Sunflower movement.
It is curious that Hung calls for marching toward the “deep-water zone” rather than backtracking, especially while acknowledging that the KMT’s cross-strait policies have been plagued by doubt.
That a potential candidate for a party aiming to win the presidency in a democratic election would willingly surrender a stance that has won it votes in the past, and raise the banner for one of the more extreme positions in Taiwan’s political spectrum, is disconcerting, to say the least.
While characterizing Tsai as “hollow,” Hung has yet to set out her domestic and social policies in any substantial way. That, combined with her going against the grain of the public’s expectations by championing a “scaled-up” version of the “1992 consensus,” has left many wondering what her goal is in running.
Some academics have recently suggested that Hung might be fulfilling the same function as an Internet “troll.” By loudly broadcasting her unification-leaning cross-strait policies, Hung might create a furor over cross-strait affairs, thus setting the agenda for the presidential campaigns and preventing the DPP from focusing its campaign on domestic issues as it plans to.
Hung would then win the votes of those who, while not pro-unification, are vehemently anti-DPP. She could then claim any votes for her as support for her cross-strait stance.
As an advocate of unification, Hung has nothing to lose.
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