Many people voted for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) because they wanted to topple the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). While in power, the KMT was vexing many Taiwanese on an almost daily basis.
Not long after former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected, then-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visited Taiwan. On several occasions, Chen was surrounded by protesters who wanted to express their opinions on cross-strait issues. Those protests would have ended peacefully, but Ma, eager to show that he was a strong leader, decided to suppress them and in doing so angered many Taiwanese.
A common mistake that newly elected presidents must try to avoid is indulging in the idea that they have somehow received a mandate, and wanting to show how strong they are. Like Ma, Tsai emphasized the importance of being humble when she was first elected, but forgot that the minute she took office.
Tsai has been in the job for about five months now and people are saying that Taiwan has gone from being Ilha Formosa — “beautiful island” — to Ihla Furioso — angry island. It is like we have turned the clock back to the dark days of the Ma administration, when people would walk around fuming about what was going on. Reformers are unhappy and those who would be affected by the reforms in question are equally displeased.
Tsai brushes off the precipitous fall in her popularity ratings by saying that she did not become president to be popular. This approach is wrong: Right now she is acting like she became president to deliberately anger people.
Others say that Taiwan is full of holes and that too much needs to be patched up; that reform, like Rome, cannot be built in a day. They say that fighting too many battles at once dooms one to defeat. I would say that the problem is not how many battles you start, it is your strategy going into them.
The return of all the KMT’s allegedly ill-gotten assets will be a long, drawn-out process that is likely to take years. What Taiwanese want is some form of reasonable justice. The point is to establish in a court of law that the KMT has assets that it really should not have. In terms of the actual amount, that can be deliberated upon once legal procedures are done and dusted. Is it not a little bit scary that the committee formed to deal with the illicit assets is under the Executive Yuan? Democracy values procedural justice. Would it not have made more sense to put the committee under the Judicial Yuan?
The pension system is in sore need of reform, but why is the Tsai administration giving people the impression that reform is only targeted at public-sector employees? Why has Tsai not stepped in to clarify the situation after hearing all these Democratic Progressive Party legislators and pro pan-green talk show hosts spout off?
Many pan-green politicians and talk show hosts keep discussing distributive justice, which has got to be the funniest thing I have heard in a long while. Distributive justice is about the balancing of income between salaried workers and the class that gets its income through capital gains. Since when did it become about the redistribution of wealth among salaried workers?
Tsai should announce that pension reform is about the gradual balancing of the books over a 20-year period. This would silence the majority of critics in a flash.
Allen Houng is a professor at National Yang-Ming University’s Institute of Philosophy of Mind and Cognition.
Translated by Yu Tu-an and Paul Cooper
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