Sat, Oct 20, 2018 - Page 8 News List

In National Day speech, Tsai came off the fence

By Tzou Jiing-wen 鄒景雯

After President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) delivered her Double Ten National Day address on Oct. 10, observers in the media and academia came up with all kinds of interpretations of her words. As for exactly what Tsai was trying to express, their answers were all somewhat inconclusive.

Faced with an international community undergoing drastic changes and the US midterm elections next month, Tsai bade farewell to the obscure and ambiguous lines used in previous speeches, and instead clearly and deliberately came off the fence.

Later in the day, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) called Tsai the worst of Taiwan’s four directly elected presidents.

As for China, it never misses an opportunity to attack Tsai, and its Taiwan Affairs Office responded to her speech later that day.

Before stating how Tsai came off the fence, a point hidden in the conclusion of her speech that has been overlooked should be highlighted.

Tsai said: “This country belongs to all 23 million Taiwanese. Our country must be kept intact and passed on to future generations.”

Without a doubt, this is her attitude toward what the nation embodies — whether you would like to call it Taiwan or the Republic of China (ROC).

The stance clearly shows that Tsai has shaken off neutrality.

First, she took sides for the first time between communist China and the democratic US. Her motive for doing so might be simple: Faced with growing pressure from Beijing, while being unwilling to compromise and unable to unilaterally fight back, her only choice is to connect Taiwan with the international community.

Tsai chose to stand by the US and echo the ultimatum US Vice President Mike Pence issued in a speech on Oct. 4.

She not only cited Pence’s condemnation of China’s suppression of Taiwan’s diplomatic affairs and its democracy, but also echoed the accusation Pence made against Beijing of social infiltration and intervention in the elections of other countries.

“Taiwan itself is a beacon,” Tsai said, hoping to illuminate the path for friends who are pursuing democracy in Hong Kong and China.

This also means that if, during the past two years, a historic window of opportunity existed between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, the Tsai administration felt it had no choice but to pass due to China’s extremely harsh cross-strait policy.

The Tsai administration is now officially playing the “democracy” card, which is most offensive to Beijing, trying to draw a clear line between China’s authoritarian system of rule and its own.

Second, Tsai also made a choice between reconciliation and competition with the KMT.

She said: “Our country’s course of development is changing... Change also helps to correct the wrongs of the past.”

There is no turning back from pension reform, a nuclear-free homeland and transitional justice, she said, touching on three of the most controversial issues.

She was clearly drawing the battle line between “reformist” and “reactionary” as a way to bring voters back into the Democratic Progressive Party’s fold.

Despite Wu’s criticism, Tsai has won Washington’s trust with her character and style of governance.

Based on considerations of national interest, the US is adopting an approach of oppression and confrontation against China, while offering greater support to Taiwan, as it is certain that Taipei will not make trouble.

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