Wed, Mar 20, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Anti-China rhetoric getting old

A surge in anti-China rhetoric by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has alarmed some people, but has probably left more just jaded.

In response to insults that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) hurled at President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) called TAO officials “lunatics” and over the weekend he urged China to stop harassing Taiwanese.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), when answering a question last month from a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker, said that he would defend the nation even if he was only armed with a broomstick.

He later voiced his objection to a proposed peace agreement with China and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) proposal to force a “one country, two systems” scheme on Taiwan when he sparred with several pan-blue lawmakers, again invoking a scenario in which the two sides of the Taiwan Strait went to war.

While Wu was right in issuing a stern response to the TAO for disrespecting Tsai, as was Su when he talked of the grim outlook for the nation were it to sign a peace treaty with China, their rhetoric sounded dated and trivial, and bordered on fearmongering.

Then-premier William Lai (賴清德) last year said in response to DPP Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) questioning Beijing’s “31 measures,” that the nation would diversify its response to China’s “united front” tactics.

The government had resorted to “slogan-chanting and condemnation” against China’s oppression and divide-and-conquer tactics, Chiu told Lai.

It is disappointing to see that little has changed since then.

Although Su has denied that he made the remarks with next year’s legislative and presidential elections in mind, adding that they were simply in response to Xi’s desire to implement a Taiwanese version of “one country, two systems,” too much repetition and cliche remarks on cross-strait issues will not impress the public, especially when there are signs that voters’ interest has shifted from anti-China discourse to issues related to their livelihoods.

One example of this shift is the election in Novembler last year of Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) to be Kaohsiung mayor. Han built his campaign platform almost entirely on grandiose promises, including a slogan to boost the sales of goods to China to attract more Chinese tourists, which helped him defeat his DPP rival Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) by a wide margin in the traditional DPP stronghold.

Another example was the DPP’s Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) on Saturday last week beating Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介) of the KMT in a Tainan legislative by-election by only 3,600 votes, even though Lai, who supposedly enjoys huge popularity in Tainan, had stumped strenuously for him.

Both elections saw DPP politicians talk about how the Chinese threat has grown and how people should unite behind the party to counter it, but that this kind of rhetoric seems to have lost its appeal in favor of demands for a higher quality of life.

Can voters be faulted for wanting better lives? Look at the stagnation in Kaohsiung and low wages in Tainan.

It is likely true that Han hoodwinked Kaohsiung residents into voting for him with his promises, but his victory was also due in large part to his ability to channel people’s frustration about their livelihoods to his advantage.

With the next presidential election less than a year away, the DPP would do well to take a break from its cross-strait rhetoric or come up with a more clever stance.

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