Spring is warming up and flowers are blossoming. Local politics is also heating up as candidates prepare for next year’s presidential election. As the battle between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) intensifies, many people are coming forward to mend the chaotic situation.
In the DPP’s primary, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is being challenged by former premier William Lai (賴清德), while several hopefuls are vying for the KMT’s nomination. Business tycoon Terry Gou (郭台銘) last month made the political show even more interesting by throwing his hat in the ring.
As if these were not enough, the parties’ nomination processes are controversial, resulting in a focus on procedural justice, while the public is concerned whether democracy in the nation is progressing or backsliding.
In addition, China is watching closely and some feel that the election is about Taiwan’s survival.
Gou might have joined the fray because the goddess Matsu came to him in a dream, or because he wants to repeat US President Donald Trump’s feat of moving from business to politics. Be that as it may, regardless of whether he wins or loses, he has raised a fundamental question: What are the necessary requirements for someone who wants to be president?
Gou’s decision has attracted attention not only because it is the first time since the nation’s democratization that a businessperson has made a bid for the presidency: Another reason is the widespread concern over whether he would be able to separate the national interest from his business interests and avoid conflicts of interest, if he were to win.
As someone who runs a multinational business, his management and leadership abilities are outstanding, but running a nation is very different from running a business. There are, for example, great differences in goals, mission, concerns, organizational structure and way of doing things.
Even more important, his manufacturing business is mainly based in China: If the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose ambition is to annex Taiwan, has any “needs” from Gou or offers any “instructions” to him, is there even a possibility that he would be able to resist, given that companies in China must be loyal to the CCP?
Gou would not be able to dispel public concern over such issues simply by placing his assets in trust.
This puts the spotlight on the first requirement for a president: Making sure that Taiwan’s interests is their first — and only — concern. Just as Trump has his “America first” foreign policy, Taiwan’s president must place Taiwan first.
An attempt to understand the US government’s and opposition’s caution and dislike of China’s ambitions based on the US Republican Party’s conservative values and Trump’s “America first” policy must begin with an attempt to revive the US economy.
Reducing taxes, encouraging investment, removing controls and restrictions on trade, fair trade, attacking the Chinese economy and strengthening national defense have become characteristic of Trump’s policies.
Taiwan’s economy is in dire need of resuscitation and transformation, and national security is threatened by Chinese infiltration, while the nation’s foreign policy is under pressure, and its status still has to be normalized.
All these challenges mean that the nation must elect a strong president who places Taiwan first and does everything in their power to protect the nation.
Another requirement for president is the ability to keep China at arm’s length. As far as Beijing is concerned, the Republic of China (ROC) ceased to exist in 1949 and there is only “one China,” which is the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Pan-blue politicians are helping prove this through practical action: From former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on, none of them has ever had the courage to mention the “Republic of China” when visiting China, yet they continue to deceive the public with their talk of “different interpretations.”
If Gou really feels passionately about the ROC, he should wear his cap emblazoned with the ROC when he visits China, as concrete action goes much further than a thousand slogans.
Facing the Chinese enemy, Taiwan’s president must oppose the CCP and Chinese authorities and their attempts to annex Taiwan, while at the same time supporting Chinese’s pursuit of democracy and human rights.
For many years, economic dependence on China has delayed the transformation and advancement of Taiwan’s economy, and the private sector exchanges that so naively lack any kind of defensive thinking have opened the door wide for Chinese infiltration.
It might be difficult for Taiwan to block exchanges with China, while even the strongest pro-Taiwan supporters talk about “brother nations.”
However, China’s ambitions remain unchanged and a president must understand the need, and have the ability, to keep Taiwan’s distance from China to maintain national security.
It is also important that a president understands the need, and has the ability, to maintain close relations with the US, Japan and the EU.
Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) statement that Taiwan must “rely on the US for national defense, Japan for science and technology, China for markets and itself for hard work” is not entirely correct.
However, in one fell swoop, it highlights several facts about Taiwan’s foreign relations: Maintaining close relations with advanced nations, such as the US, Japan and the EU member states, is the way that Taiwan can guarantee its national security and continued prosperity.
Over the past seven decades, the US has been Taiwan’s most important ally in national defense, economic assistance, science and technology, and promoting democracy. Now that the nation’s efforts are directed at preventing Chinese annexation, Taiwan and the US are continuing their cooperation in the form of the Indo-Pacific strategy.
Economically, the US and the EU are treating China as a competitor or opponent, and the US-China trade spat has had an impact on the Chinese economy.
Taiwan can no longer rely on the Chinese market, and it must direct all its strength to avoid being dragged down together with China by increasing investment at home and distancing itself from Beijing.
Be it industry and technology, human rights and democracy, ecology and the environment, or society and culture, Taiwan’s only choice if it wants to continue to advance is to increase exchanges with the US, Japan and the EU and focus on the rule of law.
The presidential nomination process is in full swing, and in this crucial political contest, the masters of the nation — Taiwanese — must keep their eyes open and their heads clear as they scrutinize the candidates’ qualifications.
Since Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996, the public has not always elected the right person, placing a less-than-qualified person in the Presidential Office. Today, neither the domestic nor the international situation is ideal, and Taiwanese can no longer afford to elect the wrong person.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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