The three-week-long Sunflower movement has changed both the way the Taiwanese look at domestic politics and China’s approach if it wants to engage the people of this nation in the future, former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told an interviewer yesterday.
“[The Sunflower movement] was the first time that a social movement with such a scale of mass participation was able to generate so much energy without serious physical confrontations and violence — except for the government’s bloody crackdown against the protesters at the Executive Yuan,” Tsai said in an interview with TV host Cheng Hung-yi (鄭鴻儀), which aired last night.
Tsai, who is expected to win the party’s chairman election later this month, said the student-led movement had “awaken the Taiwanese all of a sudden” and had shown people that the younger generation were able to speak out for the weak, stand up for what they believe in and, at the same time, be rational and persuasive.
The public now realizes that the next generation is ready and willing to not only lead a mass movement, but perhaps also formulate and communicate policy much better than the government, she said.
Meanwhile, Beijing officials could not help but take notice of the diplomatic implications of the movement as they will have to seriously take into account mainstream public opinion and the latest developments in Taiwan and perhaps adjust their policies, she said.
Citing recent remarks by Chinese Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), Tsai said that China appeared to have paid attention to the changes in Taiwan and to have recognized that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can no longer afford to deal with Taiwan only through the CCP-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) platform.
Asked about President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) governance and his handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement, Tsai said Ma lacked humility as a powerful president, which was why his administration ignored people’s opinions and legislative supervision during the negotiation process.
“And [Ma] wanted to save face at the very end. I would say that the man who put him in that difficult and embarrassing situation was none other but himself,” Tsai said.
Tsai said the DPP’s prospects for the seven-in-one elections in November are “pretty good,” but one should never underestimate the KMT, which remains the ruling party, with much more resources and better local organization than the DPP.
Looking back on her loss in the 2012 presidential election to Ma, Tsai said that Taiwan “has been by-and-large a conservative society” and voters tend to be more conservative with election day and potential changes approaching.
“However, it was time for a change in Taiwan. And it is the same now,” she said.
Taiwanese conservatism works against female candidates in a presidential election, Tsai said.
While voters are more likely to support highly educated female candidates at the local election level, “you cannot say that it’s the same in a presidential election” as they still have doubts about a female president, she said.
Tsai spoke of her plans for the future modestly, saying that she would make herself “an option for the voters in [the presidential election in] 2016.”
“For now, my biggest responsibility will be becoming as good a DPP chairperson as I possibly can,” she said.