The scope of yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle was too narrow, with the appointments likely reflecting President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) hope to ameliorate cross-strait ties, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers said.
The nation’s foreign and defense ministries and top agency for cross-strait policy all getting new leaders shows that Tsai is hoping to improve cross-strait relations, which have cooled considerably since she took office in May 2016, KMT caucus deputy secretary-general William Tseng (曾銘宗) said.
As Presidential Office Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) is perceived as having a pro-Taiwanese independence stance, his appointment as minister of foreign affairs is a mistake considering the diplomatic plight the nation faces, KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) said, adding that the administration should have appointed someone better suited to the position, as Wu would only further decrease the nation’s international space.
Lin also raised doubts that new Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) minister Chen Ming-tung (陳明通) — who in 2012 said the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was not attempting desinicization, but ridding the nation of the People’s Republic of China’s influence — could revive cross-strait ties, adding that the DPP’s reluctance to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus” has had a negative effect on the economy and encroached on the nation’s space in the international community.
The so-called “1992 consensus” — a term former MAC chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted to making up in 2000 — refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
Tsai might hope to improve cross-strait relations with the reshuffle, but the task would ultimately depend on the president’s stance, KMT caucus secretary-general Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) said.
Chen Ming-tung adopted a hardline stance on desinicization and the “1992 consensus” when serving as MAC minister under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), she said, adding that the DPP should stop resorting to doublespeak — implementing policies aimed at desinicization while claiming that it has extended goodwill toward China.
While data suggest sluggish economic growth, along with fewer cross-strait exchanges, are the areas in which Tsai has attracted the most criticism in opinion polls, Tseng said agencies in charge of the economy and people’s livelihood were excluded from the reshuffle, which could have been conducted on a much larger scale.
Echoing that view, KMT Culture and Communications Committee deputy director Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) said: “This reshuffle not only fails to meet the public’s expectation, it also runs counter to Tsai’s oft-stated goal of propping up the nation’s economy and the standard of living.”
Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) lauded the reshuffle, saying it signaled that the government is ready for a year filled with challenges and opportunities.
Appointing a new defense minister suggests that Tsai is prepared to meet the challenges facing the nation in light of increased instances of Beijing’s warships and fighter jets encroaching on Taiwan’s territoty, he said.
With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continuing to extend his goodwill toward Taiwan, Tsai should explore the possibility of Taiwan gaining membership of the Japan-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and commencing military exchanges with Japan, he said, adding that recent developments in US politics have also presented opportunities for Taiwan and the US to leverage cooperation on defense and diplomacy.
The KMT would be able to see the big picture if it were not so fixated on scrutinizing officials’ political affiliations, but rather focus on their abilities and think about the best interests of Taiwanese instead of Chinese, Wang added.
Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu
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