Following the gains the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made in the local government elections on Saturday, the popularity of DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has increased alongside the power she wields within the party. The results of a survey announced yesterday showed that her approval rate is now 43 percent, up from 27 percent in May, while that of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has slipped from 52 percent in May to 33 percent.
Though some interpreted Saturday’s elections as a “mid-term” exam for Ma and a gauge of the DPP’s chances in the legislative and presidential elections in 2012, the results are not, on their own, sufficiently positive to represent a shift in the fortunes of the green camp.
In fact, given the many blunders committed by the Ma administration since it came to office in May last year — from its mishandling of Typhoon Morakot to its disregard for opposing voices on its cross-strait policies — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidates did surprisingly well in distancing themselves from the increasingly toxic central government, demonstrating yet again that politics are, above all, local.
In a way, if we look at Saturday’s elections as a referendum on the KMT in general and Ma in particular, we could argue that the party passed, while Ma came close to flunking. This shows us that voters are capable of distinguishing one from the other and that Ma’s misfortunes will not inevitably drag the KMT down. As more than two years separate us from the critical elections, the KMT will have sufficient time to rebuild its image and perhaps rid itself of members who risk undermining its chances of remaining in power. This could even mean nixing a Ma candidacy.
Still, the DPP has been handed an opportunity to regain momentum and to rebuild itself after years of decline. A main component to that effort will be rebranding the party as one that is more middle-of-the-road than that which, in the public eye, had grown increasingly nationalistic and exclusionary during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) second term. This, above all, will require efforts to convince the public, investors, the business sector and the international community that it is not anti-business or, as some media continue to characterize the DPP, “anti China.”
What it must make its detractors realize is that despite its pro-independence platform, the DPP does not advocate policies that pretend that China does not exist, nor does it seek to fuel animosities in the Taiwan Strait. It is ossible to be pro-independence and to seek closer, friendlier relations with Beijing, which, for the most part, is what the DPP tried to achieve while in office. The perception of the DPP as a “radical” and “anti-China” party may be unfair, the result of a smear campaign by Beijing, the KMT and pan-blue media, but as long as that image endures, the DPP’s chances of winning enough people to its side — and this means light-blues — to stage a comeback in 2012 will be slim.
Tsai has reached a point where people are more likely to listen to her. Now’s the time for her to engage in public diplomacy to dispel the myths that have long haunted her party and to rid it of those who risk undermining its image as a responsible alternative to the KMT.
Loud and clear, she must state that the DPP is not “anti” anything — above all China — but rather that it stands “for” many things.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has created a dilemma that could soon cause him to be hoisted with his own petard, bringing his leadership of China to an end. His threatening rhetoric over the unification of Taiwan with China, in which he has said, “we are willing to draw blood if necessary,” has placed Xi in a corner. Xi is portrayed as a strong world leader, yet he has created a scenario for himself that most likely would have an unfavorable outcome. With the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scheduled to convene this month, Xi cannot
I was privileged to meet with many of Taiwan’s leaders and leading thinkers during a study tour visit in August. One theme I heard several times during that trip was that bad relations between the United States and China benefit Taiwan. At first thought, I empathize with the argument. After all, there is a troubling record of America’s leaders negotiating with Beijing over the heads of Taiwan’s leaders. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned Taiwan to China after World War II. President Richard Nixon surprised Taiwan leaders with his 1972 trip to China. President Jimmy Carter unilaterally chose to normalize
Washington’s “one China” policy has not changed and the US does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty issue, a US Department of State spokesperson has said. He said that this has been the principle of US policy toward Taiwan since 1979, and the policy has remained in effect. He also said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has privately made this clear to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅). The US’ “one China” policy and China’s “one China” principle recognize China as the “representative of China.” The two diverge on the issue of Taiwan: Beijing asserts sovereignty
I live in Taiwan because, like many foreigners, I fell in love with and chose to align my life with a Taiwanese. In an era where personal freedoms are mandatorily ceded to government decree, I am thankful to the Taiwanese government for the spousal visa, as well as the lack of demeaning bureaucratic hoops and hurdles needed to get a work permit, residency permit and healthcare. However, if I then choose to attempt citizenship, this enlightened attitude spasms to seizure, culminating in what appears to be blatant xenophobia. In contrast to Western countries, the path to citizenship mandates a protracted period