Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) came in for some heavy criticism during her trip to the US over remarks she made that Taiwanese should give more “space” to the contentious idea that the Republic of China (ROC) is Taiwan, and Taiwan the ROC. However, if the past is any indication, she might be onto something.
For good reasons, the initial reaction among many Taiwanese and human rights defenders to equating their homeland with the ROC — a regime that was forced upon them after the conclusion of World War II — will be to bristle. Such reactions might even be more pronounced when a Taiwanese, who once headed the DPP and ran for high office, utters such words. Indeed Tsai became the object of rather scathing personal attacks, with some accusing her of giving up on Taiwanese independence and siding with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
However, anyone who knows Tsai will agree that selling out is the last thing on her mind. Rather, her comments, which it must be said she has made before, reflect an understanding of the parameters within which the DPP must operate if it is ever to have any hope of returning to power. The embattled Ma and his dysfunctional administration may be on the verge of splitting up, but that alone will be insufficient to provide the DPP with a good chance of scoring substantial wins in the seven-in-one elections in 2014 and the 2016 presidential election.
What the DPP needs above all is a platform that is both appealing to large numbers of voters and is also accommodating enough to allow for the creation of alliances that transcend party politics. In other words, the DPP must apply the lessons learned from an unrivaled master of Taiwanese politics, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). As he ascended the echelons of power within the KMT during the 1970s and 1980s, Lee kept his cards close to his chest. Even after he became president following Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) death, he continued to operate within the constraints imposed by the ROC Constitution and fully understood the immense challenges he would face when confronting conservative forces within the party.
Yet, little by little, Lee whittled away at the “old thieves” in the government and gradually placed more Taiwanese in key government positions. What Lee did, therefore, was work from the inside rather than confront from the outside. In many ways, his accomplishments — and they were manifold — reflected the transformation of the KMT itself since its arrival in Taiwan, as local imperatives slowly hollowed the party out from inside by patiently gnawing away at practices and ideologies that no longer applied to a democratic Taiwan.
Such a strategy should be given careful consideration by the DPP. Only by regaining power will it ever be in a position to shape the destiny of this nation the way Lee did. Sticking to tactics of alienation and combativeness, which time and again have proved a failure, will only ensure further losses in the democratic arena. Learning from past examples of successful cooperation while reaching out to one’s opponents, as former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) did after the DPP’s defeat in the 1996 presidential election, is the surest path to success.
It is encouraging to see former premier Yu Shyi-kun echoing Tsai’s views by stating that such views need not contradict the ultimate aim of independence. Tsai’s remarks have also prompted some Taiwanese, whose initial reaction was one of anger, to reassess their views on what she meant by ROC and to assess whether it can indeed symbolize something other than a repressive, monolithic entity that has nothing to do with Taiwan.
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has
As the US’ mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues at a record pace, one question under debate is what the administration of US President Joe Biden should do with its extra doses — and especially where to send them. One country that should be at the top of a donation list is Taiwan, in recognition of the help that it provided to the US at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. After weeks of pressure, the Biden administration announced that it is now “looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses.” By summer, it is clear that anyone in the