Two recent news stories that might seem unimportant could actually help the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) escape its present difficulties.
The first concerns President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) March 27 stopover in Hawaii, where she was accompanied on a visit to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency by the agency’s director, Major General Arthur Logan of the US National Guard. He is also Hawaii’s adjutant general.
The second story concerns Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who has revealed his true face as a supporter of unification with China. On March 25, Han met China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Liu Jieyi (劉結一) while visiting Shenzhen in China’s Guangdong Province. During the meeting, Han praised the so-called “1992 consensus” and called it the key to calming the waters in cross-strait relations.
The first story showed voters that Tsai is doing her best to develop Taiwan’s relations with the US, whereas the second made Han look like a mouthpiece for China.
The DPP has controlled the presidency and the legislature for the past three years. However, its governance has failed to please the electorate and has even caused public resentment.
It is just like when a brilliant chef opens as restaurant that turns out to be unpopular, because its excellent food and drink does not match the public’s tastes. Similarly, the DPP has been met with resentment, despite putting a great deal of effort into its domestic policies. Some disillusioned DPP supporters have switched to supporting the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), thus generating a tide of support for Han during and following the local government elections in November last year.
The DPP could try amending the policies that have caused public resentment, but to do so at this point would make even more people resentful. This is not the right time to add fuel to the flames, so the DPP would do better to switch to a different battleground.
One field to fight on would be that of international relations. If advances in this field could divert the public’s attention toward foreign affairs, it would only be a good thing for the DPP.
However, China’s suppression of Taiwan in the international community makes it hard for Taiwan to build new ties with other countries. The bright side is that many US agencies have been resisting Beijing and showing goodwill toward Taipei. At such a time, Tsai is right to work hard on building relations with Washington.
Another battleground is unification with China, which the DPP could oppose.
During his mayoral election campaign last year, Han said he would do everything for the economy and leave politics out of it. This pleased many Taiwan-centric voters and persuaded them to vote for him.
However, more recently, Han has been acting as a spokesman for China, and Taiwan-centric voters who cannot stomach this are likely to go back to supporting the DPP.
The DPP has made a lot of blunders in its domestic policies, where it has scored more minus points than pluses. It must therefore choose other battlefields. In the field of international relations, the DPP will have to rely on its own efforts, but when it comes to opposing China’s efforts to annex Taiwan, Han has been assisting the DPP by handing Taiwan-centric voters back to it.
The pan-blue camp sees Han as a major asset, but ironically he is giving the DPP some much-needed help.
Chen Mao-hsiung, a retired National Sun Yat-sen University professor, is chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Taiwanese Security.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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