Retired lieutenant general Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷), who went to Beijing to listen to a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in 2016, has been a source of significant controversy due to his participation in that event.
Wu was back in the headlines after he was placed in the fourth spot on the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) list of legislator-at-large nominees. Wu’s placement on the list is high enough that it all but guarantees a legislative seat for the president of the 800 Heroes for the Republic of China Association, a group opposed to pension reform.
Many of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative candidates launched campaigns aimed at preventing Wu from entering the legislature, calling on voters to boycott the KMT by casting their party ballot for another.
On the other side, different opinions emerged from within the KMT, as some party members expressed hopes that Wu would temporarily avoid the media spotlight, while others want him to speak up and make his stance clear.
Upon examining political realities, Wu — who seems to be under attack from both sides — has already become the “highest common denominator” across the KMT, the DPP and the pro-unification camp. There are several reasons for that.
First, in terms of the outlook for the DPP’s legislative candidates, the party keeps repeating the rather monotonous call on voters to give it a legislative majority to make it easier for the president to run the country.
Apart from that, it has yet to present any concrete political platform or political goal powerful enough to mobilize its supporters across the nation to get off the couch and go out to vote, or to build wider support and expand its supporter base.
As a consequence, the DPP has been running neck and neck with the KMT in party support ratings over the past few months, and it is having a hard time preventing smaller parties from nibbling away at its support.
However, when Wu threw his hat in the ring, he gave the DPP a rare chance to make a breakthrough. The slogan “bring down Wu Sz-huai” has quickly become the major call from the DPP’s legislative candidates across the nation, as the issue came in handy, and the rallying cry is both catchy and easy to remember.
Still, very few people have any questions about what these DPP lawmakers have accomplished during the past four years or what they are planning to do over the coming four years, even though those are the two aspects that should be given the most attention.
Second, for the supporters of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the KMT’s presidential candidate, the party’s legislator-at-large list — which has made Wu one of its “headliners” — raises questions as to whether Wu’s nomination could hurt Han’s presidential bid. At the same time, the inclusion of Wu on the list also means that there is someone to share Han’s responsibility for the results.
To put it simply, if Han loses the presidential election, he would have an additional excuse, something that he cannot be blamed for, in addition to himself not having made enough of an effort. This excuse could provide precious leverage if Han wants to keep his political career alive and to maintain his influence.
KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who directed the nomination procedure for the party’s legislator-at-large list, has no reason to retract his decision. His only option is to be brave and march forward with this lineup, as it would at least allow him to retain influence over the party’s “military” faction that stands behind Wu Sz-huai, as well as over the support from retired civil servants.
Third, in the eyes of Beijing, Wu Sz-huai would mark a great step forward for China’s “united front” tactics. In the past, most politicians were extremely unlikely to attend any Chinese political activities involving high-level Chinese Communist Party officials ahead of an election campaign to prevent a public backlash. They waited until the election was over before attending such events, calling them “cultural exchanges,” “promoting tourism” or “city-to-city collaboration.”
In other words, Wu Sz-huai would become one of the very few politicians who has managed to pass muster at the ballot box after having made a high-profile visit to China before throwing his hat into the ring. That would make him a very convincing role model for China’s “united front” strategy.
The legislative election, which is held every four years, is an important, comprehensive political examination. It would be regrettable and disappointing if the ruling party is unable to motivate voters and the opposition parties are unable to propose a fresh vision, and the campaign, in the end, continues to circle around the issue of Wu Sz-huai.
Election day is 30 days away, and hopefully the DPP and the KMT — the two parties with the greatest ability to set the political agenda — would be able to offer a vision and a blueprint for how to run Taiwan over the next four years, instead of only focusing on bringing down or supporting Wu Sz-huai, and to use this vision and blueprint to vie for voter support.
Huang Wei-ping is a former think tank researcher.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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