China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 30, 2016
Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen realizes her public support has plummeted. Recently, during a press conference, she attempted to immunize herself. She urged the media and the public not to judge her by her first 100 days in office. Some commentators however reminded Tsai Ing-wen that she took to the streets and demanded that Ma Ying-jeou step down after a mere 100 days in office. They noted her double standard. That said, she was not entirely wrong.
Full Text Below:
Tsai Ing-wen has been in office only 100 days, yet her halo has been nearly totally tarnished. Why? This newspaper has published a four part editorial series entitled "Exploring the New Government's Dilemma". We hope the new government will consider our views and suggestions. The first three parts amounted to a medical history. Part One was “Old Problems Remain Unsolved, New Problems Have Been Created”. Part Two was “Politics Uber Alles, Pressure Groups Rule, the Nation Imperiled”. Part Three was “Cross-Strait Relations and the Economy: The President Must Face Reality”. Part Four, the last part, offers a prescription for what ails the patient. The cure is simple. But it is not easy – pragmatism and realism. The government and the public both need to be more pragmatic and realistic.
Tsai Ing-wen realizes her public support has plummeted. Recently, during a press conference, she attempted to immunize herself. She urged the media and the public not to judge her by her first 100 days in office. Some commentators however reminded Tsai Ing-wen that she took to the streets and demanded that Ma Ying-jeou step down after a mere 100 days in office. They noted her double standard. That said, she was not entirely wrong.
Since full democratization, presidents have apparently enjoyed "power without responsibility". But in fact "orders have trouble making it out of the Presidential Office". The powers and responsibilities of the Presidential Office, the Premier, the Legislative Yuan, and the DPP Central Committee are intertwined. Coordination is difficult. Public hopes are dashed, time and again. The president cannot escape blame, cannot avoid being scolded, cannot avoid demands to step down. Do constitutional institutions and democratic practices face difficulties on Taiwan? Taiwan faces three major structural problems. Problem One. A disadvantageous international environment. The global economy is troubled. Even democracies are encountering problems. Taiwan is caught in the flood waters. It can do nothing. Problem Two. Cross-Strait relations have not been dealt with properly. This has weakened our already weak economy, and our already weak relations with foreign governments. Problem Three. Runaway domestic criticism and anger. Those in office must accept blame even when it is impossible for them to get anything done. Blue or green makes no difference.
The cure for these ills is pragmatism and realism. Prescription One is a pragmatic approach, one that empathizes with the structural difficulties faced by Tsai Ing-wen. Criticism of the government should not inflict pain, but cure disease. After all, a failed president does not mean a successful Taiwan. Tsai Ing-wen's success or failure will help or hurt the people of Taiwan. Empathy for those in office, does not mean forsaking oversight. It merely means encouraging constructive oversight. Criticism can be harsh, but it must be factual. Ineptitude warrants blame, but when the government does something right, it also warrants praise.
This is not an excuse for those in office to shirk responsibility or rationalize failure. Structural problems are beyond the ability of temporary leaders to deal with. They may not be able to improve them. But at least they must not worsen them. Tsai Ing-wen cannot shirk responsibility. Over the past 100 days, the new government has failed to produce results. Tsai's critics are not wrong.
Prescription Two concerns President Tsai Ing-wen individually. She must realistically assess the situation, enable cross-Strait reconciliation, and end ruling vs. opposition party confrontation. On cross-Strait relations, the Mainland has certain expectations. The new government has not budged an inch. It needs to show the Mainland that it is sincere about seeking consensus. It also needs to end its electioneering. The election is over. It is high time the new government began governing the nation.
Tsai Ing-wen faces blue camp outrage, red camp suspicion, and green camp discontent. She is being attacked on three sides. Tsai Ing-wen must realize that Taiwan has undergone years of “democratic civil war”, replete with blue vs. green battles. The people look forward to a truce. Yet immediately upon taking office, Tsai Ing-wen raised the banner of "party assets", and "transitional justice". Swinging these swords and wreaking havoc upon the Kuomintang was a major blunder. It intensified social unrest, worsened her governance, and diminished her desire for reform. Tsai Ing-wen must "lay down her sword, and immediately seek reconciliation". Otherwise her regime will know no peace.
Red camp suspicions are the second obstacle that she must overcome. When commenting on cross-Strait matters, Tsai Ing-wen avoids provocative rhetoric. That is all well and good. But merely avoiding a negative is not enough.
Taiwan rests on its economy. The economy rests on cross-Strait relations. The impetus for Tsai Ing-wen's reforms is of course to improve people's lives. Improving people's lives requires economic prosperity. Without cross-Strait relations, there can be no economic prosperity. This is something Tsai Ing-wen must acknowledge. She must take immediate action. All three editorials stressed this point.
The final problem, ironically, is green camp discontent. Tsai Ing-wen wants to move to the center. But the centrist path is rough going. Her “centrist/Chinese" path is blocked. The deep greens, meanwhile, are in hot pursuit. Tsai Ing-wen has arrived at a political crossroads. She must be resolute. She must step up her pace. She must not cling to the deep greens and retreat. The deep greens want nothing more than to hunt down the blue camp, to oppose and eliminate Taiwan's inherently Chinese nature. If Tsai Ing-wen allows herself to be hijacked by deep green ideologues, she will take Taiwan down with her.
The third and final prescription is pragmatism and realism. In fact, it is the very thing President Tsai spoke of upon her election victory – "humility, humility, and more humility". Unfortunately, the DPP failed to receive President Tsai's memo. No wonder Tuan Yi-kang made a slip of the tongue and revealed his contempt for the voters. Only humility can end ruling vs opposition party conflict, and enable cross-Strait reconciliation. Only humility will enable Tsai Ing-wen to regain public confidence. Only humility can persuade the public to give Tsai Ing-wen more time.