Friday, December 03, 2010

Time for US to engage the DPP

CS Monitor has a balanced and thoughtful commentary on the election commentary, entirely free of the totally incorrect Ma validated by lower vote! that cluttered up the analysis in so many media publication. The CS Monitor says:

The party almost lost the city of Taichung in central Taiwan, a race that should have been a slam dunk. Most unsettling is the rising voter support for the anti-unification “greens” that caught many observers by surprise.

In islandwide tallies, the DPP won nearly 50 percent of the total vote, compared with less than 45 percent for the KMT, an advantage of more than 400,000 votes. This was a large erosion of support for President Ma and his party, which won the 2008 presidential race by more than 2.2 million votes. Turnout of 72 percent was unusually high for local elections, reinforcing the menacing math for the China-friendly KMT. The opposition also pulled even with the KMT in seats on local city councils across the island, showing strong support at the grassroots level that has traditionally been a heavy advantage for the ruling party.

One conclusion from all this is that Taiwan's two-party system is working better than many analysts had believed. It is now obvious, too, that Ma is vulnerable in 2012, when he is expected to stand for a second term and could initiate political talks with Beijing.
The key thing to take away from this is not the numbers which will certainly change in subsequent elections -- the municipal vote is not coterminous with the presidential vote -- but the rise of the DPP irrespective of whatever flexibility is in the numbers. And especially, the rise of DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen who now appears to have a clear lead in the runup to the DPP 2012 presidential nomination. The CS Monitor observers:
DPP members give much of the credit to Tsai Ying-wen, a British-educated law professor, trade negotiator, and former vice-premier who took over party leadership in May 2008. With her makeover of the DPP's former image as a bastion of fundamentalists who stridently advocate Taiwan's independence of China, Ms. Tsai is a different kind of opposition leader.
This difference, the "New" DPP, is also a theme in Project 2049 head Randall Schriver's call for the US to open a channel to the DPP. The Taipei Times reported:

At a Heritage Foundation discussion on the elections, Schriver said: “The US government needs to pay some attention to the potential return to power of the DPP.”

He said he was not making a partisan statement, but rather that he was basing his recommendations on what happened the last time the DPP was in power.

Schriver said that many senior political leaders in the US did not understand the DPP, its motivations or its core interests.

“And that led to some difficulties,” he said.

If the DPP should come to power again, the US should be careful not to repeat the mistakes it made in the past, Schriver said.

The fact that this DPP is headed by the redoubtable Tsai Ing-wen, with a western education, excellent English skills, and a moderate image, will make it hard for the US to dismiss her and for Beijing to demonize her. Tsai and the DPP may also benefit if the US-China relationship continues to go south.

One thing that would help is for the media to stop putting the negative term "anti-" in front of descriptions of the DPP. The DPP is a pro-Taiwan party. Its positions on other issues flow from that, and that is how it should be described.

The Economist also turned in an excellent commentary on the election, though the person who titled it Taiwan’s voters are inching towards a kind of closer union with the mainland didn't read it very closely.....
The DPP has anyway reinvented itself. Two years ago it was at a low point: its former leader, Chen Shui-bian, had been sent to jail on charges of corruption. President in 2000-08, he was a firebrand for explicit independence. But under the leadership of Ms Tsai, a new generation of moderates has emerged and the DPP is working hard to attract professionals and youths. Ms Tsai has been hailed as a DPP candidate for the presidency, as has Su Tseng-chang, who served under Mr Chen.

Their party is now doing its best to show that it too can engage with Beijing. Ms Tsai announced plans for a think-tank to act as a point of contact between the DPP and China, provided their talks can be held without preconditions. Ms Tsai tells the Taiwanese public that her party presents a “trustworthy alternative” to Mr Ma’s hasty approach to China.
The thinktank mentioned above is actually dual; one part will focus on domestic issues, the other on China issues. Part of the problem is not merely formulating a China policy but also reining in the rowdy independence of DPPers who have the ugly habit of getting off message, as I've often complained on this blog, and creating a place from which authoritative policy statements on China can be made.

And for all the media organs that erroneously said this election represented support for Ma's pro-China policies, as a pro-Taiwan friend of mine remarked, "if this election signals support for Ma, fantastic! I hope Ma enjoys even greater support in the 2012 presidential election."
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


SoCalExpat said...

Tsai certainly has a good public image. She has great credentials, takes moderate and reasonable positions, embraces an inclusive definition of Taiwanese identity, speaks perfect Mandarin, and is fluent in English. In Taiwanese politics, image matters more than substance so Tsai is a great face of the “New DPP.” However, the question the US and the rest of the world should be asking is how much influence the international troublemaking, anti-ROC, tribalist, Japanophile DPP old guard has over Tsai and the New DPP. We saw how much influence the military and the KMT old guard had over Ma, why should we expect Tsai to be able to resist the influence of the DPP Elders?

jerome in vals said...

I followed your link to the T.T.’s “Taiwan position consistent: AIT head” where A.I.T. Chairman R. Burghardt is reported reiterating the line on US agnosticism in regard to the political status of Taiwan.

Having read earlier an article in the Liberty Times, I felt the T.T. piece wanting. Here is my translation of a L.T.’s article that I think much more revealing.

Friendship betrayed, if Chen Shui-bian case true : Burghardt
「薄瑞光:扁案若真 友誼被背叛」

(by Qiu Yan Ling/Taibei report) 2010/new/dec/3/today-p1-5.htm

「After meeting L.Y. Chair Wang Jinping yesterday, A.I.T. Chairman Thin Auspicious Light (R. Burghadt’s Chinese name) was asked by the media about Chen Shuibian’s incarceration. Burghardt said that, “if what they said he (Chen Shuibian) did is true, I feel that he betrayed our friendship”.

Burghardt pointed out that, at a previous lecture he gave in California, he was asked how he felt about a probable Chen Shuibian’s incarceration. At the time he had said, “betrayal applies to his (Chen Shuibian’s) giving short shrift to this friendship, he has not played his part in maintaining the friendship.”

On leaving, Burghardt pointedly turned toward the media to stress that “the feeling of having been betrayed” is premised on “whether the case against Chen is true.”

Queried by the media on his views regarding the armed assault incident on the eve of the five municipal elections, Burghardt only offered the Chinese「太複雜了」, “too complex”. 」

“The feeling of having been betrayed” is premised on “whether the case against Chen is true.” How deftly Burghardt inverses the「因果関係」of karmic retaliation in Chen’s fall from grace to lob a warning shot at Ma.

The crux of the matter rests really in that “…betrayal applies to his (Chen Shuibian’s) giving short shrift to this friendship, he has not played his part in maintaining the friendship….”

Here, Ma should ponder “troublemaker” Chen’s downfall and keep his G.I. jacket straight while he watches the thin, auspicious light flicker away. Professed agnosticism can prove so cruel on the “gullible”.

The day is nearing when the riddle behind the move by the US DOJ on his father’s case will reveal itself to Chen’s bemused son.

A quiet American, High Commissioner Raymond Burghardt.

Michael Turton said...

However, the question the US and the rest of the world should be asking is how much influence the international troublemaking, anti-ROC, tribalist, Japanophile DPP old guard has over Tsai and the New DPP.

There is no such group, so the international community need not worry about it.

As for the party elders, they are neutralized by the competence of Tsai and her widespread support, and by their own marginalization.

Sage said...

"In response to the North Korean moves and apparent Chinese acquiescence, Washington is moving to redefine its relationship with South Korea and Japan, potentially creating an anti-China bloc in Northeast Asia that officials say they don't want but may need." ... Pomfret/WaPo

Could be a good first step in remembering that they have allies in Taiwan?

Can Washington wake up and realize that it is time to start circling the wagons?