Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tsai or Su for 2012?

Article 23 of the Basic Environment Act reads:
The government shall establish plans to gradually achieve the goal of becoming a nuclear-free country. The government shall also strengthen nuclear safety management and control, protections against radiation, and the management of radioactive materials and monitoring of environmental radiation to safeguard the public from the dangers of radiation exposure.
As the Taipei Times noted today in its editorial, DPP policy has always been to oppose nuclear power, and it was the DPP that added the nuclear-free homeland clause to the Basic Law. Recently DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen, battling former Premier Su Tseng-chang for the DPP presidential candidacy, called for a nuclear-free homeland by 2025, in the wake of the disaster at Fukushima. These are easily accomplished plans, as sensible as clinically insane contract law permits. The TT says:
Tsai’s suggestion for a nuclear-free homeland does not call for an immediate halt to construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant or closure of the three plants that are in operation. Instead, as halting construction would be more expensive than completing it because of breach-of-contract costs, Tsai proposes that construction should be completed, but that the plant not be operated commercially after completion. Also, the three existing plants would not have their operations extended when they reach the end of their operational life by 2025.
Tsai's bold call appears to have caught her rival Su Tseng off guard; he came out a more conservative position, without a timetable. But the swiftness and surety of her thrust shows that she has smart advice and is not afraid to take the right position.

With the two emerging as the leading candidates as observers had long felt would be the case, more than just a primary is going on. Su is really the last lion of old martial law generation, along with former Vice-President Annette Lu, who hopefully will fade from politics soon, and the DPP Mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu, who will never operate at the national level. Su helped co-found the DPP and was one of the lawyers for the Kaohsiung 8. Tsai represents the next generation of DPP leaders. Generational transition is symbolized by this primary.

Bruce Jacobs, the well-known academic who has made a career out of studying local politics in Taiwan argued in the Taipei Times earlier this week that Su was the ideal candidate. He points out that (1) Su is a proven election winner; (2) Su is a proven and able administrator; and (3) polls have Su doing better against KMT President Ma than Tsai.

Jacobs also says that Su will do better with swing voters, whom he claims constitute a fifth to a quarter of the electorate. In 2008, the DPP vote total fell from 50 to 42% as swing voters switched away from the DPP. Maybe 20-25% of the voting population claims to be a swing voter -- though I suspect a lot of those "independents" are simply DPPers being quiet about allegiances. The fact is that in the 2008 only 8% of voters "switched", accounting for Ma's 16 point victory. Perhaps the other 12-17% of the swing voters canceled each other out switching back and forth, but my own suspicion is that the swing vote is roughly half what Jacobs says it is. Consider that the DPP's Chen Shui-bian took 39% of the vote in 2000, with KMT Lien Chan and PFP Soong Chu-yu taking 61%. Do the math -- it took only a 11% swing to bring the election to Chen at 50% in 2004. The 2008 swing was just 8%. The "swing" vote masks the larger, very longterm trend of voters becoming Green over time as people become more comfortable voting for the DPP.

Jacob's arguments for Both (1) and (2) are certainly true. For (3), things are slightly more equivocal. The Taipei Times rounded up some polls earlier this month:
According to cable news station TVBS’ survey, if the election were held now, Tsai would receive 34 percent of the vote against 41 percent for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Su would take 36 percent against Ma’s 37 percent.

A poll by the Chinese-language China Times showed that Tsai would lose by 6 percent with 30 percent of the vote, with Ma taking 36 percent. Su would get 32 percent to Ma’s 38 percent.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily suggested that both Tsai and Su have higher ratings than Ma. Tsai would receive 49.4 percent against Ma’s 34.3 percent, while Su would get 51.6 percent to Ma’s 29.8 percent.


The China Times poll went a step further, comparing Tsai directly with Su. The newspaper said 32 percent felt Su was better suited to run for president, while 27 percent backed Tsai.

In most polls Su is ahead or tied with Tsai.....

Meanwhile Sophia Solivio fired off a riposte against Jacobs' position in the Taipei Times, arguing that Tsai was the better choice. She contended that the flip side of Su's able administration is a remarkable lack of imagination and leadership in policy initiatives.
During the announcement of his bid for the DPP presidential nomination, Su insisted “Taiwan has been floating in the open sea” and “we need a strong leader during times like this, a helmsman who is of strong will,” but on cross-strait issues, Su also mentioned, “there is no need to advocate new and novel ideas or policies.” Will Su’s lack of innovative ideas transform Taiwan into a country “where everyone has a smile on their face”?
Silvio also argued that Tsai has repaired and reinvigorated the DPP, and appeals across generational and class lines just as Su does. Tsai is also endorsed by oldtime independence activists like the awesome Su Beng.

Despite the polls, Tsai might actually be the better candidate, for several reasons. It is quite true that Su is a proven administrator, but as the election of Ma himself shows, the public cares little for that qualification. Moreover, Su's long experience as County Chief of Pingtung and Taipei County -- note that he is popular in both the North and the South -- actually counts against him, for he could easily be spun in campaign propaganda as a wheeler-dealer with a finger in every pie. Having been in charge of many infrastructure projects, no doubt KMT operatives could dig up an alleged failure or two to throw at him. Tsai's lack of experience in this area actually helps in this regard, she has no skeletons, real or imagined, rattling around her non-existent administrative closet, although her lack of experience could become an issue. We're not into the election season yet so the KMT has not opened up on Su.

Further, voters in Taiwan respond strongly to social class issues. They like to vote for people from the class that they consider fit to run the nation. Chen Shui-bian's roots in a farming town in Tainan were always used to demonstrate a lack of class, at least to KMT voters. Tsai, on the other hand, comes from a wealthy family and has an overseas education, something many educated voters in Taiwan can identify with. Su has a strong Taiwanese flavor (which I love, along with his basso profundo speaking voice) that many light Blues will find offputting and "low class." He was educated at NTU, impressive to be sure, but lacking the social class markers that a foreign education conveys.

Tsai is nearly a decade younger than Su -- elections are endurance tests, and relative youthfulness is an asset.

Finally Tsai has another crossover appeal: she's of Hakka origin, born in Fangshan in Pingtung County. Hakkas are an important pro-KMT voting bloc, which the DPP is trying to pry from the KMT grip.

The DPP primary will give Tsai good practice in the rough and tumble of electoral politics at the national level. It will also be a test of party unity. Let's hope everyone passes.....

...your thoughts?
Daily Links:
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.


Hans said...

Su is the conventional politician, while Tsai is very original. Su is one of those many, while Tsai is one of a kind. I believe Su can fulfill many of the things that we envision, while Tsai can achieve beyond our expectations.

I'd take Tsai over Su for Taiwan's need for a change-over, from inside (internally) to outside (internationally).

Anonymous said...

SOPHIA SOLIVIO is who? professor at Smith or UMASS. who? recently two letters in TT why the sudden appearance, her real name?

Anonymous said...

in 2007 she was a student at SMITH COLLEGE. maybe a Taiwanese American, mom is from TW poppa from USA? re her blog:

''The gung ho condescension of the introduction led to comaparisons with Harold 'and Martin '. Writers beyond italicised font to emphasize an important point; they instead use words in uniform font to declare an essential criticism or instruction as a fact. Never the,"it's only my opinion" formula Foster employs to remind readers to think for themselves. Bloom and Amis tacitly acknowledge their readers think, making their criticisms more compelling and insightful.

Two adjectives I can attatch to the book since identifying his audience: lay readers.

I read. I also disagree with his assessment of the calling for Salman Rushdie's head on a platter as a "misunderstanding". I doubt Muslim extremists cannot comprehend irony in literature. They choose not to in order to label different interpretations of the Koran blasphemous.

The same way Hansberry's Walter Lee in, "A Raisin in The Sun" chose to give his con artist friend the family money. An action Foster omits to trim the plot to the evil white man coming to trample on an ever downtrodden black man. The simple abstract whittles the play to nothing.

Sophia Solivio

Anonymous said...

Sophia Solivio

Sir — The September and October articles about Asians in America ......

Anonymous said...

DPP policy has always been to oppose nuclear power, and it was the DPP that added the nuclear-free homeland clause to the Basic Law.

Oppose it as a campaign principle, yes, but then flipflop as soon as they take power ala Chen restarting construction of the 4th plant in 2001. What's to say they won't do the same this time?

I am personally opposed to nuclear power but for Taiwan it's either that or coal. Wind and solar are not sufficient (unfortunately) to meet the needs and even with a massive infrastructure spend are decades away from ever being able to provide enough electricity at a cost-effective price.

Taiwan Echo said...

anon:"Oppose it as a campaign principle, yes, but then flipflop as soon as they take power ala Chen restarting construction of the 4th plant in 2001. What's to say they won't do the same this time?"

In an interview, Tsai said that the DPP had paid a deep deep price when CSB tried to push no-nuke plan when they were in the government but without enough political power.

Many don't understand that any political movement needs political power.

Taiwan Echo said...

Michael said: "Having been in charge of many infrastructure projects, no doubt KMT operatives could dig up an alleged failure or two to throw at him (Su)."

That barely scratched the surface, man.

Su is good at "organizing activities" to cheer up people. But his vision about the future can only be summarized in some vague slogans like transcend, overcome, cheer up, better future ... etc. Other than that, he has no solid ideas how the country should do to achieve that. That is, he has no vision. If we read carefully about what he announced, we would find that the content is largely a result of copy and paste. I was told that Tsai's team has reserved some details of her ideas of future to prevent from being stolen.

People argue that Su was the premier so he had more experiences than Tsai. But Tsai was working for the central government much longer than Su and is far more familiar with the national and international issues than Su is. In fact, report(s) of that time (when Su was the premier and Tsai was his vice premier) said that Su had to rely on Tsai to run the government because of Su's "lack of experiences."

Su also made enemies inside the green camp --- A LOT of enemies. Many sectors coordinated with him before felt that they were stabbed from the back by Su and now all turned against him. Ironically, other than several close team members, Su's current support came largely from the blue media and politicians who really like to see Su representing the DPP.

There are a lot more details I wish I have time to elaborate. But remember one thing: those polls saying that Su's rating is either the same with or better than Tsai, were made by the pro-blue media organizations. Those organizations will not be included in DPP's actual polling process.

Taiwan Echo said...

One of Bruce Jacob's article about Su that is criticized most was the last:

Fifth, Su has demonstrated a clear perception of problems as well as strategic analytical abilities in dealing with domestic politics and foreign relations. He is extraordinarily knowledgeable in international affairs. I know that several foreign correspondents, in addition to this writer, have been very impressed after extended interviews.

But I can't find any info on this. And so far none of my friends can confirm this. In fact, what's common to us is that this is the field where Su lags far behind Tsai.

Can anyone shed some light on any sign of Su showing his knowledge about international affairs?

Anonymous said...

More on letter writer Sophia Solvio at SMITH COLLEGE in USA

She told the NYT last year: "I attend Smith College, a top woman's college, in Northampton, MA. I'm also a physics major.

Although societal conditioning to some extent influences women's academic interests, gender constructs don't explain why men consistently perform higher than women on science exams.

At 18-22, academic habits + preferences have mostly been formed, so my experience with students at Smith reflects that. However, considering that most of the students at Smith are a self-selected bunch interested in asserting their total equality with men at every opportunity, it's interesting to me (though not surprising), that most of the students here don't take science and math classes.

Since Smith has an open curriculum that is ostensibly designed to promote the the liberal arts and a broad array of knowledge. In reality, it's given students a free pass to be completely IGNORANT of hwo the physical world works and how it may work in the future. Science students are stereotypically thought of as nerdy and off-kilter in a non-fashionable way, and at Smith this stereotype is absolutely rampant.
While a good portion of my peers probably don't have the intellectual capacity or intellectual interest to learn what the Bose-Einstein condensate is, they're implicitly taught by the majority of professors and students here, that it's more valuable to throw around "space," "gender constructs," "the Other, Otherness," etc. than it is to learn about the material world.
Even though improved efforts at encouraging women to go into science probably won't narrow minute difference in innate scientific aptitude between highly performing men and women, hopefully these efforts will get more women interested early on in pursuing careers in science. This applies especially to women undergraduates as they're the future of science, along with men.

It's ridiculous that people I go to school with don't understand the physical world because they're TAUGHT to believe only the metaphysical world matters.

If women spent less time reading the pseudo-philosophical ramblings of people like Gayatri Spivak and more time reading Alexei Abrikosov, the scientific world (and undergrads like myself) wouldn't have to worry about a shortage of Lisa Randalls in the future. "


- signed on screen
Trevor Levor in UK again as 24/7

M said...

Think Su is the stronger choice.

Tsai's nuclear pledge doesn't make much sense. While getting rid of nuclear power might be a worthy long term objective, surely the 4th power plant should be the last to be shut down (given that it is brand new and built to higher safety standards). I find it hard to imagine that Taiwan could spend all that money on a new nuclear power plant and then not put it into operation. The whole episode brings back bad memories of the Chen regime and could work against Tsai. Why not shut the older nuclear plants ahead of schedule instead?

Tsai has also never held major elected office. Her lack of campaigning experience showed up badly during the ECFA debates and her run for Xinbei mayor. Her lack of administrative experience will be used against her.

Dixteel said...

Whoever is going for it, he/she better be ready, because it's going to be a tough up-hill fight. I am not just talking about the election, but also post-election.

Michael Turton said...

It's certainly a hard choice, Su vs Tsai.

The Fourth nuclear plant might have been better had the builders not made numerous changes from the specs.

Anonymous said...

trevor uk chimes in --

sophia solivio is not taiwanese nor an american of taiwanese descent.

my earlier comments were incorrect and based on pure speculation and wrong wrong wrong. she just happens to be connected with Smith College somehow, maybe poli sci professor. but why her big interest in taiwan elections and DPP, go figure....

Okami said...

That would be the KMT's best ever moment is when Tsai shuts down all nuke reactors and Taipower sticks its customers with the bill. That's unfortunately what's going to happen besides burning a whole lot more coal. The problem with nuclear reactors besides the nuclear part is the upfront costs of 75% to build the it.

I think the nuclear thing is getting blown out of proportion by the greenies. Tepco didn't/hasn't done anyone any favors with their ignorant approach with their reactors. Still it took one of the top 5 earthquakes in human history and a tsunami and we could still make it out of this one.

Michael Turton said...

You realize, Okami, that when nukes and fossil plants are replaced by wind, costs to customer plummet. Not to mention the gains to the environment, which are often obvious to locals.

Okami said...

Michael, if wind is such a great cost-effective technology for power, why isn't it used in Africa. Why must it need such large subsidies just to get put up in the first place? If it's so great for locals, why do they constantly complain of the noise or if their rich and powerful block it from their areas? Why do I not see any cost effective homes run by wind power and solar in Taiwan or anywhere else? Why has a 1000+ year old tech not been used for electrical power previously and built to scale?

I'm aware of the Malawi(?) boy who built a windmill to recharge cellphones, but he got packed off to some school to become another leaching bureaucrat on the hides of poor Africans rather than allowed to become a successful entrepreneur.

Taiwan Echo said...

Okami:"That would be the KMT's best ever moment is when Tsai shuts down all nuke reactors and Taipower sticks its customers with the bill."

That's the wrong impression the KMT wants people to believe. Tsai will shut down the plan in her term if she gets elected the president. And the reserve power -- according to Tsai in an recent interview -- is now 28% (that is, even 28% of the current power sources is down, the bill will still be the same).

Tsai's plan is no-nuke for "2025". Her plan is to work on other power sources before then. She will not plan for shutdown without enough back up plan to replace them.

She also mentioned that the most critical spirit of her plan is (1) to get ready for gradual replacement, (2) the discussion of this issue among people to reach a no-nuke awareness. She also mentioned that the shutdown in 2025 is the goal, but if people still can't reach consensus at that moment, then we could postpone the shutdown, and if people reach it earlier, we can shut them down earlier.

It is critical to read her plan, and listen to what she said in details. The KMT is so fearful to see her running. They will try whatever they can to distort her words.

Freeman said...

Ps: The real enemy is on the other side, in the real world. Don't you see how were all LOST on this island? We're dreaming or...

Michael Turton said...

Why must it need such large subsidies just to get put up in the first place?

To compete with the truly massive subsidies for oil, coal, and nukes.

Wind is used in Africa.

Why don't you go out and bone up some on Wind power? I think you'll be in for a pleasant surprise.

Taiwan Echo said...

Apologize for a serious typo I made in previous comment:

"That's the wrong impression the KMT wants people to believe. Tsai will NOT shut down the plan in her term if she gets elected the president. And the reserve power -- ...

The NOT should have been there, as shown.