Monday, March 05, 2007

President Floats Name Change Trial Balloon

With the legislative elections on the agenda for December, identity politics are already in full bore. We already had the experience of 2-28, and with the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law in 1987 happening in July, we can expect plenty more use of the same tactics by the DPP. Meanwhile the President, competing with the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) led by former President Lee Teng-hui for the pro-Taiwan core vote, called for name change to "Taiwan" at the FAPA banquet the other day:

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) announcement on the new "four yeses and one no" policy sparked mixed reactions from the ruling and opposition parties yesterday. While some mocked his statement as political kudos to rally up votes for the upcoming elections, others say they will not comment until they have learned more about the new policy.

At a dinner event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a Washington D.C.-based pro-Taiwan independence organization, Chen said that what Taiwan needs right now is to embrace a "four yeses and one no policy," namely yes to independence, a new constitution, further development, and to ratify the name "Taiwan" as the country's official name.

"Taiwan must join the United Nations by using 'Taiwan' as its official title because it is the best name," said Chen.

Chen also said Taiwan will not be polarized by having a left or right wing. Some interpreted that comment as a direct rebuttal against former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who earlier in the day openly criticized the Chen administration.

What does Chen mean? The same thing he meant when he shut down the National Reunificational Council: it's all about domestic identity politics. Look for similar talk the whole year -- the DPP successfully used this tactic in the Presidential election in 2004 -- and they will reach for it again. Meanwhile, Lee, who has been hacking on the President lately, was put in his place by the DPP spokesman:

In response to Lee's criticism, DPP Legislative Secretary General Wang Tuoh (王拓) pointed out that during the 12 years that Lee was president, he had not done what he was asking Chen to do, despite the fact that he had control over the Legislature.

As many have noted, the new legislative redistricting, and the shrinking of the legislature, both impact the small parties negatively, especially the TSU. The redistricting strongly favors the KMT, impacting the TSU, which competes for the pro-Green base with the DPP. Lee, the "spiritual head" of the TSU, has no choice but to attack the DPP's commitment to independence, and Chen has no choice but to keep affirming that commitment. Hence, a structural fallout of the DPP-TSU competition in Taiwan's identity politics is the constant aggressive chatter on independence in a bid to retain voters who identify with that political outcome.


MJ Klein said...

pardon my english, but isn't it "yesses" like busses? anyway, what is the "no?"

skiingkow said...

Hey Michael -- has the Taiwan media been reporting this?

Taiwan test-fires missile capable of attacking rival China

The article has the usual factual errors for context, but it at least explains that this is a "defensive" move on Taiwan's behalf.