Monday, May 07, 2007

Hsieh Win: Media Round-Up

WaPo hosts an article by Annie Huang of the AP:

A former Taiwanese premier who has pushed for better relations with rival China will head the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's ticket in 2008 elections, the party's presidential candidates said Monday.


When Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996, he ran as the vice presidential candidate on the DPP ticket, which got trounced. He was mayor of Kaoshiung, the island's second-biggest city, from 1998-2005.

Many believe Hsieh might be more flexible and pragmatic with China than President Chen Shui-bian, who has been unable to forge a breakthrough in relations with Beijing during his eight years in office.

China is one of the most important campaign issues because the mainland is one of Taiwan's largest trading partners but also the island's biggest security threat. Beijing insists that Taiwan is part of China, but the self-ruled island has been resisting Communist rule for more than five decades.

The take on Hsieh is that he is "flexible and pragmatic." Note how "flexible and pragmatic" are defined in relation to Hsieh's China stance, not in terms of his success in Kaohsiung. I wonder what the media will do when Hsieh wins, and China refuses to talk to him. Will the foreign media label Hsieh "inflexible?" I'm taking bets now......

I also love that construction in the last sentence: "...the self-ruled island has been resisting Communist rule for more than five decades." It makes a neat common cause between the democratic and authoritaritarian governments, one that is plainly false. The current government is resisting rule by China, not rule by Communism. Although it does make a nice slogan: Taiwan: Resisting Communist Oppression for 50 years.

Another interesting thing is that the Washington Post drastically shortened this article. On Sunday night it had a longer version (still online here, another long version at IHT) that noted that Hsieh was witty and sharp-tongued, and that he had tried to build bridges to China, and also discussed some of the exchanges in the primary. By Monday morning my time that article had been cut down to the current bare bones version.

The China Post, the pro-KMT English newspaper, report that foreign investors welcomed a Hsieh win:

Foreign investors welcome Frank Hsieh's Democratic Progressive Party primary win.

Hsieh, a former premier, yesterday all but clinched the right to bear the ruling party's standard next March. His win, however, will be formally made public after an in-house poll May 9-11.

He is more proactive in handling relations between Taiwan and China, a foreign investment analyst said. "If elected president," he pointed out, "he will further relax restrictions on trade and investment across the Taiwan Strait."

A relaxation of restrictions will benefit foreign investors in Taiwan.

"That's why his victory in the primaries is welcomed," the investment analyst said.

Premier Su Tseng-chang, who lost the primaries, is inclined to adhere to President Chen Shui-bian's policy of rigid control over trade and economic exchanges between Taiwan and China.

Does Chen have a rigid control over trade and economic exchanges? With a million Taiwanese businessmen doing business in China, its rigidity is arguable. Perhaps a less ideological word might have been found....

Taiwan News reported on the withdrawal of the other candidates:

Well before the final results were announced, both of Hsieh's leading rivals announced their acceptance of the results.

In a news conference called at his Taipei City headquarters at 6:40 p.m., Yu stated that "the results of the party member vote were not as expected" and announced that "I accept this result."

Yu also stated that the primary constituted "a victory for the DPP" and contrasted the fact that the DPP had chosen its candidate through a democratic process with the opposition Kuomintang, whose nominee former KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was chosen without opposition by his party's Central Standing Committee.

The DPP chairman also related that the primary process also allowed open discussion and debate on critical issues such as policies on Taiwan's future national definition, education, culture, economics and transitional justice that will be beneficial for Taiwan's national development and social justice.

Speaking in a news conference held at his Taipei City headquarters at 7:00 p.m., Su stated that the result "manifested the will of the party membership and we acknowledge and respect this result." He added that "for the sake of party unity and the party's future victory and so that Taiwan can definitely win, I have decided to withdraw from this primary and will fully support the candidate that won the primary election and hope that everyone from the top to the bottom in the party will also fully support the winning candidate," Su declared.

However, DPP Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) told reporters that he had held a telephone discussion with Vice President Lu who affirmed that she "will resolutely complete the primary process."

Well, not Annette Lu. She'll stick it out because she narrowly failed by a mere 30% of the vote. Go Annette! Meanwhile Taiwan Echo, in comments on the previous post on this issue, noted that Su has strong support and that he may attempt to contest this result somehow. So although it seems pretty much over, it might not be.

Hsieh has a few skeletons in the closet. A Next Magazine report claimed it had a leaked a prosecutor's document....

On Wednesday the magazine published a copy of what it said was an official document signed by Kaohsiung Prosecutor Lo Chien-hsun (羅建勛) that had been sent from the Kaohsiung bureau to the Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau on April 3.

The magazine said that Lo thought Hsieh should be indicted on corruption charges on suspicion of accepting illegal donations from a Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp board member and others during his term as mayor of Kaohsiung.

A more detailed Taipei Times report is available here. This is pretty much par for the course -- we can expect a steady stream of "corruption" claims -- a similar campaign was conducted against Chen Shui-bian by the tycoon Chen Yu-hao, now in hiding in China, and a close associate of Shih Ming-teh, currently leading the anti-Chen protests in Taipei. Does anyone pay attention to corruption here? Well, it certainly makes a nice thing to bash one's opponents with, but voters do not seem particularly moved by it.

Before we get too excited, though, the faltering economy might well prove problematic for the DPP in the upcoming election cycle. As the Taipei Times notes, the wholesale price index is rising faster than the Consumer Price Index, indicating that producers are absorbing price increases due to the fiercely competitive market. However, sooner or later those price increases will be passed on to consumers here in Taiwan, further impacting stagnant consumption levels and real incomes. With the Taiwan dollar actually slipping against the US dollar -- which has no bottom -- and interest rates at lows in Taiwan, the DPP is facing limited and not very powerful policy choices. If the economy tanks as 2007 goes on, it could severely affect the DPP at the polls.

Viewed in this light, the KMT's strategy of blocking the budget now becomes clearer. Taiwan's budget is quite weird, the Taipei Times explained the other day (thanks, Frank).

However, the hype surrounding the stalled budget obscures the fact that, unlike many countries where a stalled budget would mean a government shutdown, the law allows the government to continue operating normally even if its budget isn't passed. Only funding for new construction projects cannot be released.

Therefore, of the NT$1.6 trillion requested by the government, 99.96 percent of the funds -- all but NT$70 billion for new construction -- can be spent, even without legislative approval.

The government just keeps going on, whether or not it has legislative approval. However, the sole exception to that principle is billions of $$ in new public construction, which the government still needs legislative approval to execute. All over Taiwan, local level businesses and local governments are awaiting that funding. As long as the KMT and its legislative allies block that funding, the DPP doesn't get that economic stimulus to get the economy moving and reward local level links. Since the KMT has more resources and a better presence at the local level, it can probably outlast the DPP with this strategy. In other words, it may be that the KMT is bashing the local economy to bring down the party in power. Or it may be that they are just intransigent shits. You make the call.


Michael Turton said...

A poster commented on the wrong post, so I moved it here:


zhj said...

Michael, you are wrong about this:
"The current government is resisting rule by China, not rule by Communism."

It is correct that Taiwan is resisting Communist rule. Remember Chiang Kai-shek? However, this does not mean that Taiwan is resisting China rule. Formally, Taiwan has been ruled by China for more than 5 decades, The Republic of China, that is.


Right, and the whole time, everyone has been resisting. :)

Eli said...

It should be an interesting election. It's too bad that Su used the word crafty to attack Hsieh. Way to give your opponents ammunition. I already heard someone today who I know is pro-blue use the same word. I can just see it now, that word being repeated ad infinitum.

Anonymous said...

"It is correct that Taiwan is resisting Communist rule. Remember Chiang Kai-shek? However, this does not mean that Taiwan is resisting China rule. Formally, Taiwan has been ruled by China for more than 5 decades, The Republic of China, that is"

I strongly disagree that Taiwan is even a mere "Republic of China"..Taiwan is simply Taiwan Mr. Zhj. If Taiwan was a "ROC" it would rule China, Mongolia, and Tibet as stated in the current ROC Constitution. But of course we all know that this is false, thus the constitution should be amended to reflect the truth as well as the nation's name which is "Taiwan". Taiwan is not a "ROC" it is Taiwan.

Hey Michael I was just wondering, what will the media say if Frank Hseih got elected but then pretty much did what President Chen was trying to do all along which is promote Taiwan's sovereignty? Also if I recall correctly, all of the DPP candidates advocated doing away with Chen's "four" noes. Isn't that being even more pro-Taiwan? (which is the right thing to do) I guess the media skipped that important notice there.
The media is so funny. Lol.

Michael Turton said...

Yup. They hear what they want to hear. I'm curious about that too. Probably it will read:

Now two years into the Hsieh Adminstration, there is growing disappointment with Hsieh's hardline stance on China. Elected as a moderate, Hsieh has revealed himself to be ideological, rigid, and high-handed.

You know, because ideological, rigid, and unpragmatic people become hugely successful trial lawyers, like Chen Shui-bian and Frank Hsieh. *sigh* As long as Beijing writes the scripts, the foreign media isn't going to get much right here. But we'll have fun skinning their presentations.


Angry Taiwanese Guy said...

Question, I've been out of the loop the last few weeks. I thought Ma had to leave the KMT after being indicted. Why is he back as their nominee or have I gotten something wrong?

Did they bend the rules yet again?

Michael Turton said...

Sean, they changed the rules the day Ma was indicted. You probably missed it in the confusion