Thursday, January 3, 2019

Wrong Message at the Wrong Time

* In his speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan," Chinese President Xi Jin-ping clearly shifted future policy emphasis from the "prevention of dejure independence" to "advocation of unification" under the "one country, two systems" formula. Though Xi left the door open for further discussions if, and when, the above formula is applied to Taiwan, Beijing is clearly confident that the time is ripe for political talks.
* At a time when the foundation of bilateral trust is, at best, fragile, there is little, if any, room for political discussion of a permanent cross-Strait settlement within Taiwan. People would welcome unobstructed exchanges with China at all levels, entertain mainland visitors and tourists, and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Besides, there has never been much appeal for "one country, two systems" formula in Taiwan. There is no urgency on the part of the DPP administration to engage Beijing in political discussions, and it certainly is not a priority for the ordinary people who are most concerned of making ends meet. Therefore, this is not the message preferred by most in Taiwan.
* On the other hand, 2019 is the start of Taiwan's presidential and legislative campaign, with the vote scheduled for spring 2020. While cross-Strait relations will definitely be a key topic, no presidential candidate from either the ruling DPP or the opposition KMT would support the "one country, two systems" scheme since overwhelming majority of Taiwanese people oppose it. Seeing what's been happening in Hong Kong and Macau where civil liberty is severely restricted in recent years, it's no surprise that the level of acceptance has been declining steadily in Taiwan. As such, the timing is off also.
* Xi's speech indicated the rising level of confidence Beijing has over cross-Strait matters. It also exposed the underlying fear that Taiwan is drifting further apart from China amidst heightened sense of Taiwanese identity, particularly among those 35 and under. However, Beijing believes it has enough leverage to inch forward with political talks.
* The strategy could backfire as people are becoming more apprehensive of unification. The local sentiment is more on doing business,  not forming a permanent union, with China. Most people believe that through non-political exchanges, cross-Strait mutual trust can accumulate and understanding improved. There are no shortcuts, but Beijing doesn't seem to understand that.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Batter Up!

* After the mayoral elections, a number of presidential aspirants--from both the ruling DPP and the Kuomintang (KMT)--have come forward and expressed intentions to run in 2020. The field is particularly tight for the KMT since it had just registered an impressive victory in the islandwide contest on 11/24.
* Besides KMT Chair Wu Den-yih, the outgoing New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu and former Legislative Yuan (LY) Speaker Wang Jin-ping appear to the front runners. Chu currently leads in preliminary polls, but that can change when the field is set and the nomination mechanism is agreed to by all.
* As for the DPP, President Tsai Ing-wen seems intent on running for re-election. But that is not a certainty. Factional strife continues to handicap the ruling party, and it will likely continue until the next party chair is elected in January by the rank-and-file.
* It will probably be early summer before the nominations--for both the president and LY--are set for both major parties. At that time, Taiwan will enter another islandwide campaign until early 2020.  

Friday, November 30, 2018

Taiwan Mayoral Election Result

City/County
Incumbent
Party ID
Incoming
Party ID
Taipei
Ko Wen-je
Independent
Ko Wen-je*
Independent
New Taipei City
Chu Li-lun
KMT
Ho Yue-I
KMT
Taoyuan
Cheng Wen-tsai
DPP
Cheng Wen-tsai
DPP
Taichung
Lin Chia-lung
DPP
Lu Shiow-yen
KMT
Tainan
Lai Ching-teh
DPP
Huang Wei-che
DPP
Kaohsiung
Chen Chi-mei
DPP
Han Kuo-yu
KMT
Keelung City
Lin Yu-chang
DPP
Lin Yu-chang
DPP
Hsinchu City
Lin Chih-chien
DPP
Lin Chih-chien
DPP
Hsinchu County
Chiu Chin-chuan
KMT
Chiu Chin-chuan
KMT
Miaoli County
Hsu Yau-chang
KMT
Hsu Yau-chang
KMT
Changhua County
Wei Ming-ku
DPP
Wang Hui-mei
KMT
Nantou County
Lin Min-tseng
KMT
Lin Min-tseng
KMT
Yunlin County
Lee Chin-yuan
DPP
Chang Shan-li
KMT
Chiayi City
Twu Shing-jer
DPP
Huang Hui-min
KMT
Chiayi County
Chang Hua-kwen
DPP
Wen Chang-liang
DPP
Pingtung County
Pan Meng-an
DPP
Pan Meng-an
DPP
Taitung County
Huang Chien-tin
KMT
Jao Chin-ling
KMT
Hualian County
Fu Kuen-chi
Independent
Hsu Cheng-wei
KMT
Yilan County
Lin Tsung-hsien
DPP
Lin Tze-miao
KMT
Penghu County
Chen Kuang-fu
DPP
Lai Wei-fong
KMT
Kinmen County
Chen Fu-hai
Independent
Yang Cheng-wu
KMT
Matsu County
Liu Tseng-in
KMT
Liu Tseng-in
KMT
DPP Total

13
DPP Total
6
KMT Total

6
KMT Total
15
Independent

3
Independent
1

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Day After

* Other than the Taipei mayoral race, the islandwide elections came to an end in Taiwan. It was a huge landslide victory for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and a devastating defeat of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Immediately after the results were announced, President Tsai Ing-wen, simultaneously the DPP chairwoman, tendered her resignation to the party. At the same time, Premier William Chin-teh Lai and Secretary-General of the President's Office Chen Chu also offered their resignations.
* Though not surprising, the KMT's margin of victory was beyond expectations of most. The number of seats went from six to fifteen, out of 22 total, in a complete makeover of the domestic political landscape. It could lay the foundation for another victory for the KMT in next year's presidential and legislative elections. However, judging from its history, the real challenge starts now as presidential aspirants may lead to party infighting that could undermine the always-fragile unity.
* On the other hand, the ruling DPP needs to reexamine itself from policy to personnel. Though the numbers tell a different story, the sense of economic malaise makes many uncertain about their future. In addition, the standoff in cross-Strait relations has adversely affected the outlook for, among other things,  the island's retail, hospitality, and service industries. If the DPP is not able to reverse such a downward spiral, another setback appears likely in next year's elections.
* The lingering controversy over Taipei mayoral race will continue for months as KMT nominee Ting Shou-chung filed a lawsuit to void the election. It will take weeks before the court decides whether another election is necessary. If that happens, the election could be set for early next year. Another showdown along partisan lines would not bode well for Ting.
* The narrow victory for Taipei incumbent mayor, Ko Wen-je, marks, at least temporarily, a pause in his planned but unannounced march toward the presidency, possibly as early as 2020. Ko needs to deliver and manage the island's megalopolis like an experienced CEO, not an Internet sensation. With rise in popularity of the newly elected Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, Ko is quickly losing his appeal if he continues his "do nothing, make no mistake" style of leadership. He may also need to reevaluate his relations with both major parties, as an islandwide campaign without the organisational support of a political party appears difficult, if not impossible.  

Thursday, November 22, 2018

48 Hours and Counting.....

* With two days to go, candidates and political parties are stepping up their last-minute efforts in Taiwan's mayoral elections. Nothing fancy, most candidates plan to "sweep the streets"--touring their electoral district in an open-top truck and waving to supporters and passerby alike--and stage a huge rally on election eve. it is nothing new but has been proven to be effective in the past.
*  A number of key races--Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung--remain too close to call. Results could have far-reaching impact on the political fortunes of political figures beyond candidates themselves.
* Though the elections are local in nature, the fallout, or spillover, will likely carry into the 2020 presidential and legislative elections, which will likely begin after the next Lunar New Year in February 2019.
* It's TOO EARLY for anyone to speculate on 2020. Ample time remains for either the DPP or KMT to make some changes and deliver on their campaign pledges. Since both the presidential and legislative races are national in nature, look for cross-Strait and US-Taiwan relations to be again front-and-centre. Though new proposals are likely, there doesn't seem to be any shortcut to bypass the  essence of "1992 consensus" before ties stabalize.