The KMT slow-motion train wreck lumbers on, inevitably heading toward the cliff that everyone can see approaching in the distance, though some choose to avert their eyes.
One of the big themes from this weekend’s party congress was that Hung Hsiu-chu had not mentioned her “One China with the same interpretation” idea or that she could only talk about the ROC government, not the ROC itself. Instead, after a few weeks of immense party pressure, she “returned” to the formal party position of the 92 Consensus. To me, this is simply more of the KMT pretending a problem doesn’t exist. She has already laid out her preference, and she never repudiated her stance. In fact, she complained to the media that the simply didn’t understand her position and/or were misrepresenting it. In other words, just because she is strategically not talking about One China with the same interpretation these days doesn’t mean that that is not her actual position.
We have been through this before. In 2000, if you just looked at the three candidates’ China White Papers, they took very similar positions. Arguably, Chen Shui-bian had the friendliest position toward China, and Lien Chan (who was still campaigning under Lee Teng-hui’s “Special State to State Relationship”) had the least friendly position. In 2008, Ma Ying-jeou took great pains to tell voters that he was a Taiwan-first candidate. However, with hindsight we can see clearly that Lien and Ma have been clearly pro-unification and Chen tried his hardest to move the country towards independence. Talk is cheap, and campaign talk is even cheaper. This time, since Hung didn’t expect to actually get the nomination, she did us the favor of telling us all what she really wants. There is no reason to expect us all to forget that just because she has decided to stop talking about it in pursuit of votes. Certainly the DPP won’t stop bringing it up.
Hung’s actual speech was a stunning recitation of one cliché after another. She will fight hard to carry out her historical mission, uphold our cherished values, and create a better tomorrow! There was not a single concrete idea in the speech. The closest she came to an actual policy was to mention a list of problems the country faces: “global competition, economic stagnation, wealth gap, unfair distribution of resources, worsening standards of living, and so on.” However, with nary a hint of how to address those problems, she went on in the very next sentence to say that the real crisis was political strife and populism. For a candidate who insists the opponent is “empty” 空心蔡, she is running a remarkably substance-free campaign. (President Ma was much more concrete in his speech.)
At some point in the speech, it is obligatory for a candidate like Hung Hsiu-chu to talk about how much she loves Taiwan, reminding us that she has a very personal and deep connection to the island. If I had been the speechwriter, I would have had her tell some touching story from her own personal experience about the warmth and generosity of ordinary people. Instead, she chose to use someone else’s words and experience, reciting the lyrics of a song about Taiwan. To me, that is a problem. I already believe that other people love Taiwan; I want to know how she feels. There is another problem. Hung Hsiu-chu is very good at being strident and laying down the law. She still sounds like a high school guidance counselor authoritatively telling students which behavior and beliefs are Right and which are Wrong. However, she is not so good at being soft, tender, and loving. When she read the lyrics to the song, she used the same expressions and speech intonations as when she insisted that the people must unite around the KMT and its ideals. Seriously, turn the sound off and just watch her before and after 12:08, when she starts reciting the lyrics. She looks (and sounds) exactly the same. She’ll get better at this soft sell on the campaign trail over the next six months, but right now it is a disaster.
None of this is terribly unexpected. We’ve all seen this coming for the past month. Every time there was a slight hint that someone might try to pull the brake and stop this train, the effort quickly vanished. Once she passed the polls, she had too much momentum for anyone to stop her. So now Hung Hsiu-chu, who no one wanted as the candidate six months ago, will be carrying the KMT banner. She is unprepared for the job, having no security or economic training, she didn’t spend the last several years brushing up on policy questions, she is out of touch with mainstream opinion, and her party is severely divided. I can’t imagine that this will go well.
[Edit July 23, 2015]
In my rush to finish the post, I forgot to mention two of the most important parts of Hung’s speech.
At one point, she stated, “Everyone’s common feeling is that, only if the KMT does well can the country be safe and make progress, only if the KMT does well can Taiwan be prosperous and develop, and only if the KMT does well can Taiwan have a better future” 大家共同的心聲是，只有國民黨好，國家才能安定進步，只有國民黨好，台灣才能繁榮發展， 只有國民黨好，台灣的未來才會更好。This is not the normal rhetoric you hear in most democracies. Usually politicians will say that the country’s fate is the most important thing, and in comparison to that, their party’s fate is inconsequential. In the United States 2008 presidential election, one of Barack Obama’s big applause lines was that, “There are no red [ie: Republican] states. There are no blue [ie: Democrat] states. There are only the United States.” Country first, party second. Hung has reversed that formula, putting her party before the society.
The other point is somewhat less revealing, though it is somewhat more amusing. Without any hint of irony, Hung screeched, “We must not deliver Taiwan over to those who would govern using lies, deliver it over to those who would govern using populism, and we must especially not let a party whose leaders have never reflected or apologized for their mistakes come back into power.” 我們絕對不能把台灣交給謊言治國、交給民粹治國，甚至讓一個從未反省道歉的政黨班師回朝. Ok, then.