Gou says something

A couple days ago, Terry Gou visited the deputy speaker of the Chiayi city council. In the conversation, Gou said some fairly predictable stuff. Let me translate from a front page Liberty Times article:

“Money isn’t colored. Technology isn’t colored. People care about how to develop the economy. The reason I’m coming out now is that Taiwan’s economy is so important. It has been stagnant for twenty years.” Gou then directly said he wants to break through blue and green and revitalize Taiwan’s economy.

Gou also pointed out, because the two parties had rotated power and they governed according to ideology and not according to economic development, the two parties had not concentrated on developing Taiwan which had created twenty years of stagnation. He believed that any party that did not successfully manage the economy should be thrown out of power and whoever could do a good job with the economy should be allowed to do it. “This time I hope to have a chance to serve, I will completely concentrate on the economy. I will only talk about the economy; I won’t talk at all about politics.”

This was a front page article because it sure sounds like Gou is running. This is pretty much everything except a formal announcement. However, that’s not why I think it is significant.

I think the big story is that Gou has finally started talking. He hasn’t really said anything since the KMT primary ended. He’s been out of the country or just avoided the media. If staying silent was a deliberate strategy, I think it was a good (though cynical) one. Gou is trying to hold together a very unwieldy coalition. Right now, lots of people who are dissatisfied with the two traditional parties can project all their hopes and dreams on him. He is not quite a blank piece of paper, but he is a lot blanker than everyone else. If I were advising him, I would have told him to stay out of the country as long as possible, try to have a lightning fast campaign, and say as little substantive as possible during that campaign. If I were advising the other campaigns, I’d tell them to force him to talk and answer difficult questions. Every time he takes a position, he will risk alienating part of his very diverse coalition.

For example, it’s not surprising that Gou wants to argue that he will run a non-ideological campaign. He is, after all, running as an independent and trying to capture the middle of the political spectrum. However, now that he has said this, people can start to dissect it and challenge him. This particular appeal is an old trope: set aside blue and green ideology and focus on the economy. It sounds great, but what does it mean in practice? What it usually means is that the politician will say anything necessary so that Beijing will cooperate economically. To put it more bluntly, it means accepting One China. However, it also means that the politician doesn’t want to talk to voters about accepting One China, and they also don’t want the media or political opponents to ask them about accepting One China. One China is “ideology,” and ideology is bad. So they want to do ideological things without being held responsible for holding those beliefs or taking those actions.

You can see how Gou might not want to engage in this line of argumentation. It might not bother most of his voters, but it might help Tsai to peel off some supporters who have a strong Taiwan identity but thought that a successful business figure might have a magic recipe to stimulate the economy.

Every time Gou speaks, he gives Tsai and Han an opening to question him and force him to defend his positions and the implications of those positions. This is not a bad thing; it is the essence of democracy. The real tragedy would be if Gou made it to election day without the voters having a clear sense of what he stands for. The important news of the day is that the process has finally started.

2 Responses to “Gou says something”

  1. pajunenmailgmailcom Says:

    Excellent synopsis Nathan. Duck and hide is a tried and true strategy, but as an election campaign unfolds difficult to maintain. Plus Guo must overcome the perception/reality his Con-Fox business interests are not beholden to CCP interests.

  2. The KMT’s last Chance: Waste Separation in Shanghai | Justrecently's Weblog Says:

    […] 17. He is widely expected to run for president as an independent now. That, however, could force him to state his positions, much more explicitly than up to now, reckons Frozen Garlic, a blogger who has focused on the topic […]

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