Internal fights must not distract DPP
By Paul Lin 林保華

The three Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential primary candidates recently took part in a political debate, which was subject to further scrutiny in an opinion poll about the candidates’ performances. These were internal debates, and where there is debate there are necessarily differences of opinion, which is not a problem as long as the opinions are substantiated by fact. Also, the three candidates are from the same camp, necessitating a certain amount of self-restraint in the debate. Green camp voters are now more discerning and sophisticated, and they are aware of the influence that their votes have in restraining the behavior of politicians.

Although one shouldn’t necessarily support only one candidate, neither should one support all three. Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), for example, has very different political views from DPP presidential hopefuls Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). Hsu has two major components to his policy: cross-strait relations — large-scale investment in and engagement with China — and social justice, centered on assisting disadvantaged groups and addressing wealth disparity. Surely Hsu is smart enough to realize these two policies are incompatible.

Although Taiwanese businesses have been quite conservative about investing in China, we are already seeing a huge decrease in government tax revenue, higher unemployment and a growing poverty gap. Can Taiwan really take much more of this increased investment and enagagement?

Even the US, the most powerful country in the world, has had to insist on the appreciation of the yuan to prevent more domestic unemployment and stop the US market from being flooded with Chinese goods. The US runs strict security checks on -Chinese-owned companies wanting to buy shares in, or acquire, US companies, and has been trying to root out Chinese industrial spies intent on obtaining sensitive technological and corporate information.

If the US is concerned, how can Taiwan not be? China is adopting methods similar to those used by the secret police to arrest Chinese citizens overseas and repatriate them, so how can we expect China to treat Taiwan any better?

Hsu had to find NT$5 million (US$173,150) to register in the DPP presidential primary. Was this simply to have a platform for his political views? He has certainly voiced some things that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has not had the nerve to.

While the debate with Hsu is predominantly internal, it does involve wider issues that go beyond the welfare of the Taiwanese. It also involves political, economic, military and cultural autonomy and -security owing to the possibility of China annexing Taiwan. Even the pro-blue CommonWealth Magazine likened Chinese investment in Taiwan to wolves in search of prey, so how can we let our guard down? I am not against engaging and having exchanges with China per se. However, we do need to stick to necessary principles and ensure defense mechanisms are in place.

Another external opponent is the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). For the recent five special municipality elections, widely seen as a warm-up to the presidential elections, Ma went all-out to redraw Taiwan’s division of administrative regions and now, just before the presidential election, he is once again trying to change the electoral system

Ma is incompetent in governance and treats the public with disdain. However, when it comes to political plotting, he has inherited the 5,000-year-old Chinese tradition of political manipulation. The Taiwanese can be fooled once or twice, but in the end, Ma and his cronies are too smart for their own good.

We have already seen attempts at influencing elections in highly suspicious incidents such as the Sean Lien (連勝文) shooting, showing that not even KMT members are safe.

Now we have the KMT trying populist tactics such as salary increases for military personnel, civil servants and teachers, allowing independent -Chinese tourists to come to Taiwan and the last-minute introduction of a luxury tax in the run-up to the election.

Military personnel, civil servants and teachers represent a minority. How can Ma justify these salary increases? He can’t, but he knows Taiwanese are fairly docile, and that as long as he does not take money directly from their pockets and uses taxes to put money into the national treasury, then the public will not really be bothered by how badly the government wastes taxpayers’ money.

Before the five special municipality elections, the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party said that independent Chinese tourists could start traveling to Taiwan before the Lantern Festival, before postponing this to July.

This is blatant electioneering, as is the introduction of the luxury tax, produced just in time for the election. He prefers to introduce a luxury tax to deal with property prices rather than leave things to market forces, making sure loopholes exist for those smart enough to exploit them.

The DPP has to be careful about allowing internal battles to distract it from the wider war. It needs to choose the candidate most capable of defeating Ma, and of taking Taiwan forward into the future.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taipei.


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