Election of Tsai, China crisis offer opportunity
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2016.1.22

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) once proposed a “golden decade,

” a pretty slogan that resulted in a loss of sovereignty, an economic

slump and deteriorating living standards. Luckily, president-elect

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)

now have a firm grip on power, having won both the presidency and

a legislative majority.

The day after her election, Tsai met with US and Japanese diplomats.

This is reminiscent of how former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛

澤東) mentioned “leaning to one side” when discussing foreign

policy in his essay On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship.

Foreign policy is the extension of domestic policy and it is easy to

see that, as Tsai deals with the economic mess Ma is leaving, she

must work closely with the US and Japan to rebuild the economy,

improve living standards and revive Taiwan.

However, Tsai’s “leaning to one side” differs from Mao’s.

Then-US ambassador to China John Leighton Stuart remained in

Nanjing to meet with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but Mao

refused and instead wrote five articles for the Xinhua news agency

condemning US imperialism.

Tsai has done nothing of the kind and China has not shown any

strong reaction. By interpreting that as good will on China’s part,

Tsai is extending goodwill gesture toward China, which is in line

with her view of approaching China from an international

community perspective.

China’s reaction to Tsai’s victory has been much friendlier than

that of then-Chinese premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) 16 years ago. It

could be an expression of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平)

pragmatism, or just a result of all his domestic troubles, leaving him

with no time to respond.

The severity of China’s internal crisis can be seen in the chaos that

has resulted from military reform: Last week, a plan to reduce the

nation’s seven military regions to four areas was increased to five

areas, and the Beijing military region, which was to belong to the

northern military area was transferred to the central military area.

Also, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Lieutenant General

Liu Yuan (劉源) — the son of former Chinese president Liu Shaoqi

(劉少奇) — last month retired early. China would have to be

suicidal to enter a war at this time.

Last year, China’s exports fell for most of the year and the nation

failed to reach GDP growth of 7 percent. Capital is leaving, foreign

reserves are falling rapidly and the yuan is repeatedly being devalued

— all of which has led to a stock-market meltdown. Rapid economic

growth has reached its limit and is now entering a downward cycle,

challenging former World Bank vice president Justin Lin’s (林毅

夫) statement that rapid growth in the Chinese economy could

continue for another 30 years. Falling numbers of people traveling

abroad is another sign of such decline, while Xi’s anti-corruption

campaign has affected the efficiency of economic efforts.

As the anti-corruption campaign has become a tool in a power

struggle, the internal CCP struggle is more intense than observers

might think. Late last year, PLA Air Force General Liu Yazhou (劉

亞洲) — son-in-law of former Chinese president Li Xiannian (李先

念) — paraphrasing Mao, said that “sometimes reform is also

politics with bloodshed.”

There already exists differences of opinion within the CCP over

whether Xi should be re-elected at the party’s 19th National

Congress next year, and it appears Xi is often forced to cover up

internal disputes.

Perhaps the crisis in China and the transition in Taiwan offer a

golden opportunity for the two. Hopefully the DPP and the public

make good use of the situation and work together to run Taiwan and

welcome a brighter future.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Perry Svensson


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