Tsai Ing-wen’s Presidential Bid: Democracy over Idolization

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Taiwan’s main oppositional Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) chairwoman, announced on Friday that she will seek her party’s nomination to run for president in 2012. The following are excerpts from her statement.

[Main Link: http://www.iing.tw/2011/03/blog-post_1552.html]



也謝謝你們願意接受這個樣子的蔡英文 (click this picture for video)

During these two or three years [as the DPP’s chairwoman], I have been to Taiwan’s big streets and small lanes, time after time. On vegetable markets, at street vendor stalls, and eateries, I have often seen children helping their parents with their business. On lardy tables, under dim lights, they were doing their homework. When there were many guests, they would clear the table, and take care of the guests. When looking on, I felt both dismayed and touched. They don’t have a minimum-standard environment, not even a desk, but they do it their own way, working on the pursuit of their own future.
這兩三年來,我奔波在台灣的大街小巷,在菜市場、路邊攤、小吃店,常常會看見幫忙家裡做生意的小朋友。他們放學回來,在油膩的桌上,在昏黃的燈光下,寫著功課。客人多的時候,必須把桌子讓出來,還要幫忙招呼。我看著他們,心裡充滿不捨與感動。 他們沒有最起碼的環境,甚至沒有書桌,可是他們用自己的方式,努力地在追求自己的未來。

I believe that when it comes to parents’ expectations and dreams for their children, there must be no gap between urbanites and countryside people, and no gap between the rich and the poor. So I told myself that for these children, we share an inescapable responsibility.

When my father was still alive, he wasn’t happy that I entered politics, but he also told me this: “Don’t compete with others. What other people won’t do, and what they don’t succeed in – that’s what you should do.” My decision today [to run for the DPP’s presidential nomination] isn’t a fight for something, or a try to prove something. I have made this decision because I have a share in the responsibility which needs to be shouldered, and therefore, I must carry this mission.


Ever since president Ma took office, things have happened in Taiwan which never happened before, which made people go through collective emotions, and which kept hitting at them. When Chinese officials came here, police officers were busy with grabbing [RoC / Taiwanese] national flags away from the hands of their own people, and Taiwan’s diversity has been turned into a single voice.  [Following lines: references to a Taiwanese athlete’s controversial disqualification at the 2010 Asian Games, and the deportation of Taiwanese citizens to China earlier this year.]
馬總統上任這三年來,台灣出現了很多以前不曾出現的事情,讓人民的集體情感,不停地被打擊。中國官員來了,我們的警察忙著從自己國民手上搶下國旗,把多元的台灣變成只有一種聲音 [我們的年輕運動員出國比賽,要為台灣爭光,卻遭受不公平的對待,委屈地坐在競技場中哭泣;我們的國民也被菲律賓無理地送到中國,連道歉也沒有一句。]

We aren’t asking for a lot. We only want the government to care about this, just as we do care. This country must make the next generation feel proud, and not anxious.


What I want to do won’t be easy. I want to take Taiwan’ from the politics of  intense emotions and hoarse roaring, to rational and persuasive politics. From the idolizing politics of the past, to politics which applies capability and communication to solving problems. From monopolist and allotted politics of minority groups to the participation of the majority – that’s our responsibility.


A-Gu, a Taiwanese blogger who is currently living in Texas, believes that Su Chen-chang (蘇貞昌), Taiwan’s former DPP prime minister and (probably) Tsai’s strongest competitor for the DPP’s nomination, would be a more capable campaigner.

And reading Tsai’s Ing-wen’s Friday statement (see above), I can certainly see A-Gu’s point. Tsai isn’t a great speaker, and probably will never be. She’s the chamber musician of Taiwanese politics, and when an exclamation mark is put to one of her lines, I rarely feel that the exclamation mark does really belong there.

If she gets the DPP nomination, it will be an experiment – but a worthwile one. Her voice will be heard – that much has been proven by the past three years. And the people of Taiwan (just as voters everywhere) deserve, every now and then, the opportunity to elect a politician who puts sobriety before pathos – a leader who refuses to let politics degenerate into a culture of sermons to be listened to on Sundays, and to be neglected from Mondays through Saturdays. Tsai’s nomination would be a democratic experience the world could draw lessons from, either way – it would be a Taiwanese lesson for its peer democracies.

As for questions about the substance of their policies, the challenges will be the same for both Tsai, or Su. Both will have to explain if they intend to scrap ECFA, or if they will keep it. Both of them will have to go into more detail about their presidential plans.

The public will make sure that they both will go into detail. The real choice between the two will actually be about their democratic practice – about how they will deal with the role of the sovereign – the Taiwanese people – in politics.

Echo Taiwan is pointing out another important factor – that of the intellectuals (without using that problematic term, of course, given that he’s a Tsai Ing-wen supporter himself):

Even before Tsai expressed her intent, there are groups of different stances formally expressed their endorsement on Tsai: domestic and oversea scholars and researchers, WUFI, students and The Formosan Statehood Movement. I haven’t seen any group come out to endorse Su.

To be a politician who is initially loved by bystanders is nice – but it is those who are committed to politics who will have a defining role in the formation of public opinion. They are also those who are most likely to mobilize the volunteers whose role Tsai mentioned in an earlier speech, on November 27 last year. It will be committed people and organizations who will communicate with the “ordinary people”, and who will convince them that their voices need to make the difference in 2012.

It would be an experiment – and to see something of its kind through will exact courage. Let’s see if the next generation will be proud, rather than anxious – “這個國家必須讓下一代感到驕傲,而不是焦慮.


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