Week of Aug 8-14, 2015

Fears over a possible coattail effects after PFP Chairman James Soong enters the presidential election continue to bog down the KMT; Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng dismisses rumors of alliance with Soong; DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen firmly leads poll in the-now three-way race; the New Taiwan dollar falls to a five-year low on Chinese Yuan devaluation. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



FEARS OF COATTAIL EFFECTS BOGS DOWN KMT: Hurt by departing members and significant loss of public support resulting from its presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu’s (洪秀柱) ostensibly “pro-unification” platform, the Chinese nationalist party (KMT) was dealt another blow when former Yunlin County commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) announced earlier this week that his daughter, KMT Legislator Chang Chia-chun (張嘉郡), would withdraw her bid for reelection next year.

The elder Chang, a local heavyweight and stout supporter of People First Party (PFP) presidential hopeful James Soong (宋楚瑜), was reportedly willing to encourage her daughter to seek election as an independent candidate and was concerned about the KMT’s dimming prospects of victory in next year’s elections. Her daughter would be the third KMT lawmaker and legislative nominee to drop out of next year’s election, following Cheng Ru-fen (鄭汝芬) and Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞). All three have nevertheless retained their party membership.

Several KMT lawmakers have raised concerns that Soong’s entry into January’s presidential election could prompt more members to withdraw because the party is “inching towards a dead end” with its struggling presidential campaign.

Separately, Hung last Friday dismissed Soong’s recent surge in polls as merely a “temporary phenomenon” and warned of the possibility of losing the Chinese market if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wins next year’s presidential election. She also said on Thursday that “Taiwan would have no hope in case of a KMT failure.”

WANG DISMISSES ALLIANCE WITH SOONG: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said he had not communicated with James Soong for more than a year and described rumors that he planned to join Soong on a presidential ticket as “pure speculation.”

Meanwhile, independent presidential candidate Shih Ming-teh (施明德) accused Soong on Monday of failing to honor his words that he would not run for the presidency, calling Soong a “dishonest politician.” Shih also accused Soong of plagiarizing his platform of establishing a coalition government, a talking point Shih said he raised when the two met earlier this year.

joke allegedly made by Song that he would have had those throwing mud at him in a campaign video “shot if it was during the Martial Law era” also drew condemnation last weekend-particularly as he had served as the KMTs’ secretary-general and director-general of the Government Information Office during that dark period in the nation’s history, when the then KMT regime suspended civil liberties and engaged in political repression.

HUNG ON NUCLEAR ENERGY: KMT presidential candidate Hung said on Sunday that she would not rule out reactivating Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, whose construction was halted in April amid rising public sentiment against nuclear power, if she were elected in January. Hung’s comments seemed to contradict KMT Chairman Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) position on the issue.

Hung appeared to have made another blooper when she said that reactivating the nuclear power plant would resolve electricity shortages as 3.8 million households were without electricity after Typhoon Soudelor hit Taiwan last weekend. DPP lawmakers said Hung did not seem to realize that the blackout resulted from damage to electricity transmission systems and was not an issue of power generation.

In an attempt at damage control, Chu renewed on Monday his party’s pursuit of a nuclear-free homeland, while stressing that Hung simply regarded resuming construction of the nuclear power plant as “an option” amid a power crisis.

DPP FENDS OFF KMT NAME CALLING: The DPP on Tuesday described the KMT’s resorting to a “strange article” with a “biased view” that “curiously deviates from the US official and academic mainstream’s stance” in The Diplomat magazine to attack its presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen as “unbearable to see” for a party with a 100-year-long history and “tainting the KMT’s own reputation.”

Citing the article by Dennis V. Hickey, a professor of political science and director of the graduate program in global studies at Missouri State University, the KMT accused Tsai of persisting her pro-independence stance and adopting a “rent-a-mob” practice of “subsidizing extremists” to provoke political strife, claiming that the U.S. consequently found it difficult to “sensibly argue that Taiwan is a model of democracy.” The KMT has begun referring to Tsai as “Violent Ing” (暴力小英) and accusing her of “extremely contemptible behavior.” (One response to Hickey here.)

BEIJING NERVOUS ABOUT DPP ELECTION PROSPECTS: Beijing is nervous about a possible Tsai victory in the Jan. 16 presidential election, as it has made it clear over the years that it has “fundamental disagreements” with her party, said Evans Revere, who served as principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific Affairs before retiring from the State Department in 2007.

In related news, a DPP in next year’s presidential election would be “strong evidence” that Beijing’s hopes for the Taiwanese people to accept unification with China in the wake of growing economic ties are “illusory,” a new commentary by the Cato Institute said.

TSAI IN FIRM LEAD: Tsai Ing-wen continues to lead other candidates by a significant margin in the latest opinion polls on next year’s presidential election. The announcement by PFP Chairman James Soong last Thursday that he was entering the race had a limited impact on her support numbers. In a survey conducted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association, more than 65 percent of respondents said they expected Tsai to win.

Separately, Tsai confirmed on Wednesday that Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) would be her campaign manager.

Recent poll results:

Polling organization/client Date(s) conducted Tsai Soong Hung
Cross-Strait Policy Association (Aug. 9) 42.9% 23.3% 16.8%。
TVBS (Aug. 10-11) 38% 20% 17%



MAJORITY OF PEOPLE SATISFIED WITH LIFE IN TAIWAN? Although President Ma’s disapproval rate stood at nearly 70 percent or higher in various surveys on the eve of the final year of his second four-year term, a survey released on Wednesday by the National Development Council concluded that 80 percent of respondents were happy with their current quality of life, and 70 percent said they were satisfied with their working conditions and environment as well as the household financial situation.

Critics said the results of the survey were a “great deviation from reality.” Representatives from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and labor groups staged a protest on Wednesday calling for a raise in the national minimum wage by 30 percent to NT$26,000 (US$810) for basic needs to be met. More than 70 percent of the population make less than NT$40,000 a month, the SDP said. The Ministry of Labor’s minimum wage review committee has rejected the demand.

INDEPENDENCE ADVOCATES BACK NPP: In a bid to optimize the Third Force’s chances in the legislative elections next year and to sustain the Taiwan independence movement, the Taiwan Independence Action Party (TIAP), formed by an older generation of Taiwan independence advocates, announced on Monday that it would shift its focus from officially launching a political party to facilitating the campaign of the New Power Party (NPP), a new party that embraces a “normal” nation and promoting the creation of a new constitution as its guiding missions. The two parties, however, have different views on whether the NPP should add “Taiwan” to its official name.

As a stakeholder of the Third Force, the NPP garnered 5.6 percent support in a recent survey by the Cross-Strait Policy Association, passing the 5 percent electoral threshold to secure legislator-at-large seats.

LIFTING JAPANESE FOOD BAN? Taiwan is working toward lifting its ban on food imports from Japanese prefectures affected by the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. A decision on the timeline will be contingent on further evaluations by health authorities, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said on Monday. The Food and Drug Administration said foods from Fukushima would be excluded from the the removal of restrictions.

US-TAIWAN PARTNERSHIP TO FIGHT MERS: Taiwan and U.S. jointly launched a workshop in Taiwan on Wednesday to test and diagnose the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) amid efforts to strengthen regional response to the disease.

CURRICULUM DISPUTE UPDATE: Tang Chih-min (湯志民), Department of Education Commissioner of the Taipei City government and chairman of the education ministry’s committee that passed the disputed “China-centric” guideline adjustments with “opaque” review process, said on Tuesday that he was willing to make public the meeting minutes of the guideline review. However, Tang emphasized that the decision on whether to do so and to meet this demand by the student activists ultimately lies with the ministry.

Meeting minutes provided by a high school teacher show that the meeting procedure was flawed as more than half of the members on the committee raised questions about the guideline changes.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) broke a promise he made during a meeting with student protesters on Aug. 3 that the complete list of committee members would be released within 10 days. Yesterday Wu said the list would not be released because only 16 of the 43 members agreed to have their names made public. Wu had previously said the list would be released with the precondition that every member of the committee consent to the move.

CHINESE DISSIDENT SEEKS ASYLUM: Chinese dissident Gong Yujian (龔與劍), who supported the Tiananmen democratic movement in 1989 and came to Taiwan with a tour group late last month, is said to have sought political asylum in Taiwan, Radio Free Asia reported on Monday.

VIGIL FOR COMFORT WOMEN: A women rights group will hold an evening vigil on Friday to commemorate the women across Asia who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, including over 2,000 Taiwanese women. Aug. 14 is considered a memorial day for “comfort women” across East Asia.



ARMY PROCUREMENT IRREGULARITIES: The National Audit Office has reported procurement irregularities and possible graft involving the Army Command Headquarters’ procurement program last year-with discrepancies found in the quantity of tactical gear purchased for soldiers and items not meeting the required specifications in accordance with the procurement tender.

TAIWAN’S LARGEST EVER MILITARY DRONE: Taiwan unveiled a prototype of its largest military drone on Wednesday as it seeks to boost its defense in the face of a rising threat from China. The sleek, white unmanned aircraft is designed for intelligence gathering and surveillance missions, according to the National Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST). It is more than twice the size of any of the existing fleet of 32 “Sharp Kite” drones used by the Taiwanese military.



NT DOLLAR TUMBLES ON YUAN JITTERS: The New Taiwan dollar touched near five-year lows against the greenback after Beijing’s surprising devaluation of its currency on Tuesday to its lowest point in almost three years-to support exporters in the wake of a run of China’s poor economic data.

TYPHOON SOUDELOR: Typhoon Soudelor battered Taiwan with strong winds and torrential rains last weekend, claiming seven lives and leaving five missing, while injuring another 402. The storm caused flooding in 186 areas and agricultural losses of at least NT$920 million (US$28.58 million) nationwide. About 27% of crops were damaged.



MOEA EASES CHINA INVESTMENT RULE: The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday said it plans to ease regulations on China-bound investments in 12-inch wafer foundries, allowing Taiwanese semiconductor companies to wholly own 12-inch plants in China. Under current regulations, Taiwanese firms are allowed to invest in 12-inch chip plants in China only via merger and acquisition or by doing so jointly with other companies.


The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at editor@thinking-taiwan.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.


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