Week of Dec. 26, 2015 - Jan. 1, 2016

Cross-strait relations were the focus of the first presidential debate; DPP presidential candidate Tsai is confident that cross-strait relations will remain stable and that the “1992 consensus” should not be the only option for the people of Taiwan; Tsai denies allegations by KMT presidential candidate Chu that she will allow U.S. pork import into Taiwan despite public health concerns; the KMT says Taiwan’s allies “distrust” Tsai; Japan to start negotiations with Taiwan on comfort women; a cross-strait hotline is launched for direct communication between Taipei and Beijing. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider, and a Happy New Year to our loyal readers!



CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS FOCUS OF FIRST DEBATE: The first of two televised debates between the presidential candidates was held on Sunday, with KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) relentlessly attacking his DPP rival Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on cross-strait relations.

Tsai said she believed cross-strait relations would remain stable as everything can be discussed. She expressing her confidence that Beijing would demonstrate a “rational attitude” when dealing with the DPP and urged China to respect Taiwan’s democratic process. In response to Chu’s challenge on her stance on the “1992 consensus” — a tacit agreement between the KMT and China which says that there is “one China” with different interpretations and which Beijing says any new leader of Taiwan must recognize — Tsai stressed that the so-called consensus “is an option, but not the only one.”

Upholding the “1992” consensus during the debate, Chu affirmed that forging ties with China was a matter of economic reality and implied that the DPP “opposed everything China-related” while labeling Tsai as a “destabilizing force” whose election would undercut Taiwan’s economy. In response, Tsai said that the KMT had given Taiwan only “one option” at a time when Taiwan needs to be comprehensively linked to the major global economies rather than solely bound to China. Tsai said she had never denied China’s role in Taiwan’s economy.

People First Party (PFP) candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) was for the most part ignored by his two opponents.

After the debate, Chu was accused of using the platform to launch full-blast attacks against Tsai. The second televised presidential debate will be held on Saturday (Jan. 2) afternoon.

The full video of the first debate is available here.

Several civic groups protested outside the venue while the three presidential candidates held their debate to highlight the contenders’ “failure to put forward concrete policies substantive policies to ensure labor rights” and to address the issue of “pro-China” school curriculum changes.

STANCE ON US PORK: Eric Chu and Tsai gave equivocal answers when presenting their stance on the import of U.S. pork containing the growth hormone ractopamine during the debate. Such support is regarded as a factor to win Washington’s backing for Taiwan’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Chu reiterated his determination to push for Taiwan’s joining the TPP entry, while saying that stricter food safety guidelines must be available the help the U.S. understand Taiwan’s rejection to ractopamine-laced U.S. pork. Tsai said she would prohibit the use of such drugs in domestically farmed pork to ensure competitiveness against foreign imports and would adhere to standards applied in South Korea and Japan. She denied her statement implied that her administration would allow the import of U.S. pork if she were elected.

Chu on Wednesday labelled Tsai as an advocate of U.S. pork imports despite public concerns over its health implications. Tsai countered that Chu was manipulating the issue to attack her.

CHU PROPOSES ADDITIONAL DEBATE: During a televised presentation of the three presidential candidates’ political platforms on Wednesday, Eric Chu proposed that the format of the next platform presentation, scheduled for Jan. 8, be changed to a presidential debate. Despite Soong’s support for such a change, both the Central Election Commission and Tsai said Chu’s proposal deviated from the provision of law governing presidential elections.

SCAREMONGERING CAMPAIGN: The KMT stepped up its attacks against Tsai during the last two weeks of the presidential campaign, with legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) alleging on Tuesday that as many as 18 of Taiwan’s 22 diplomatic allies could switch diplomatic recognition to China once Tsai is elected due to doubts about her ability to stabilize cross-strait ties. Later the same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly denied that such a thing would happen.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office on Monday accused Tsai of attempting to reinstate former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁)’s “scorched-earth diplomacy.” It based its claims on Tsai’s “rejection” of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “viable diplomacy” during Sunday’s presidential debate. Tsai’s approach would pose “an enormous risk to the ties across the Taiwan Strait and to our international relations, and seriously undermine the peace and prosperity that has developed in the Taiwan Strait over the past seven-and-a-half years,” Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) warned.

Responding to Tsai’s criticism that his “diplomatic truce” had led to Taiwan’s diplomats “not knowing what they’re fighting for” and “making Taiwan’s diplomatic affairs subject to China,” Ma on Tuesday said that whoever opposed his “diplomatic truce” policy had clearly forgotten the lessons of history. Tsai later described Ma’s allegations as malicious “labeling,” stressing that the DPP aspires to engaging both official and non-official allies to pursue mutual benefits with its promotion of a proactive diplomacy.

DPP FILES POLICE REPORT AGAINST SMEAR: The DPP filed a report with the police on Tuesday over the latest online rumor targeting its presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen alleging that she holds British citizenship and owns a luxury property in the heart of London. The party described the allegation as “grossly fabrication” with an attempt to influence the presidential race.

VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: The three vice presidential candidates took part in their one and only TV debate on Saturday, where they presented their policies and perspectives. The strong focus on education and low wages was regarded as an attempt to engage young people.

PFP presidential candidate James Soong’s running mate, Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), said she and Soong would seek to reinvigorate the economy as a means to address stagnant salaries and high housing costs. DPP vice presidential candidate Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) vowed to tackle various challenges facing young people, adding that he would also seek ways to mitigate the housing problem and provide long-term care for elderly people.

KMT vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang (王如玄) apologized for a controversy over real estate transactions involving military housing units, while stressing her achievements as a lawyer in safeguarding the rights of women and people who have been abused. Wang’s commitment to raising the minimum wage, however, was quickly questioned as there was a discrepancy between her proposed salary rate and that promised by KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu.

TSAI MAINTAINS SOLID LEAD: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen maintained a solid lead following Sunday’s presidential debate, with Eric Chu remaining in second place and Soong still at bottom despite a slight increase in his support.

Recent poll results:

Polling organization

Date(s) conducted

Tsai Ing-wen


Eric Chu


James Soong


Next TV

(Published Dec. 31)

42.9% 17.7% 9.4%
Taiwan Indicators Survey Research

Dec. 27-29

40.1% 17.5% 16.8%
Cross-Strait Policy Association

Dec. 27-28

45.1% 22.1% 13.6%

Dec. 27

40% 24% 14%
United Daily News

Dec. 27

39% 19% 12%
Taiwan Brain Trust

Dec. 24-26

51.1% 17.1% 12.9%



JUSTICE FOR WARTIME SEX SLAVES: President Ma on Tuesday demanded that the Japanese government apologize and provide compensation to Taiwanese women who were exploited as wartime sex slaves during World War II. Ma’s request occurred one day after Tokyo and Seoul announced their deal on the long-standing issue, under which Japan agreed to apologize and give about ¥1 billion (US$8.3 million) to a foundation set up by the South Korean government for the victims.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was heavily criticized for failing to ensure that Taiwan be included in the negotiations. The “lethargic response” was attributed to the fact that its representative to Japan, Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳), was on leave in Taiwan when Japan’s landmark agreement with South Korea was struck. Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said on Wednesday that Japan was willing to start the negotiations with Taiwan on the issue in early January.

CROSS-STRAIT HOTLINE LAUNCHED: The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) launched a hotline on Wednesday, an initiative advocated by President Ma during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in November for high-level dialogue between Taipei and Beijing.

While announcing the launch of the hotline at a routine briefing, TAO spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) warned of a possible “collapse” in cross-strait relations if Taiwan failed to continue to recognize the “1992 consensus” as the cornerstone for both sides. The comments were apparently in response to DPP presidential candidate Tsai’s remarks during Sunday’s debate, when she said that the “1992 consensus” was “not the only option.”

ALLEGED KMT VOTE-BUYING: Prosecutors questioned several members of the KMT Hsinchu City chapter on Wednesday as part of an investigation into allegations of vote buying and other prohibited campaign activities during a year-end “thanksgiving” party hosted by the chapter on Saturday.

NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM OPENING POLITICIZED: Lawmakers and academics accused the Ma administration of manipulating the opening the National Palace Museum’s southern branch as an election ploy to boost the ruling party’s achievements. Critics said the inauguration had been arranged “hastily” and while construction continues at the site. Its exhibition of artwork replicas donated by Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan (成龍), a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference who previously mocked Taiwanese democracy as “the biggest joke in the world,” was also regarded as an insult to public taste and an example of China’s “united front” strategy.

MA SLAMMED FOR CRIMINALS’ ESCAPE: President Ma has failed to honor his commitment to judicial reform as the number of high-profile financial fugitives has increased in the past four years, the Chinese-language Next Magazine said on Wednesday. More than a hundred criminals have fled overseas during Ma’s two presidential terms, with China the most favored destination, the report said.



CHINESE OFFER TO SPIL PUT ON HOLD: The board of Siliconware Precision Industries Co (SPIL, 矽品精密) has agreed to initiate a preliminary evaluation of Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc’s (ASE, 日月光半導體) proposed 100 percent acquisition and suspended its Jan. 28 shareholder meeting to vote on the share acquisition proposal by China’s Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd’s (清華紫光). The latter proposal has prompted concerns over increasing Chinese influence that could result in a hollowing out the IC industry. ASE has refused to accept the imposition of any conditions and maintains that all its terms remain unchanged.



NUCLEAR REACTOR FIZZLES OUT: One of the two reactors at the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City unexpectedly shut down on Saturday, leaving the nation with only two of its six reactors working. Taiwan Power Co. said the incident posed no dangers of radiation leak.

CLEAN AIR RALLY: Hundreds of activists, academics and clean air advocates took to the streets on Saturday, urging the government to step up its anti-air pollution efforts and raise awareness about the threat of global warming. Closing coal-fired power plants and reducing energy use were some of the key demands.


The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang, Serena Chuang 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.


Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:

“Why Some Young Taiwanese Might Not Be Able to Vote,” by J. Michael Cole
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