Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will seek re-election in 2020. Photo: Handout

There are just three simple yes-or-no questions the people of Taiwan should ask President Tsai Ing-wen.

First, do you​ ​understand the new vox populi?

Second, did you ascertain the state of Taiwan’s relations with the world?

Third, will you​ ​continue exploiting the unrest in Hong Kong for your own political benefit?

That’s it. That’s the ballgame. It makes no difference if there are 300 questions or three when Tsai’s first term is a failure; now that she is seeking re-election, she must review with humility the inadequacies in the governance of her term. To rule a nation, she must face squarely the many constant as well as variable factors confronted by Taiwan and introduce corresponding countermeasures.

First, Tsai must understand the new vox populi. In several public statements, she admitted defeat in last year’s local elections, but the reasons given were “the public in society had not kept up” and “the effect of communication had not kept up,” which she expressed in her “professional lingo.” Tsai still believes that she is where the truth lies. In the last local elections-cum-plebiscite elections, the voters clearly demonstrated the mainstream values of Taiwan; that is, a little less ideology, a little more pragmatic development, rejecting fierce political fighting, and expecting that a president for all the people will return to rational mainstream values.

Second, Tsai must understand ​that Taiwan’s destiny cannot avoid being affected by China. She must determine whether China will abandon the “one country, two systems” principle. Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed “a Taiwan program for one country, two systems,” which means that, outside the Hong Kong model, he proposed exploring a new model for Taiwan; the emphasis is to give Taiwan a modus vivendi for returning to the mainland sphere.

Taiwan should stop exploiting the Hong Kong​ unrest before there is a further decline in cross-Strait relations

Tsai’s cross-Strait policy must not be based on her own subjective expectations, as her anti-China policy is a dead-end alley. Now that she has won the Democratic Progressive Party primary, she should improve her stature in her electoral campaign, and ponder how to regain the goodwill of the past, in order to find an outlet for Taiwan, and in a way, respond to Xi’s Taiwan program for one country, two systems. This is not only an electoral battle but a page of history.

Third, the protest movement in Hong Kong was sparked by widespread opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland, but has since morphed into a broader call for democratic rights. At the crucial moment when Hong Kong faces a choice of which way to go, Tsai’s administration should exercise maximum restraint, not attempt to derive any benefits from possible tragedies in Hong Kong.

The violence in Hong Kong’s has snowballed; China slammed Taiwan for offering asylum to Hong Kong people facing prosecution for involvement in anti-government protests, telling the island’s leaders to “stop meddling” in the territory’s affairs. On the face of it, her government has gone too far in its support of the people of Hong Kong’s activities. Taiwan should stop exploiting the Hong Kong​ unrest before there is a further decline in cross-Strait relations.

The stunning defeat in the 9-in-1 local elections ​speaks for itself. The tsunami of vox populi that Tsai’s administration encountered last November means she was effectively defeated by her own arrogance and prejudice. That compels people to ask Tsai a final question: “If you indeed had accomplished a lot in the three years of your government, how come the DPP had to swallow the bitter fruit of  humiliating defeat in last year’s elections?”

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: ”If the powers-that-be do not allow the people to lead peaceful lives, blocking the people’s means of livelihood, when the people no longer fear the threats and oppression of the powers-that-be, then the powers-that-be would be devoured by the great authority of vox populi.”

Tsai should ponder again and again Lao Tzu’s words.

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Kent Wang

Kent Wang is a research fellow at the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies (ITAS), a conservative Washington-based think-tank focusing on aspects of US-Taiwan relations, and is broadly interested in the United States-Taiwan-China trilateral equation, as well as in East Asian security architecture.

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