At 7:30 p.m. on February 16, the 116th “Cross-Strait Talk” (General 192th), hosted by China Cross-Strait Academy (Hong Kong) and Xiamen Qidataixiang Entrepreneurship Service Co., Ltd., was successfully held at the Tencent Conference with the theme of “Will Lai Ching-te be the new leader of the DPP?! ”.
In 2022, the Democratic Progressive Party was trounced in Taiwan’s Nine in One elections. Tsai Ing-wen resigned as party leader and Lai Ching-te, the deputy leader of Taiwan, took over. From the arrangement of the new Taiwan administration team and various senior members, it can be seen that Tsai Ing-wen still has a stranglehold on Lai in the 2023 election year. Therefore, can Lai really lead the DPP out of its failure of Nine in One election in the upcoming presidential and delegate Two in One election in January 2024, while at the same time free from Tsai Ing-wen? Lai calls himself a “pragmatic Taiwan independence worker”, what tensions will arise if he runs for the leader of Taiwan on behalf of the DPP? Along with the situation in the Taiwan Strait under the dispute between China and the United States, the political situation in Taiwan will be very volatile in 2023. Lai Ching-te’s words and deeds and political means have affected the whole Taiwan. But most importantly will Lai be the new leader of the DPP in post-Tsai era?
In this “Cross-Strait Talk”, China Cross-Strait Academy (Hong Kong) specially invited Zhang Yaping, former deputy secretary general of the KMT and Ph.D of Sun Yat-sen University,You Ji-bin, the deputy spokesman of the New Party, Ji Jie, director of the New Party’s Public Opinion Center and master of the National Taiwan University’s Institute of Politics and Seo Sang-hyun, Kaohsiung City Council candidate in 2022, to discuss the topic of “Will Lai Ching-te be the new leader of the DPP?!”. The discussion would focus on Lai Ching-te’s character and deeds in politics, how the major factions of the DPP view the DPP led by Lai in 2023, as a “pragmatic Taiwan independence worker”, what impact will Lai Ching-te have on the situation across the Taiwan Straits if he stands for the DPP, whether Lai Ching-te can get rid of the restrictions of Tsai Ing-wen and become the new leader of the DPP etc. Luo Dingjun, Secretary General of China Cross-Strait Academy (Hong Kong), served as the host of the meeting.
Zhang Yaping argued that according to Lai Ching-te’s previous political performance, the biggest difference between Lai and Chen Shui-bian is that Chen is more outgoing while Lai is more introverted and good at using media relations to shape his personal image. In the 2020 legislative election in Taiwan, DPP won far more seats than what KMT did. If Lai Ching-te wants to run for the 2024 election, it is particularly important whether he can successfully gather the support of the DPP legislators.
You Ji-bin said that Lai Ching-te comes from ordinary Taiwanese family, and his background and management of his personal image are more likely to win the favor of ordinary Taiwanese people. In fact, Lai’s political personality and resilience are so strong that it can even be called arrogant. He once dared to confront Tsai Ing-wen in the face of insufficient political resources. But he also has a dual agenda on issues such as vote-buying.
Ji Jie said that looking at Lai Ching-te’s performance in previous major elections, his 2010 Tainan mayoral election was slightly better than Tsai’s in 2012. However, several county mayoral candidates in 2009 received less votes than Tsai’s 2012 local vote. In addition, Lai’s share of votes in Tainan mayoral election in 2014 was still higher than Tsai’s share in 2016. Compared with other counties and cities, Lai once again held the lead. Lai also has an advantage over the other DPP legislator candidates and Hsieh. It can be seen that the role of “pragmatic Taiwan independence worker” did not affect Lai’s performance in the local elections.
Seo Sang-hyun pointed out that the current DPP has lost the noble idea of governing Taiwan, and the spoils are clearly divided among factions within the party. No matter whether Lai Ching-te can become the new leader of the DPP, the greedy factions of the DPP will absolutely interfere with Lai Ching-te’s ruling foundation with the idea that for the sake of interests and dividing the spoils, former enemies can be forgotten. The party’s will takes precedence over public opinion and the interests of political factions outweigh those of the public. If things continue this way, it could spell disaster for the party and Taiwan.
In addition to the wonderful speeches delivered by the guests, the online audience also actively participated in the interactive questions on the topic. The audience asked questions about what are the similarities and differences between Lai Ching-te and Chen Shui-bian and whether the United States trusts Lai, whether Lai Ching-te’s high support in in the south of Taiwan can spread to central and northern Taiwan, whether Lai’s views are attractive in the north, Lai Ching-te is more likely to be paired with Siu Mi-kum or Chung Man-chan, the prediction about the by-election of the legislator in Nantou County etc. All the guests at the meeting answered these questions, and the discussion was heated, highlighting the great concern on this issue.
Zhang Yaping noted that Lai Ching-te had some similarities with Chen Shui-bian. Lai is also ruthless and decisive. Once he really gains power, he may make some breakthrough moves, which will have a great impact on Cross-Strait relations. Lai is familiar with Tainan personalities and how to manipulate the vote. But the Taiwanese vote is not clearly divided along North-South lines. And if Lai can get a high level of support in the south, he can win the rest of Taiwan as long as he maintains his base. You Ji-bin said Taiwan’s political structure was relatively stable and voters in central and southern Taiwan were inherently hostile to the Blue Camp, which had much to do with the KMT’s preference for the north over the south. So the Blue Camp had trouble gaining support in the South. Similarly, although Lai Ching-te’s popularity in the south is high, it will be difficult for the DPP to make inroads in the north. Ji Jie argued that according to the aggregate of recent polls, Lai Ching-te’s performance in the north central region is indeed worse than in the south, but his share of the vote in Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung can still get around 30%. By no means is it a complete collapse. In competition between Lai Ching-te and Eric Chu , Lai had far more support than Chu. That means Lai Ching-te’s northern vote will still have a good chance under his management. The Blue Camp cannot take this lightly. Seo Sang-hyun pointed out that even though Lai Ching-te had deep conflicts with Tsai Ing-wen and currently seems to be supervised by Tsai, he he just judges the situation and wait for the good opportunity by superficial obedience. With the belief of “holding the political position today, achieving the political goal of ‘Tainwan independence’ tomorrow”, Lai had been willing to serve as Tsai’s vice-president in the 2020 election. And now he is the DPP’s leader. As a resourceful politician, Lai Ching-te wants to break free from Tsai Ing-wen and win her over. Given the lame state of Tsai, Lai may well get his wish.
At the end of the meeting, Zhang Yaping believed that Lai Ching-te’s actions could not substantively solve his various problems. How to face the opportunities and challenges in the future will determine the course of his political future. You Ji-bin said that the “storm in a teapot” that has sparked heated debate within the Blue Camp is also the biggest problem to the Green Camp, and how the two parties deal with disputes and effectively integrate in the future will have a significant impact on the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. Seo Sang-hyun argued that if Lai is to become the new Democratic Progressive Party leader by satisfying all the factions and feed all their greedy desires, he will empty Taiwan and put Taiwan people to death. Ji Jie pointed out that political development is a mixed blessing. Lai Ching-te’s removal in 2018 allows him to avoid taking responsibility for the DPP’s crushing defeat in the 2022 local elections, giving him a chance to run in 2024. But it also needs to see what other variables lay ahead in his bid to become Taiwan’s leader.
Through a brief 2-hour online exchange, more than 150 people from both sides of the strait gathered to discuss the topic of “Will Lai Ching-te be the new leader of the DPP?!”, to promote cross-strait exchanges with practical actions, and make contributions to maintaining cross-strait peace and development.
As the cross-strait exchange activity synchronized with “Cross-Strait Talk” and “Smart Youth Integration in the Four Places”, the Cross-Strait Youth Perspective Forum, which is launched by China Cross-Strait Academy (Hong Kong), is mainly characterized by gathering authoritative scholars and media worker from Cross-Strait and four places. They will listen to the voice of the Strait, pay attention to the hot spots on both sides of Taiwan Strait, take a global vision, and make a new voice based on both sides of the strait and facing the world.