Su Tseng-chang Takes Office as New Premier
Following Premier Lai Ching-te’s resignation due to the poor showing of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the November 2018 municipal elections, President Tsai tapped a senior DPP leader, Su Tseng-chang, to succeed him. The President told the media that she selected Su because he possesses three characteristics needed by the nation at this time: experience, boldness, and the ability to get things done.
It is the second time the 71-year-old Su has held the position. He was the premier in 2006-2007 during the Chen Shui-bian administration, at which time Tsai was his deputy premier.
Su first came to national attention in 1980 as part of the legal defense team for the opposition leaders arrested on sedition charges after the Kaohsiung Incident. He was later elected as the head of two county governments – Pingtung (1989-1993) and Taipei (1997-2004) – and has also served as a DPP party chairman (2012-2014).
The deputy premier under Su will be Chen Chi-mai, 54, a physician by training who has previously served in government as a legislator, acting mayor of Kaohsiung, and deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office. Most cabinet ministers in the Lai administration continued in their posts, but Lin Chia-lung, the former mayor of Taichung, was appointed Minister of Transportation and Communications.
The opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) lost no time in dubbing the new team a “cabinet of losers.” In the recent elections, Su was defeated in the mayoral contest in New Taipei City, Chen in Kaohsiung, and Lin in Taichung.
Two Opinions Over “1 Country, 2 Systems”
In a speech in early January, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated that Taiwan “must and will be” reunited with China. “We are willing to create a vast space for peaceful unification, but we will never leave any room for any sort of Taiwan independence separatist activities,” he said, retaining the option of use of military force. President Tsai Ing-wen responded by saying that opposition to China’s proposed “one country, two systems” framework is “the most important Taiwan consensus.”
A poll conducted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association showed that 80.9% of respondents rejected the “one country, two systems” formula. Other polling showed a sharp rise in Tsai’s approval ratings, as many Taiwanese appeared satisfied with her forceful rebuttal to Xi’s hardline stance regarding unification.
Cho Jung-tai Elected as DPP Party Chairman
Members of the ruling DPP chose moderate Cho Jung-tai, a former Cabinet Secretary-General and onetime legislator, as the next party chairman. He succeeds President Tsai, who stepped down from the post after the party’s setbacks in the November 2018 local elections.
Cho’s election was seen as strengthening Tsai’s position as a potential candidate for a second term when the next presidential election is held in January 2020. He roundly defeated You Ying-lung, who had expressed sympathy with a recent call by four senior party members for Tsai to refrain from running again.
Foxconn Backpedals On Wisconsin Plans
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (better known internationally as Foxconn) appears to be downsizing its plans for investment in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Originally the company pledged to invest US$10 billion to build a plant that would employ 13,000 workers to build LCD screens for TV sets. The project was hailed by President Trump as a sign of resurgance in the U.S. manufacturing sector, but was highly controversial because of the huge tax breaks the state government promised.
Now Reuters is quoting a senior Hon Hai executive as saying that due to high production costs, the project will be converted into an R&D center that will mainly employ engineers and researchers rather than blue-collar workers.
Congress Backs Taiwan Participation in WHA
The U.S. House of Representatives on January 22 passed a resolution supporting Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization. The resolution, which passed unanimously in a voice vote, directs the Secretary of State to “develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan” in the WHO and other international forums. The motion, sponsored by Rep. Ted Yoho, the ranking Republican on the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House committee on Foreign Affairs, had bipartisan co-sponsorship.
A similar resolution was passed last year but was not taken up by the Senate before the end of the Congressional session. Taiwan attended the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer from 2009 to 2016, but was not invited for the past two years due to the chilly cross-Strait relationship.