Speculation following the resignation of the Taiwan ‘government’ and the effect on the DPP

Taiwan’s Chief Executive Su Tseng-chang announced on Thursday, January 19 that he and his team will withdraw en masse.

Su Tseng-chang Original: 中華民統府/
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This was to be expected after a recent election defeat. The main question is what the effect will be on the politics of Taiwan and on the relationship between that island and the rest of China.

The dismissal is coming

Su Tseng-chang’s resignation is subject to the approval of Tsai Ing-wen, the head of China’s Taiwan province, which operates independently thanks to the United States. It likely won’t be a problem if Su steps aside after the Chinese New Year: Tsai has already thanked him “for his policies over the past four years, especially during the Covid period.”

Su had previously offered his resignation following the defeat of his and Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the local elections. However, he had been asked to stay for a while to help with the approval of the government’s general budget. The latter has now happened.

Who is the main culprit?

Tsai Ing-wen herself had resigned as chairman of the DPP and will not lead the campaign for the island’s next general election. There is a clear connection between the party’s poor results in the local elections and the resignation of both Taiwanese politicians.

It is less clear, however, which of the two bears the heaviest responsibility for that defeat. Earlier it was said that Tsai herself had wanted to overemphasize the militarization of Taiwan during the campaign as a defense against the so-called threat from the mainland.

Su’s politics

However, observers point out that it is the now resigned Su Tseng-chang who is the most ardent militarist and separatist. Su has reportedly failed to adequately address the island’s economic problems during his tenure. Of course, one has everything to do with the other. A policy of peaceful rapprochement and cooperation has always proved to be most beneficial to the majority of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Su was the man who secured the extension of military service to one year. Su’s administration is said to have led to great discontent among the Taiwanese. For example, it was Su who, after US President Trump, wanted to lay the blame for COVID-19 on his Chinese compatriots, which he hinted at by talking about ‘Wuhan pneumonia’ (contrary to the World Health Organization’s directive that forbids naming the compound an epidemic or pandemic with a geographic name because this is stigmatizing). It was also Taiwan’s head of government who banned the export of masks from the island of Taiwan to mainland China.

In addition, he had decreed that mainland students could not return to school in Taiwan, and mainlanders could not be reunited with relatives in Taiwan. Worsening relations between the mainland and the de facto self-governing territory of Taiwan means unemployment for many Taiwanese. All this seems to be the main explanation for the DPP’s poor result in the local elections.

Two factions?

Some experts on Taiwan’s political culture say there are some divisions within the Democratic Progressive Party. Tsai Ing-wen wants to push forward Chen Chien-jen, an ally of hers who seems to favor a more realistic and conciliatory stance towards Beijing.

Chen, a former ‘vice president’ would be offered to succeed Su. Local news media speculated that Tsai would choose Chen as the new “prime minister”, but Chen has told reporters that he has not yet been asked by her. Be that as it may, Tsai and Chen will face the most likely candidate for the DPP in the campaign for the next so-called presidential election. It is Lai Ching-te, who has been the two men in the hierarchy of the Taiwan region since 2022 and Tsai’s temporary replacement at the head of the DPP. This Lai would be an even more fanatical separatist than the retired Su.

Sources: Global Times, South China Morning Post

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