Tsai Ing-wen Must Master the Politics of Pork in the Year of the Pig

Tsai Ing-wen faces opposition from the farming lobby in her bid to reduce economic dependency on China.

The News Lens
Date: 2019/02/06
By: The Interpreter

Credit: Taiwan Presidential Office

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) faces a re-election battle in 2020 and needs a big economic win to bolster her chances. A bilateral investment treaty with the U.S. would help, and joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPATPP) being promoted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be ideal.

She is running uphill. Tsai faces a resurgent opposition Kuomintang (KMT), energized by its decisive victories in the November 24 nine-in-one (local) elections. Moreover, Tsai’s popular support polling numbers are low ranging between 19 percent and 31 percent (although Taiwan polling data is often looked upon with skepticism). While she seems to have secured factional backing within her own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to support her re-election effort, such support is not absolute. Tsai needs a concrete economic accomplishment to further consolidate her DPP support and sell to allTaiwanese voters.

Pursuing cooperative trade relations will also reduce Taiwan’s export dependence on China. Tsai is already attempting to cut this dependence via her “Go South Policy” and what is known as the 5+2 Industrial Innovation Program. But these are longer-term propositions that will not bear immediate results on reducing this dependence. To help her re-election and simultaneously reduce the 40 percent of exports currently going to China, Tsai needs more cooperative trade relations with the U.S. and Japan.

The trouble is, Taiwan domestic politics hinder the prospects, as do the politics of the U.S. and Japan.    [FULL  STORY]

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