Summary: Wang Hao-yu gets recalled. Enoch Wu to glide to DPP Taipei head, and plans another legislative run. Pompeo lifts guidelines on official contacts with Taiwan, and most analysts get it totally wrong. US declassifies a Framework that includes defending Taiwan.
First successful “revenge” recall
Taoyuan residents on Saturday voted to recall DPP Taoyuan City Councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇).
He is the first councilor in a special municipality ever to be recalled.
He was crushed, the final results of the recall in the Taoyuan City district of Zhongli showed 84,582 votes (92.23 percent) in favor of the recall and 7,128 (7.7 percent) against, with a 28 percent turnout.
To succeed, the recall needed at a 25 percent turnout and a little over 80,000 votes–both of which they achieved, though not by huge margins.
The number of people who turned out in support was quite low.
This is also the first of the “revenge” recalls launched by supporters of recalled Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu.
Three councillors were targeted, all of them well known for the dislike of Han.
One, the attempted recall of DPP Kaohsiung City Councillor Chen Chih-chung–the son of former president Chen Shui-bian–failed to get enough signatures to qualify.
Another, the recall of independent Kaohsiung City Councillor Huang Jie did get enough signatures, and her recall vote is coming up in February.
Commenting on Wang’s loss, Huang said she trusted the people of her Fengshan District would support her.
Hopefully she’ll get more support than Wang.
Wang was originally of the Green Party but recently switched to the DPP.
He had made enemies of the Han fans through his frequent attacks on Han online, though he also attacked the Taiwan People’s Party and New Power Party–so he had a lot of enemies.
There is now an effort to launch another recall against Taiwan Statebuilding Party legislator Chen Po-wei, also known as 3Q.
Taipei City Councillor, KMT school head and potential mayoral candidate Lo Chih-chiang called it a “bye-bye 3Q” campaign.
The bar to win a recall is very low, requiring only 25 percent of voters to approve and a majority vote.
Considering that it is exceedingly rare that losing candidates get less than 25 percent, the main challenge is mobilizing to get the signatures to qualify, and to get their partisan voters out to the polls.
This opens the way for the system to be used for purely partisan reasons, or for revenge as in this case.
Raising the bar, perhaps to 35 percent, would make it more likely that a successful recall was due to genuine complaints.
Rising star Enoch Wu’s path forward
Enoch Wu (吳怡農) faces no opposition in his bid to head the DPP Taipei chapter after a former Taipei city councilor dropped out of the race.
Voting by eligible party members on Jan. 31 is still required, but the registration date has passed.
Wu has also announced he plans another run for legislator in 2024.
The frontrunner on the KMT side to run for mayor of Taipei is Wayne Chiang, the great-grandson of the dictator Chiang Kai-shek and grandson of Chiang Ching-kuo.
Wu and Chiang faced off against each other in a legislative race in the 2020 election that was widely followed, and widely commented on as the race as the “battle of the hunks”.
Chiang won, but Wu did respectably well considering Chiang was the incumbent in a traditionally KMT dominated district.
If Chiang does become mayor, Wu may have a better chance to win, though much will depend on who the KMT runs.
Another potential problem is that Wu, according to the expert on the subject Nathan Batto writing at Frozen Garlic, is that he’s not a very good campaigner.
Wu is an interesting character.
He’s American-born and educated, but also has some well-known relatives in Taiwan.
He worked for, if I recall correctly, Goldman Sachs.
At age 33 he moved to Taiwan and renounced his US citizenship, and then did his military service.
He’s currently deputy chief executive of DPP think tank the New Frontier Foundation, and has widely advocated for military reform.
Pompeo lifts restrictions on official contact
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the 9th announced the US was lifting all guidelines on official contacts with Taiwanese officials.
The guidelines, which ranged from who could meet with Taiwanese officials, to where they could meet, how they could refer to Taiwan and even what they could wear.
These guidelines were purely self-imposed by the State Department, there was nothing in any US agreements with Beijing that required them.
Over recent years, the guidelines had been relaxed, but it’s a good thing they are finally gone.
This may open the possibility of Taiwan re-occupying their historic Twin Oaks residence in Washington DC, and to fly the flag.
The State Department stated they had been studying this move for some time, and unrelated to the fact that there was only 11 days left until a new president takes office.
I don’t know if that is the case, but the timing could have been better–if they had done it earlier it would have become commonplace and standardized.
Still, there are advantages to the timing, but almost all analysts got it totally wrong–with the exception of Jenny Lynn Cody at her blog Lao Ren Cha, who nailed it and I recommend you read her analysis, which is linked to on Report.tw.
Almost everyone assumed it was intended to, as various outlets called it, “box in”, “booby trap”, “landmine”, “sabotage” and so forth the incoming Biden administration.
It did no such thing, precisely the opposite.
First, it is in line with the Taiwan Assurance Act, which called for it.
The Act passed Congress with strong, bipartisan support.
Second, this allows the incoming Biden administration to avoid taking blame for this by Beijing–they’ll blame Trump for this.
Third, this is not at all in contradiction of the US “One China Policy” or the Taiwan Relations Act.
Far from being a trap, Biden’s administration can make good on the Taiwan Assurance Act essentially scot-free.
It is possible, in a fit of partisan pique against the outgoing administration and/or to appease China, the Biden administration could undo this–though that wouldn’t accomplish anything useful and provoke the ire of Congress, including on their side of the aisle.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said We urge the US to fulfill the series of promises it has made, and immediately stop any words and acts of enhancing its relations and military connections with the island of Taiwan.
“We advise Pompeo and the like to stop manipulating Taiwan-related issues and stop taking the opposite and wrong path, otherwise they will be severely punished by history.”
It is interesting to note that in comments coming out of the PRC there is little to no mention of the incoming Biden administration, but plenty of vitriol directed at Pompeo.
Note the wording, “severely punished by history”.
In other words, they expect the incoming Biden administration to continue with this.
Declassified framework talks of defence of Taiwan
That’s not the only huge news coming out of the outgoing administration.
The government declassified their internal United States Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific Region.
In it, it outlines how the Trump administration intended to essentially counter China, alongside allies–including Taiwan.
The strategy commits to “devise and implement a defense strategy capable of, but not limited to: (1) denying China sustained air and sea dominance inside the ‘first island chain’ in a conflict; (2) defending the first island chain nations, including Taiwan; and (3) dominating all domains outside the first island chain”.
It also said that the US should “Enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms.”
Let me read part two again: “defending the first island chain nations, including Taiwan.”
While “defending” could be interpreted as meaning various things, it is highly suggestive that the US means in a military sense.
It’s interesting that the current administration declassified the Framework.
Clearly they are hoping it will help influence the decision-making of the incoming administration.
While the incoming Biden administration could well scrap this framework, it is worth noting they’ve been using similar–though not identical–”Indo-Pacific” language.
The Biden administration has also picked Kurt Campbell as a newly created Indo-Pacific coordinator, which many have dubbed “Asia Czar”.
This pick has been widely praised by pro-Taiwan commentators and “people in the know” as he has clearly stated that the old China appeasement policies haven’t worked, and he’s very knowledgeable and interested in Taiwan.
Image courtesy of Mike Pompeo’s Twitter