Is Frank Hsieh trying to be the odd man out again?

The China Post news staff

Frank Hsieh, the Democratic Progressive Party candidate for president, seems to be trying to be an odd man out again. He first distanced himself from President Chen Shui-bian, who now doubles as DPP chairman, by declaring he is considering favorably Beijing’s new offer to sign a peace agreement between China and Taiwan. Chen rejected the offer outright, of course. He even told the Washington Post his party’s standard bearer wouldn’t sign such a pact.

Hsieh then followed it up with a reiteration of his “symbiosis” theory. He floated the trial balloon for his form of “peaceful co-existence” with China, while he took time out last year to attend a Harvard crash course in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He told Taiwan University EMBA students last week he welcomes investment and immigration of investors from China. EMBA stands for Executive Master of Business Administration. Most of the students are business executives who need a new feather in their cap. Hsieh said he wants to open Taiwan to China.

That’s anathema to President Chen and the ruling party that now rallies solidly behind him on the rectification of names. They want Taiwan to accede to the United Nations as Taiwan. They don’t want the Republic of China as the name of the country. To be more exact, they don’t want to have anything to do with China. Among the DPP pack, Hsieh certainly appears like a lone wolf. Does he appear to be? Yes. Is he? No.

He is, if anything, a great political survivalist. Like Chen Shui-bian, Hsieh will change his political stance faster than a quick-change artist doffs and dons his clothes as the occasion demands. He insisted on a symbiosis between Taiwan and China, as long as he is met with no opposition from the DPP leaders. He stopped talking about co-existence across the Taiwan Strait in order to win the party primaries. He went along with President Chen, because he needs the latter’s support to win the nation’s highest office next year. He thus readily joined the president in shouting the “UN for Taiwan” slogan. He even dared his Kuomintang rival Ma Ying-jeou to a debate over Taiwan’s admission to the United States, which is a stupid non-issue. Shrewd politician that he is, Hsieh knows he is likely to lose the presidential race if Chen and Co. continue to push the envelope. So the DPP standard bearer changed tunes, trumpeting again his symbiosis with China, which, in all fairness, is a sensible and workable China policy.

Hsieh is now watching whether the coast is clear. He will go on touting his peaceful co-existence as long as there is no united opposition from among rank-and-file DPP. However, once opposition mounts, he will go right back to President Chen’s fold, rejoining in the party-wide chanting of the anti-Chinese mantra. His credibility suffers in the process.