Politically expedient or heartfelt, James Soong’s transformation is a reflection of a consolidating identity in Taiwan. And that’s bad news for Beijing
What a difference a decade can make! On the night of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Lien Chan’s (連戰) defeat to incumbent president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan’s 2004 presidential election, Lien’s discombobulated running mate, James Soong (宋楚瑜), was caught on video vowing to an angry crowd that he would “head to the Presidential Office and ‘kill’ president Chen,” who had just been re-elected by a razor-thin margin. A year later, Mr. Soong visited China to deliver a “secret message” to then-Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Occurring a little more than a month after Beijing had ratified the Anti-Secession Law, which contains language “authorizing” the use of force against Taiwan to prevent its formal independence, the visit did little to dispel Mr. Soong’s image as a politician who would not hesitate to “sell” Taiwan out to China.
Fast-forward 11 years and 2016 presidential candidate Soong, a savvy politician who played an instrumental role in the oppression of Taiwanese during the nation’s dark past, has adopted a completely different political persona: He is now ostensibly pro Taiwan, speaks the language that the agency he headed under Martial Law, the now-defunct Government Information Office, had systematically repressed, waxes eloquent about transitional justice, and sounds very much like Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the current presidential candidate for the DPP who is well ahead in the polls.
My article, published today on Thinking Taiwan, continues here.