Han Kuo-yu strives to bring Taiwan out of DPP trap
Cheng Youping
Editor's note: Cheng Youping is a director of the Center for Political Economy at Taipei University. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
Han Kuo-yu, the popular mayor of Kaohsiung is not only the focus of a political and cultural phenomenon called "Han Wave" in Taiwan but also a potential Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate for Taiwan's upcoming 2020 general election.
Han is regarded as a pragmatic and honest politician who has demonstrated a strong determination to help his beloved Taiwan, Kaohsiung City in particular, break an ineffectual political order and economic recession under Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s Tsai Ing-wen administration.
In spite of DPP's long-term political advantage and vast electoral resources in southern Taiwan, Han won the mayoral election. Many would argue that his political charisma originates more from his straightforward "down-to-earth" style and candid political language. He has pointed out DPP's refusal to accept the "1992 Consensus" and its subsequent failure to maintain a harmonious cross-Strait relationship of peace and development.
Kuomintang Party Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu celebrates after winning local elections, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, November 24, 2018. /VCG Photo

Kuomintang Party Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu celebrates after winning local elections, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, November 24, 2018. /VCG Photo

In the 2018 municipal election, Han publicly stressed the vital importance of the "1992 Consensus" as the political foundation for the cross-Strait political trust, which serves as the basis for Taiwan and the Chinese mainland to maintain a win-win relationship. He also made it clear that peace talks with the Chinese mainland is inevitable. This made him stand out from other senior KMT heavyweights who have long hesitated to take up such a clear and unwavering position.
Several recent media polls in Taiwan have indicated that Han, who has been a mayor for less than four months, is scoring higher approval ratings for Taiwan's upcoming 2020 general election than other possible contenders, including incumbent leader Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP. However, Han remains vague on his final decision to enter the race. 
It is against this background that Han's academic trip to the U.S. looks particularly interesting for political commentators and his political rivals. 
The U.S. government and China watchers are no exception either. From Harvard to Stanford, American academics and think tanks are all very interested in getting to know this politician, including his views on the cross-Strait relationship and his attitude toward U.S.-Taiwan ties.
According to media reports, the theme of Han's speech at Harvard's closed-door seminar is "The Power of Down to Earth -They Talk the Talk, I Walk the Walk". In his prepared statement, Han wants to convey to the American audience that the power of "the Han Wave" is none other than the will of the people of Taiwan.
His observation is that people in Taiwan, Kaohsiung in particular, are fed up with DPP's corrupt governance and its polarized ideological manipulation.
Empty talks and fancy political slogans are no longer what the people want to hear. They'd rather support a leader and a ruling party willing to listen to their needs and get down to the basics -- the economic well-being of the people. 
 Taipei's landmark Taipei 101 tower seen through the fog. /VCG Photo 

 Taipei's landmark Taipei 101 tower seen through the fog. /VCG Photo 

According to media, Han will also touch on the significance of the "1992 Consensus" and "cross-Strait peaceful development," as well as his determination to fight for Kaohsiung City's economic development. In summary, he intends to let the outside world understand that the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan rejects DPP's "empty promises and fancy ideological talks" and that it is time for "an era of down-to-earth politics." 
The possibility of Han representing the KMT in the 2020 race is getting higher. Regardless of the end result, Mayor Han and the "Han Wave" would definitely be a decisive factor in the upcoming battle to challenge the Tsai Ing-wen administration. 
Tsai's recent public statements demonstrated her strong inclination and willingness to be "an American pawn in the Indo-Pacific game" to encircle the Chinese mainland. Despite her verbal promise not to provoke cross-Strait tensions, her hostile and sometimes hawkish political language and her administration's cultural/educational policy measures leaning toward the de-facto Taiwan independence have created deep mutual distrust across the Strait and inside the Taiwan island. The political stalemate has naturally brought along economic woes for Taiwan since 2016.   
In this political atmosphere, it is no wonder that voters in Taiwan have become increasingly impatient with Tsai (whose approval rating has consistently lagged behind major contenders for the 2020 electoral race), whereas Mayor Han Kuo-yu has earned a widespread popular mandate to bring Taiwan out of its current political and economic predicament under the DPP rule. Han's trip to the U.S. is only a small step in an uphill battle to unseat Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP. 
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