Written by Solidarity.tw.

I recently visited the campaign office of People First Party (PFP) chairman and presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) and asked for materials about his policies. The pamphlets I received showed that Soong, whose consciously centrist campaign has drawn roughly 17% support consisting of blue, neutral, and green voters alike, has determined voters are most concerned about their quality of life.

Soong implemented ideological Sinification as a government minister under Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), is a supporter of eventual political unification of Taiwan and China (as he told Apple Daily in 2011), and in the 2012 campaign he strongly supported the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), but he appears to have decided advertising his pan-blue sympathies and history won’t win him any votes this time.

Soong’s main pamphlet has two sides, one advertising his achievements as governor of Taiwan Province from 1993-1998 to prove he’s the one who can get stuff done, the other showing his future vision.h_YLgem25YwZJiAhBH5r2oOrFmU40JBBGeVrvPWARVE

This is the beginning of side 1, and you can see him rolling up his sleeves to get to work. The provincial governorship is the last government position he had and the one he constantly harkens back to on the campaign trail. You can also see his campaign logo of a circle and square, which he explained in the debates signifies his inclusiveness. What makes the symbols meaningful is that in traditional Chinese culture the square signifies earth, the circle heaven, so this conjunction indeed symbolizes unity. Usually you see a square overlaying a circle or vice versa so this is a new twist.

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Provincial governor was the last and most important government position Soong held, and it’s the one he constantly harkens back to on the campaign trail. It includes all the territory the ROC presently governs except Kinmen and Lienchiang counties, so it was basically a national office, and Soong won the only province-wide election for the post in 1994. He often boasts of his unique achievement of visiting all of the province’s 309 townships during his governorship. He is also well-known for spending a great deal of money (too much in his detractors’ view) on infrastructure projects during that time (to build his political base in his detractors’ view).

On the left side of this picture he uses an attractive visual design to show you all the provinces where he got bridges, dikes, and so forth built. On the right side he tells you how many docks and roads he had built or refurbished. At the bottom he lists the specific projects so you can look for one you know of.

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These two sections detail his school and indigenous community construction projects as governor, respectively.

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These pages count the waterworks and basic (road, bridge, tunnel, and landfill) projects he had done.

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Side 2 shows you how Soong plans to take care of people in every stage of life when he becomes president, in a continuous line.

He starts out noting Taiwan’s demographics are increasingly unbalanced because the birthrate has fallen. To encourage people to have more children, he will offer a NT$30,000 subsidy for every birth, a NT$20,000 monthly subsidy for working mothers, public pre-K education for children ages 3-5, subsidies to make both academic and vocational secondary education free, and a unified school safety network.

This already sounds like a lot of money. Taiwan has a legal debt limit the Ma administration has already approached, and Taiwanese dislike high debts. Which taxes will Soong raise or create to pay for his generous plans? He doesn’t explain. And we’re just getting started.

Next Soong notes the problem that housing prices relative to income have risen greatly, and exponentially in the Taipei metro area. He proposes research and education in Southeast Asian languages (which would facilitate trade with these countries), student loan relief, hiring people to teach Chinese abroad, creating an academia-industry cooperation platform, and promoting the internationalization of technical jobs.

Soong also presents a plan for all-encompassing social housing for youths, which would include entrepreneurship, employment, entertainment, and social areas as well as residences. He proposes 5-year rental periods with 25% discounts and 20% of the rent paid put into a fund for youths to buy their first homes and 10 years of labor insurance premiums converted into another fund for people to buy their first homes.

Next Soong laments the stagnation of Taiwan’s GDP growth compared to fellow Asian tigers Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea. He promises to get Taiwan’s economy to surpass South Korea’s by 2030 by helping expand Taiwanese businesses’ overseas markets, adjusting the tax base, easing financial regulations, strengthening investment, expanding broadband, and helping small and medium-sized enterprises upgrade.

He proposes making Taiwan the center for innovation and R&D, linking its supply chain with other Asian nations’ (not just China’s), and selling products worldwide, with Taiwan’s foreign office representatives facilitating trade (which they already do).

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Soong promises low-carbon, green-energy communities, as pictured. And he wants to use rezoning and urban renewal to mitigate disaster risks. He also proposes agricultural modernization making the nation’s farms more ecologically friendly, better food safety, smart tourism, and harmonization of infrastructure and the environment, among other things.

Finally, Soong notes Taiwan’s senior citizens have lower labor participation than other Asian countries’. He proposes a system for the elderly to fund startups, including those by youths, and receive training to rejoin the workforce. He also promises pension reform to ensure everyone is taken care of until the end of their lives.

Soong also promises elderly-friendly communities where senior citizens can live with their families, receive the care they need, and participate in volunteerism and other activities.

Note the continuity between the list of Soong-built things listed on side 1 and the many things he promises to build in side 2.

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The outer pages of Soong’s second pamphlet tell you how to donate to or contact his campaign and also inform you where the PFP’s district legislative candidates are running.

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The inner pages offer a short manifesto that Taiwan needs to find a new way that is beyond blue and green, and Soong and the PFP are the people to do it. Their six promises are:

  1. Honesty, unselfishness, and ending antagonism
  2. Creating consensus and balancing rights and responsibilities (namely those of the ROC president)
  3. Democratic balance and responsible governance
  4. United (officials of all colors) and pragmatic government
  5. Closeness to the public and concern for public welfare
  6. Establishing a framework for sustainable cross-strait relations and peaceful development. The eventual future of the country is not mentioned, nor is the much-ballyhooed 1992 Consensus; instead a recognition of Taiwan’s “as close as family” relationship with China (兩岸一家親) and promise to preserve the ROC’s status quo are given.

So now you know where James Soong and the PFP stand: in Taiwanese citizens’ happy place. Soong’s vision is quite appealing. It just seems to me that it would take 20 years and a much higher government budget to realize.

Solidarity.tw is an indispensable blog on Taiwanese politics.