Tsai Says Social Movements Don't Run Countries, and She's Right

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Tsai Ing-wen, a favorite standard bearer of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2016, has rarely said things that are right. For once, however, she has. While some leaders in her party are eager to hitch the DPP's fortunes to the new activism carried on by the Sunflower Student Movement and the anti-nuclear civic movements in sympathy with Lin Yi-hsiung's hunger strike, she responded: "You can't run a country on a basis of social movements. You have to go back to politics."

It's a worthy answer to the skeptical question the London-based Economist magazine raised about Taiwan's future in an article titled "When the Wind Blows," pointing out that our future could be decided on the streets. The celebrated British journal comments in its latest issue that as for where Taiwan's politics will go after the successful social movements, "street protests are not only a hallmark but a deciding factor."

The British magazine is right about Taiwan's streets reflecting the widespread disillusions of its young generation toward the weakness of political institutions that are only further undermined by the renewed activism. To be exact, student activists are repeating the activism that the opposition party has perpetuated with an interruption between its Tangwai ([...] the Kuomintang) days in the 1970s and the eight years when it ruled Taiwan from 2000 to 2008. Tangwai leaders agitated to force President Chiang Ching-kuo to lift the ban on forming a new party besides the Kuomintang in 1987, but the DPP was inaugurated the year before, and Chiang did not try to disband it.

Activism can be a catalyst for change in politics, but it cannot decide how a country is to be ruled. Let's recall what happened with the "Occupy Movement." It was an international protest movement against social and economic inequality, the primary goal being to make the economic and political relations in all societies less vertical, less hierarchical and more flatly distributed. …


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