Why So Many Chaperones for Hou?
By Ross Darrell Feingold
Former Asia Chairman, Republicans Abroad
By the time this is published, Chinese Nationalist Party presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih will be in the United States. His trip is named the “Journey for Dialogue and to Deepen Relationships 「對話與深化的友誼之旅」. This title might sound fine in Mandarin, though in English it comes across as a desperate attempt by Hou to obtain support from the United States government or the think tank “experts” in New York City and Washington DC he will, all of which is highly unlikely to happen given their enthusiastic support for Democratic Progressive Party candidate William Lai.
According to the campaign headquarters press release, Mayor Hou will visit four “cities”: New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, and San Francisco. New Jersey is not a city, and such an error by Hou’s campaign staff is not a good start to the trip.
Even if Hou’s campaign office wants us to believe that the campaign office, and not Chinese Nationalist Party headquarters planned the trip, Hou will be accompanied by many “chaperones” from the party headquarters or the Legislative Yuan. These include Chinese Nationalist Party vice chairman Andrew Hsia, Legislator Johnny Chiang, Legislator Wu I-Ding, Chinese Nationalist Party Representative to the United States Alexander Huang, Chinese Nationalist Party Deputy Representative to the United States Victor Chin, National Chengchi University Professor Lu Yeh-chung, and Tamkang University Professor Li Da-jung. The press release from Hou’s campaign office only noted one person from the campaign office, media aide Chang Chi-chiang.
Missing from this list is King Pu-tsung, the Hou campaign’s CEO (侯辦執行長). This is particularly odd, given that under President Ma Ying-jeou, King served as Representative to the United States from September 2012 to April 2014.
One wonders why Mayor Hou needs so many people from party headquarters to accompany him to his meetings in Washington DC.
Perhaps it is a strategy to waste as much time possible handing out business cards and exchanging stories about previous meetings that the chaperones had with those experts, Members of Congress, or government officials. This will minimize the amount of time Hou has to speak or answer questions.
Hou also plans to meet The New York Times and Bloomberg. Both of these media outlets have journalists in Taipei, and there is no need to take up time on Hou’s itinerary in New York City to meet there. Why would Hou take up time on his trip to the United States meeting media outlets that he could meet in Taipei? This is very peculiar, especially given the risk that “something will go wrong” in the interviews, as Hou needs a translator.
As for the meetings with think tanks and US government officials in Washington DC, are they really necessary? What can Hou tell them in Washington DC about his views on key issues that he hasn’t already said to them, or will say in the future, when they visit Taiwan? One only needs to check the Chinese Nationalist Party’s account on “X” (formerly known as Twitter) to see that Chairman Eric Chu frequently meets visiting “experts” from think tanks in Washington DC.
Let’s take Hou’s visit to the American Institute in Taiwan headquarters as an example. At the beginning of June, Mayor Hou met in New Taipei City with AIT Chairwoman Laura Rosenberg. Is there anything different that Hou might say when he meets her in the middle of September in Virginia versus what he said to her in June in New Taipei?
Ultimately, the think tank scholars and Members of the US Congress only want to know one thing from Hou: What is his policy towards China? Specifically, if he is elected president, will his policy be a return to the “1992 Consensus” or not? Hopefully, Hou will give a direct answer to this question.
This author has consistently opined that Taiwan’s presidential candidates do not need to visit the United States, Japan, or Singapore to “interview” with those governments. This election is for the voters in Taiwan to decide, and not for government officials (and certainly not for think tank “scholars”) in other countries to decide.
And being realistic, none of the meetings Hou plans to have in Washington DC will help Hou improve his dismal poll numbers.
Instead, a better measure of whether the trip is successful is the success of Hou’s meetings with overseas compatriots. How many of those who attend events with Hou in New York City, New Jersey, Washington DC and San Francisco will return to Taiwan in January to vote? How much money did they donate to Hou’s campaign? If Hou’s campaign office or the Chinese Nationalist Party cannot answer these questions, then his campaign might be doomed to fail.