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September 26, 2017

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James Soong should have reconsidered gilding the lily

James Soong, chairman of the People First Party, went to Beijing to meet Xi Jinping, Chinese Communist Party general secretary, for the first time last Thursday. He visited Beijing in 2005 to talk with Hu Jintao, Xi's predecessor, right after Lien Chan, the then-chairman of the Kuomintang, made a journey of peace to end the decades-long civil war between the KMT and the CCP. Soong tried to gild the lily.

Perhaps Soong is falling into dotage. He is passe several times over, but still seems unable or unwilling to forget he garnered many more votes than Lien Chan and was beaten by Chen Shui-bian by a sampling-error-like slim margin in the presidential election of 2000. After that maiden political loss, he went on to found and has since chaired the People First Party, which became Taiwan's third largest political party after the Kuomintang and President Chen's Democratic Progressive Party. From then on, his political fortune ebbed to the extent that he lost the Taipei mayoral election of 2006 by winning a mere 4 percent of the votes and was defeated in the presidential election of 2012, collecting even less at 2.77 percent. Now, his party has only two members of the 113-seat Legislative Yuan elected by proportional representation.

Soong must have forgotten he was a political has-been when he went to Beijing to see Hu Jintao in tandem with Lien Chan as President Chen's secret envoy to offer the DPP administration's reconciliation with China after the latter adopted an anti-secession law to require an automatic invasion of Taiwan if independence were declared in Taipei. Chen identified Soong as his envoy, but Soong turned him down after the then-president accused him of meeting in secret in Washington, D.C. with Chen Yun-lin, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Soong's trip to Beijing was undertaken unofficially.

So, right after the Sunflower student activists touched off an escalating anti-China civic movement, Soong thought the time was ripe again for him to reprise his role of nine years ago. Soong requested and was granted a well-scripted red-carpet ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing once more.

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