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December, 4, 2016

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Tsai yet to hold promised national affairs conference

In 2012, Tsai Ing-wen ran for president promising to immediately hold a "national affairs conference" and build a new consensus on cross-strait relations. She lost the election.

Four years later, making the same campaign promise, she won by a landslide.

Six months after her inauguration, the conference has not been held. Why? Perhaps, Tsai thinks it unnecessary.

So confident that she would win, she coined the term "born independentistas (天然獨)" in the run-up to the presidential election to embody what she described as wide-spread support for an independent Taiwan. With such strong backing, it could be that the president feels there no need to call a conference.

A more likely reason, however, is Tsai's tumbling popularity.

Her approval rating has fallen to a record low of 26 percent, down from 70 percent when she took office in May.

Tsai is now more unpopular than former President Ma Ying-jeou was at his own lowest ebb following catastrophic Typhoon Morakot in August 2009.

But she is luckier. The media has not turned on her the way they did with Ma.

At the time of Typhoon Morakot, CNN called on the people of Taiwan to have Ma recalled. While the public declined to dance to the tune of the intentionally malicious American busybody, the Ma administration remained completely silent for fear of Taiwan interfering with Uncle Sam's freedom of the press.

Tsai has become so unpopular in part because her Democratic Progressive Party government has pushed a wide range of highly controversial laws to enforce transitional justice, legalize same-sex marriage and lift the ban on imports of Japanese produce from the Fukushima fallout zone.

On the other hand, a new Taiwan consensus is coalescing without a "national affairs conference." Tsai has failed to maintain the cross-strait status quo because she rejects the so-called "1992 Consensus," an unsigned modus vivendi under which both Taipei and Beijing are agreed that there is but one China whose connotations can be separately and orally enunciated.

A refusal to acknowledge the tacit understanding by the Tsai administration has led to an indefinite suspension of institutionalized cross-straits exchanges, which has had a serious impact on Taiwan's economy.

A one-third drop in the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan over the past six months has brought the tourism industry to the brink of collapse. A failure also by the Tsai government to solve the dispute over Taiwan's fishermen operating within Japan's exclusive economic zone around the Okinotori Atoll has earned the ire of the fishing industry.

Before, there was a tacit understanding of Taiwan fishing boats operating in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Okinotori, which has not yet been declared an "island" by the U.N. Taiwanese fishing boats were free to fish but would leave the EEZ should they be spotted by a Japanese maritime patrol.

Former President Ma Ying-jeou started the dispute by insisting that the atoll is a "rock" and is therefore not entitled to an EEZ. Tsai could have the understanding reinstated, but has tried instead to push for a joint patrol of the area and cooperation on the development of undersea resources.

The result? A growing public outcry across Taiwan against Tsai's incompetent government. No wonder she doesn't want to call a meeting.

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