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May 29, 2017

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Su's not-so-surprise pick is great for him

In an expected twist, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang yesterday named himself — and not Frank Hsieh — as convener of the party's new China Affairs Committee.

Rumors leaked early this week that Hsieh might be passed over for the post, despite his substantial record in developing the DPP's cross-strait policy. As rumors go, these were highly believable, because Su has lots to lose by appointing Hsieh.

Su aims to upgrade the DPP with China Policy 2.0, but is wary of losing core pro-independence supporters in the process. For Su, Hsieh's latest record is an obvious losing ticket. Hsieh announced this October that Taiwan independence is a dated concept. Moreover, his recent efforts to warm cross-strait ties — such as his landmark trip to Beijing — have done nothing to endear him to pro-independence figures like former Premier Yu Shyi-kun or Wu Shu-min, president of the nativist Taiwan Society.

In the past two weeks, Su has met both in his office at the Taipei party headquarters. According to Su's close aide Lin Hsi-yao, Wu told the chairman just yesterday that he feared Hsieh would use his bully pulpit to sway committee members. "Su did wish to appoint Hsieh," said Lin. "But if Su were convener, perhaps other members would believe that he already has policy resolutions in mind."

By naming himself, the chairman loses no supporters and offends no one — apparently not even Hsieh, who has donned a brave face and declared in the manner of George Orwell's Boxer that he shall simply work harder!

But besides losing nothing, Su gains a bit, too. As convener, Su is the only neutral member of what can become the most important official party arm of the upcoming decade. He moves up from the sometimes-marginalized, oft-forgotten chairman to the go-to guy for all factions' wants and needs. Meanwhile, Hsieh, Tsai Ing-wen and other potential committee members face three years of gaining enemy after enemy as the committee wrangles consensus on China policy. This all puts Su in a great place to jockey for the party's presidential nomination, and to make an indelible mark on DPP history.

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