A REPORT IN the Financial Times earlier this week indicated that some in Washington DC were upset with DPP presidential candidate William Lai for suggesting that one day he hoped to see a Taiwanese president visit the White House. As the same article quoted an official stating that the White House had not been in contact with the Lai campaign over the remarks, those unhappy about Lai’s comments may not be from the White House, but could be from the State Department.
That is, Lai’s comments were made in the same timeframe as Lai stating that he would most like to have dinner with Xi Jinping when asked at a National Taiwan University event who in the world he would most like to talk with over dinner. Lai aimed to show that he was open to diplomatically engaging with China, if this was on equal terms, though Lai said that he would tell Xi to “chill out” over that dinner. Lai was probably hoping to show that he emphasized relations with the US, but was not irrationally opposed to engagement with China, as the KMT has sought to frame him as.
Yet there are those in Washington DC that still are anxious about the prospect of a Lai presidency, particularly in light of past comments by Lai as Tainan mayor in which he claimed to be a “pragmatic worker for Taiwanese independence.” Some in DC circles also continue to idealize the KMT as the party most able to maintain stable relations with China and do not seem cognizant of the KMT’s sharp drift toward pro-China stances in the last two decades, inclusive of its current embrace of US-skeptic discourse.
One notes that in the time since such comments by Lai, he has sought to signal moderation in his current bid for president, emphasizing that he will maintain continuity with the policies of current president Tsai Ing-wen. Lai also has made all manner of frivolous comments as part of election bids, including comments that it was possible to “Love Taiwan and have an affinity word China” and stated the relation between Taiwan and China was one between friends–these were comments that provoked outrage from quarters of the pan-Green camp during his stint as premier.