Taipei, Dec. 7 (CNA) People First Party (PFP) presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) on Friday criticized his Kuomintang (KMT) opponent Han Kuo-yu's (韓國瑜) description of himself as "good-hearted," saying that "good-heartedness can't necessarily fly an airplane."
Soong was responding to remarks the KMT candidate made at a forum on Thursday for presidential candidates to answer questions from young people. Han had sought to counter what he called politically-motivated attacks on his character.
Speaking at the last in a series of youth forums, the former KMT member Soong said that in the selection of a president, ability takes precedence over good-heartedness.
Soong, who is making his fourth run for the presidency, said he would not have sought the office if the KMT had nominated former New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), Foxconn founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) or former Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
Han not only lacks experience, but also the leadership qualities required for the position, Soong said.
Soong also extended criticism to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for its role in a two-party system which he said was "building up walls" and "dividing Taiwan."
In contrast, Soong portrayed himself as a bridge builder, proposing reforms to ease the divisions in Taiwanese government, including the institution of an annual "state of the union" address and reducing political influence on the civil service.
More dramatically, Soong said if elected, he would seek majority support in the legislature when he appoints a premier, which is currently not required, and would establish a mechanism for the president to consult with representatives of each political party on matters including foreign affairs, cross-strait issues, and national defense.
At another point in the forum, an audience member asked Soong whether, given Taiwan's exclusion from regional trade agreements, he would support the establishment of free economic pilot zones in Taiwan.
While President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) government has opposed the creation of pilot zones, arguing that they would "tie up Taiwan with China," Han has pushed to establish one in Kaohsiung during his time as the city's mayor.
Some critics have argued that by reducing trade barriers to attract international investment, the pilot zones would hurt the country's small and medium-sized businesses.
Soong replied by recounting his experience as the government's envoy to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in 2016 and 2017, during which time he said he heard much praise for Taiwan's small and medium-sized business sector.
If Taiwan chooses to establish pilot zones, Soong said, it must do so on beneficial terms, and as part of a comprehensive policy, giving full consideration to technical training and attracting foreign professionals.
Noting Han's promotion of a pilot zone as mayor, Soong said that it was a matter for the central government, and not local governments to decide.
Friday's presidential forum was the last in a series of three organized by the Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy, in which the top candidates in the Jan. 11 presidential election face questions from young voters.