After two massive demonstrations were held to call for a change of the nation's title to "Taiwan" and the holding of referendums, the question that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has most frequently been asked is why a ruling party that already has political power in its hands still appeals to people to take to the street to "seize power?"
Aside from former president Lee Teng-hui's (
The streets were originally the DPP's biggest battlefield. The DPP has prospered by riding on new social movements springing up in Taiwan since the 1980s. It repeatedly launched campaigns to call for political reforms and staged street demonstrations to challenge the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) authoritarian system.
Moreover, various organizations formed by laborers, farmers, environmentalists, consumers, women, Aborigines and students also turned the streets into a colorful athletic field, allowing civil society to gradually break away from the KMT's tight grip.
Amid the political and social movements rising and developing one after another, this trend of democratization has generated a new progressive force in Taiwanese society.
Realizing that this trend was irresistible, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) once said that the world is changing, trends are changing, and so the nation has to change. He resolutely lifted martial law and allowed Taiwanese people to visit their relatives in China, leaving a big hole in the closed authoritarian system.
After Lee came to power, he utilized the opportunity to adjust the nation's structure and reconstruct social order, helping the trend of democratization further take root in Taiwanese society. The re-emergence of national and social forces successfully drove away the extreme power exercised by the military government that had traditionally controlled Taiwanese society.
After President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office in 2000, two conflicting forces took shape due to the economic slowdown in the greater environment and strong boycotts maneuvered by the restoration forces in the blue camp. The old power-bearers raised the anti-reform banner to strike at the legitimacy of the reforms that the DPP has always advocated, placing the Chen administration in a precarious situation.
Apart from the forces opposing education reforms and privatization, the blue camp has created an atmosphere reminiscent of the beautiful era under Chiang's rule. All of a sudden, it seems that this would override the DPP's traditional call for reforms and become the new mainstream value in Taiwanese society.
Against this backdrop, the DPP, hailing from civil society, seems to have lost its "brave new world." Although the backlash force is not completely centered around political parties, the "cultural hegemony on the streets," after being eroded by non-political party forces, seems to be shifting toward opposition parties.
To prevent this hegemony from falling into enemies' hands, Chen in a timely manner advocated holding referendums and creating a constitution. He attempts to use political issues to override the resurgence of the old power that makes social and economic issues its keynote platform.
This effort has prevented the hegemony from swiftly shifting toward the opposition forces.
Of course, Chen's call for referendums and a new constitution mainly aims at agitating confrontation between these two camps, leaving no grey area in a society that traditionally has middle-ground forces as its mainstay. The voters therefore have to take a stand between the green and blue camps.
Chen thus is able to solidify the DPP's sphere of influence on the streets. Since the backlash force is deprived of an opportunity to spread toward other social groups, its effect is relatively dwindling.
In a strategy of "converging columns for concerted attacks," former president Lee has become a new leader on the streets by holding a demonstration to call for a name change for Taiwan and, as a result, consolidated and retook the green camp's power on streets. The power generated by Chen and Lee after they exchanged roles has written a new page in Taiwan's democratization.
In the KMT-ruled era, rulers used political and military power to forcibly monopolize society. After the DPP came to power, it has used social force to take the leading role in operating the state apparatus, being always sensitive to society. Monopolization is deficient in justice and an ideology jointly constructed with society.
So the fact that the DPP can readily recapture its power on the streets only reflects the fragility of the blue camp's street ideology.
Wang Kun-yi is an associate professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies of Tamkang University.
Translated by Jackie Lin
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