Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Discourse needed on rebuilding the KMT

By Apollo Chen 陳學聖

On May 7, after the first meeting of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) task force on decision-making and discourse formula-ting, a conclusion was reached: "open our party, reform our country." The organizer, Vice Chairman Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), announced that a trip to South Korea will be made to learn from its experience. This plan attracted both praise and criticism.

A completely open attitude to reform is just a departure point rather than a destination. Undeniably, the KMT is suffering from a vacuum of a core discourse. The vision delineated by a party's core ideas forms the basis of its legitimacy.

The KMT began life 100 years ago as an aspiring revolutionist vowing to wipe out feudalism and march toward a republic. In the second stage of the KMT's history, it took up the role of China-defender and shifted its goal to the completion of unification and resistance to imperialist invasion. After settling in Taiwan, the party founded its legitimacy on opposing communism and regaining China according to the Three Principles of the People. Today, with the cross-strait relationship turning a new page, the existent discourse has lost its pertinence. Set against a blurred background of political reality, the existence of the KMT appears incongruous. How can the hollowed-out core ideas appeal to people and make them willing to sacrifice their lives for them?

The project of discourse reconstruction can start with three self-inquiries: Who is the KMT? Where is it and how do we perceive the present in history? Where is this KMT going and how do we envision the future? These inquiries will string all KMT discourses together. Does the KMT still represent the Three Principles of the People and five-power constitution? After we abandon reconquering the mainland and unifying China, where does our legitimacy come from?

What is the mainstream public opinion? Is the rising Taiwanese consciousness an awakened self-awareness? Or is it a sugar-coated Hoklo chauvinism? Does the trend "localization" comprehensively describe the current situation? Or is it a biased representation? Is national identification equal to ethnic identification? Is identity politics itself an end or a means? Have people become the subject of "Taiwan nationalism," or the object of a "neo-cultural hegemony"?

The KMT must consider whether its discourse of "Taiwanization" an counter "localization." We must decide if we are to refashion "localization" by "Tai-wanization." Other questions we should also ask include: Does the discourse of "New Democracy" contain the "New Cultural Discourse?" Does the content of the "New Democracy" imply a "new republic?" How do we define the Republic of China (ROC), the ROC "in" Taiwan and that the ROC "is" Taiwan? And how should the ROC face Taiwan? Shall the KMT redefine its role as the opposition in bipartisan politics? Shall the KMT, the People First Party and the New Party compete, converge or integrate?

This discourse reconstruction project should be initiated from bottom up in the KMT. The purpose of public debates is not only to enrich the discourse's content but also to identify similarities and differences among party lines.

Recently, the "New Cultural Discourse" pushed by the young members in the Democratic Progressive Party has been undermined by its own fundamentalists. The KMT's discourse might as well be challenged by the KMT conservatives. In fact, the question of choice is a must. Shunning the question of choice only unnerves the people even more.

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