Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Ma puts KMT on dangerous ground

By Jou Yi-cheng 周奕成

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) new "Taiwan discourse," which is directed at establishing a link between the history of his party and that of Taiwan, initially held out considerable promise. But in a recent meeting of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee, Ma made a mawkish statement questioning "if the Taiwanese have treated `our' Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) with respect."

The remark caused me to turn pessimistic about the new discourse, for it suggests that Ma is continuing to make an us-and-them distinction between the KMT and the Taiwanese.

The kind of public discourse that Ma is seeking to establish requires the collective participation of the public, for only by giving it significance and realization can it be established as a social discourse. But the very group that Ma's discourse is aimed at appealing to -- namely those Taiwanese who have rejected the KMT -- are unable to participate in the discourse as it is structured.

The reason is that Taiwanese continue to be regarded as "them" under Ma's formulation, rather than part of "us." Taiwanese remain the object, rather than the subject of the discourse.

While seeking to locate the KMT's link with Taiwan prior to 1945, Ma even spoke of a bottle of whisky that a Taiwanese, who was a victim of the 228 Incident, had received from Sun as a gift. Ma used this to prove that KMT had connections with the local society prior to its arrival in Taiwan in 1945, and that it was therefore not a foreign regime. But this only underlined the fragility of the KMT's historical tie to Taiwanese society.

If the KMT wants to create a truly powerful discourse, it must drop what we call the "KMT's Taiwan discourse," and make Taiwan the subject of the discourse, which would be "Taiwan's KMT discourse." And what would such a discourse be? In a phrase, it would be to accept that "the KMT was once a foreign regime."

The KMT was indeed a foreign regime when it moved to Taiwan between 1945 and 1949. The KMT should acknowledge this. It should respond by saying that this is in the past, and that after the process of localization, it is no longer a foreign regime, nor will it be one in the future. If the KMT's official history had adopted this local perspective, then it could rightly justify saying that the party has blended into Taiwanese society, and the accusation that the KMT is a foreign regime would not have persisted.

Instead, to avoid localizing the party and to negate former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) contribution in extending the KMT's hold on power through localization, Ma has deliberately ignored Lee's historical status. This negates the argument of the KMT's successful localization, and instead insists on the argument that the KMT was at no stage a foreign regime.

But the problem the KMT currently faces is not whether it was a foreign government back in 1945, but why, 50 years later, it is still accused of being a foreign regime. Ma has provided the wrong answer, and is asking the wrong question. By continuing to emphasize the KMT's historical connection with Taiwan, he has put the party on dangerous ground.

The accusation that the KMT is a foreign political force can easily be deflected by a localization discourse, but instead Ma reveals that the KMT is unable to give up the idea of its primacy in its relationship with Taiwan, needlessly leaving itself open to attack by critics.

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