Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: KMT looks backward to its future

While many believe that Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) election to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairmanship symbolized the party's determination to reform itself, the party's recent decision to establish a KMT Youth Corps suggests that far from embarking on an overhaul, the party remains nostalgic about its totalitarian past.

The purported reason for the youth corps is to inject new blood into the party to boost reform. This is a straight rip-off of the China Youth Corps, founded by late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) -- not to mention China's Communist Youth League -- both of which were no more than propaganda tools for authoritarian regimes.

The media recently dubbed the KMT's youth corps the "clique of princes," as its senior members include former chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) son Lien Sheng-wen (連勝文), KMT legislators John Wu (吳志揚) and Lin Yi-shih (林益世), as well as Samuel Wu (吳秀光), director of Taipei City's Bureau of Civil Affairs. The rest are also the children of former KMT big shots.

This is almost a replica of the situation in China, in which sons and daughters of powerful fathers used their family position to gain access to political and commercial power.

Ma recently said he hoped that "the youth corps might produce another Hu Jintao (胡錦濤)," making it perfectly clear that he sees the corps as a nursery for future leaders -- as well as who he considers worthy of emulation.

Such elitism can also be found among the pan-blue camp members who are chomping at the bit to become Taipei mayor: KMT legislators John Chiang (蔣孝嚴), Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), Diane Lee (李慶安)and Alex Tsai (蔡正元), and Taipei Deputy Mayor Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川) and Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌). All but Tsai and Yeh come from well-connected families that have between them produced two presidents, three premiers and four generals.

The Democratic Progressive Party's association of the names of contenders for the party's Taipei mayoral nomination with that of former dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) was meant as a joke -- taking a character or similar-sounding syllable from the names of the six to create the slogan "How are you, Chiang Kai-shek?" (蔣中正, 你好耶). Nevertheless it shows how the KMT's old guard is making a comeback through their children.

Growing up in a family that has been politically powerful for generations is a great education, and the inheritance of family resources makes it easier for the next generation to make its mark in the political arena. The question of how the KMT wants to realign its power structure and train its new leaders is for the party itself to decide. Relying on nepotism to create a small clique of leaders, however, is behavior befitting a totalitarian system, regardless of whether or not it might produce outstanding leaders.

More participation by the broader public would result in the promotion of more talented politicians through free competition. The exclusion of the average party member will only further disappoint the KMT's grassroots supporters.

If the KMT's new youth corps is nothing more than a platform for the political training of the next generation of party nobility, then this will be a step backward for the party.

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