Former deputy Taipei mayor King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) ran a highly successful presidential campaign for Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last year. The question now is whether he, after taking over as secretary-general of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), will be able to give a repeat performance in the mayoral elections of the five special municipalities next year, as well as in the 2012 presidential election. To find an answer, we need to look into the cause of the KMT’s failure in the Dec. 5 local elections.
The most popular view blames the KMT’s failure on a “pendulum effect”: While the support bases of the KMT and of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) remain unchanged, voters punished the ruling party for its poor performance, thus causing the pendulum to swing toward the opposition. For example, strong public discontent with longstanding corruption during the 1990s resulted in the a series of defeats for the KMT between 2000 and 2004. Because of corruption scandals surrounding former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the DPP was then defeated in three consecutive elections after 2005, until the KMT was recently punished for the government’s incompetence.
The road ahead for Ma’s team is likely to be rough, so the pendulum may remain in the opposition camp. This is the first problem for King, often nicknamed “King the Knife” for his sharp politics. The problem is that although the KMT’s failure resulted from a short-term swing of the pendulum, it was also a result of a long-term structural change in Taiwan’s political landscape.
The first issue to affect the political landscape was the rise of Taiwanese self-awareness over the past 20 years. King handled this issue well in the presidential election campaign. He told Ma to pledge to bury his ashes in Taiwan after his death — a promise that touched many people who thought the KMT had not given up its dreams of a “Greater China.” The problem is that the KMT was not in government at the time and was thus able to announce its love for Taiwan in its slogans. However, after a year of strongly pro-China policies, it would now be extremely difficult to change voter impressions through propaganda alone.
The second issue affecting the political landscape is the capital outflow that has followed from globalization and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people. No matter how much the economy grows, the income of most people in the middle class has not increased, and farmers and the working class have become poorer. Many people believe that the DPP, with its strong grassroots connections, is a party for southern Taiwan, farmers and laborers, but this is a stereotype and it is wrong.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the dangwai (“outside the KMT”) movement had little support in rural areas. However, it had the five biggest cities in its pocket until its members were suppressed as a result of the crackdown on the Free China biweekly and the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979. The DPP improved at the ballot box after its establishment in 1986. Its expansion was concentrated in cities and metropolitan areas including Taipei and Taoyuan counties and northern Hsinchu. Surprisingly, the party won in all mayoral and county commissioner seats north of Miaoli in 1997, as well as the direct municipality Taipei, the provincial level cities of Keelung, Hsinchu, Taichung, Tainan and Chiayi, and Taipei and Taoyuan counties. Aside from keeping Kaohsiung City, The KMT became a party for the rural south.
At that time, aside from civil servants, the middle class was angry at the KMT’s authoritarian and corrupt rule. They believed supporting the dangwai and later the DPP was a noble act and this caused a change to the political landscape that lasted for 20 years. During this period, farmers and workers favored the KMT.
A new round of drastic changes to the political balance began after Chen won the presidency in 2000. First, because of their discontent with the economic downturn in 2001, the cancelation of the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, and sharp confrontations between the government and the opposition, the DPP’s middle class supporters suddenly withdrew their support. The KMT, on the other hand, won the support of the middle class that thirsted for the benefits that would be brought by Taiwan opening to Chinese tourism and the three cross-strait links. The DPP lost everything but Taipei and Yilan counties in northern Taiwan. Oddly, the total vote percentage actually surpassed the KMT for the first time, as the latter encouraged domestic industry to move to China, triggering discontent among farmers and laborers. The DPP won five cities and counties plus Kaohsiung City in the south, completely transforming into a southern rural party.
Despite the DPP’s defeat in 2005, in which it lost all northern cities and counties, it gained one seat in the south.
The KMT’s failure on Dec. 5 was partly caused by the unsatisfactory results of opening Taiwan to China. Another reason was the global economic downturn. Amid rising unemployment, DPP supporters in northern Taiwan have revived and the party also won mayoral seats in Hualien and Changhua.
The KMT is providing the wrong remedy for dealing with the impact of globalization. As a result, Taiwan’s political landscape will continue to move in its current direction and King will find it difficult to reverse the trend.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
South China Sea exercises in July by two United States Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers reminds that Taiwan’s history since mid-1950, and as a free nation, is intertwined with that of the aircraft carrier. Eventually Taiwan will host aircraft carriers, either those built under its democratic government or those imposed on its territory by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). By September 1944, a lack of sufficient carrier airpower and land-based airpower persuaded US Army and Navy leaders to forgo an invasion to wrest Taiwan from Japanese control, thereby sparing Taiwanese considerable wartime destruction. But two
This year, India and Taiwan can look back on 25 years of so-called unofficial ties. This provides an occasion to ponder over how they can deepen collaboration and strengthen their relations. This reflection must be free from excitement and agitation caused by the ongoing China-US great power jostling as well as China’s aggressive actions against many of its neighbors, including India. It must be based on long-term trends in bilateral engagement. To begin with, India and Taiwan, thus far, have had relations constituted by various activities, but what needs to be thought about now is whether they can transform their ties
On Thursday last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a barnstorming speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, titled “Communist China and the Free World’s Future.” The speech set out in no uncertain terms the insoluble ideological divide between a totalitarian, communist China and the democratic, free-market values of the US. It was also a full-throated call to arms for all nations of the free world to rally behind the US and defeat China. Pompeo elaborated on a clear distinction between China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in an attempt to recalibrate the
As Taiwan is engulfed in worries about Chinese infiltration, news reports have revealed that power inverters made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co are used in the solar panels on the top of the Legislative Yuan’s Zhenjiang House (鎮江會館) on Zhenjiang Street in Taipei. However, what is even more worrying is that Taiwan’s new national electronic identification card (eID) has been subcontracted to the French security firm and eID maker Idemia, which has not only cooperated with the Chinese Public Security Bureau to manufacture eIDs in China, but also makes the new identification cards being issued in Hong Kong. There might be more