There are three pro-China parties in Taiwan: the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the New Party and the People First Party (PFP). There are similarities between all three, not the least of which is that they have all waited with bated breath to see if President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) would discuss pan-blue nominees for next year’s legislative elections.
First, there is the “Chinese” New Party. It split from the KMT shortly after former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) took up the KMT chairmanship and the Republic of China presidency. It was founded by a group of colonial fundamentalists claiming to represent the true KMT spirit. It gave Lee the “black gold” label of corruption, rationalizing the leading position of orthodox Chinese political parties in the colonial system. The party prospered for a while, peaking when its Taipei mayoral candidate Chao Shao-kang (趙少康) out-performed Huang Ta-chou (黃大洲) in the Taipei mayoral election of 1994. However, then-DPP mayoral candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who later became president, benefited from the split and won the election, while the New Party started its inevitable decline.
It is preposterous to blame Lee for the KMT’s “black gold” problem. Throughout Taiwan’s transformation from one-party dictatorship to democracy, Lee worked hard to make the KMT more Taiwanese so it could maintain its hold on power. However, current KMT officials need a reason to set Lee up for a take down, and anything will do.
Second, there is the “Chinese” PFP. Soong founded the PFP after he ran for president as an independent against Chen and KMT candidate Lien Chan (連戰) in 2000. Although Soong beat Lien, Chen won the election, once again benefiting from a split vote. Although the PFP held about 40 legislative seats at one time, Soong’s cooperation with Lien in the presidential election in 2004 resulted in its effective absorption into the KMT and it then more or less collapsed. Ma now controls Soong, and Soong and the PFP have no more say in political matters.
At its founding, the New Party’s spiritual leadership did not come from the KMT, but it still gravitated toward the KMT because of its massive ill-gotten party assets and resources. Most KMT members no longer find spiritual leadership in the party, but it still feeds them. Moreover, the KMT is bigger than the parties that split from it, so there is little risk it will be shaken at its foundations. It is not very strange, then, that the New Party has become a mere political bauble.
The PFP was better than the other pan-blue parties at absorbing members. However, the KMT also takes in people from all walks of life. The PFP’s advantages had nothing to do with how clearly the colonial system sees itself as Chinese. It was simply that Soong’s charisma, leadership qualities and ability to bring wider benefits to others gave him a temporary boost that put him on equal terms with then-KMT chairman Lien Chan. When Ma took his place, the spirit of the PFP was lost forever.
The colonialist Chinese political parties have the same expectations of Ma that they once had of Soong. Ma, who now reminds us of former dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), leaves the two breakaway parties on the sidelines. The bigwigs in the KMT for whom nothing has any value if they lose political power can only place their bets on Ma and hope for the best. The only difference between the New Party, PFP and KMT is whether or not they will benefit from power. Paradoxically, that is also their only similarity.
The KMT is sitting in the robber’s lair, while the New Party and the PFP live in temporary housing out in the cold. All this is a last spurt of action before the collapse of the colonial system.
Lee Min-yung is a poet and political commentator.
TRANSLATED BY KATHERINE WEI
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