After former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was inaugurated in 2000, he chose former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) official Tang Fei (唐飛) to be his first premier in an attempt to co-opt the KMT and create some degree of cooperation between the two parties. However, then-KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) held a grudge against Chen for beating him in the election. He boycotted all of Chen’s attempts at cooperation, with the result that Tang had no room to maneuver. After only 140 days in office, Tang quietly stepped down.
Tang recently released a book documenting his time as premier. In the book, it becomes obvious that Tang, who was originally a defense minister, was neither quick-tempered nor arrogant and certainly was not a warrior. However, he was not a statesman either. He did not enjoy the backing of the KMT, but he was also unable to convince himself that the DPP’s policies were sound and therefore had no choice but to resign.
Tang criticized any effort toward independence as well as the abolition of nuclear power; he was strongly opposed to both issues, saying they would directly impact Taiwan’s survival. However, addressing both these issues are requirements for Taiwan’s survival. How to handle these issues — the most serious and important political issues the nation faces today — is the true test of a statesman’s abilities.
Among all the members of the KMT, Tang displayed the most integrity. He was never deceitful or cunning, and behaved much better than the Taiwanese-born political hacks and bureaucrats in the KMT who are now running what they see as their party-state. However, Tang was also too conservative; he was incapable of handling progressive issues like independence and the abolition of nuclear power. At most, his book will only win him some forgiveness from the KMT for going against the party’s wishes by choosing to accept the position of premier.
In his book, Tang criticizes the KMT, saying it was unable to accept defeat, and details how the KMT waged all-out political war on the DPP from 2000 to 2008. The book also details how the KMT never gave up its all-consuming hunger for power, from the party’s early days in Nanjing until the present in Taipei.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) is much more of a political hack than Tang could ever have been, although Tang could never have been considered a statesman. Wu also possesses an unmatched capacity for annoying and angering people. In his quest for power, Wu has lied repeatedly — it boggles the mind to imagine how ridiculous his memoirs will be when he releases them.
Taiwan needs statesmen, not political hacks, to address independence and the abolition of nuclear power. The DPP does not have a patent on this. However, given the way the KMT grasps for long-lost absolute power, and how it sees itself as a foreign power occupying a foreign land, it is difficult to see how it would ever be able to handle these issues.
Lee Min-yung is a poet and political critic.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON