Despite winning the presidential election, the results were a surprising blow to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and that is why President and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has vowed party reform to bring about change in preparation for future elections. That is precisely what is needed, but the question is where it should start.
Judging from what we have seen before and after the election, the KMT does not seem to understand that the problem is its closeness to big business. To use Western political terminology, the KMT is a right-wing party. During the election campaign, Ma and his team repeatedly touted GDP growth as a political achievement, although the vast majority of the public did not feel this growth at all.
National wealth may have increased, but because of the uneven distribution, only a very small minority has been invited to the party. The rest have to make do with leftovers. The Ma administration knew, of course, that it could not afford to completely ignore the wealth gap, which is why it threw a few crumbs to voters prior to the election, such as the luxury tax and childcare subsidies. Looking at the bigger picture, however, that is nothing but trivial vote-buying.
Ideology lies at the core of a political party’s values; it might even be called a party’s soul. In more mature Western democracies, the major political parties are either center-left or center-right. This is the only kind of political party that is capable of caring for the interests of the majority.
In a one person, one vote system, it is difficult for a government that cares only for the well-being of the rich to remain in power. HTC chairwoman Cher Wang (王雪紅) and Hon Hai Group chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) also have but one vote, so governance must be based on ideology to mobilize a majority of voters.
The KMT once followed a diametrically opposed ideology. One of the principles embodied in Sun Yat-sen’s (孫逸仙) Three Principles of the People (三民主義) concerns people’s livelihood, advocating equal land ownership and control of resources — both of which are typical leftist ideas. This was later partially implemented by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). It is not very strange that Chiang Ching-kuo, deeply influenced by socialism after having spent more than a decade in the Soviet Union as a young man, would do so, but his father’s social policy was also left-leaning despite his political opposition to communism.
With the ascent of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), this ideology became increasingly blurred. None of the currently active KMT politicians, be it President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), former KMT secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) or premier-designate Sean Chen (陳冲), got to where they are because they sympathize with the working man. This is just as true of the party’s legislative caucus as of its top leadership. Any party in the West, whether on the left or on the right, has a left wing that pays close attention to the welfare of disadvantaged groups.
Sadly, the KMT is sorely lacking in left-wing legislators. This setup makes it very difficult to pass social legislation. The recently passed amendment to the Employment Service Act (就業服務法) is a good example, in which the pan-blue legislators extended the period that foreign workers are allowed to remain in Taiwan. There are both pros and cons to this decision, but if there had been left-leaning politicians, they would not have let this amendment through without putting up a fight.