The defeat of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in January’s presidential election was a big disappointment, not least because Tsai, if elected, could have used her popularity and the administrative resources available to her to tame the DPP’s wild factions and promote reform and transformation within the party.
For the sake of the DPP’s electoral chances, I avoided publicly criticizing the party during the campaign. Open criticism might have added to distrust of the DPP that stems from its short history of holding the reins of government, as well as problems caused by the party itself and media sensationalizing its internal power struggles. Now that the election is over, the DPP certainly needs to review its performance, otherwise it will not be able to learn from the experience. However, criticism should focus on issues, not individuals.
When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was locked in a struggle with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), then-CCP leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) proposed three “magic weapons” to defeat the KMT — party building, a united front and armed struggle. For the DPP in Taiwan, the equivalent of an armed struggle is its campaign strategies, while its united front work consists of attracting unaligned voters to isolate its pan-blue opponents.
However, the most important task is party building, because without this the DPP will not be able to lead its supporters to defeat the KMT. For the DPP, party building should entail building a united leadership that is able to propose effective policies, and develop a team strong enough to mobilize people, win elections and govern the country.
China had an agrarian economy centered on peasant workers for several thousand years. The CCP, influenced by this feudal background, has experienced a lot of factionalism and internal strife. Having used various strategies to climb to the top of the CCP, Mao achieved party unity through “rectification” campaigns involving criticism and struggle.
Taiwanese society was originally agricultural. Taiwan never underwent the momentous industrial revolution that Western countries experienced, so many politicians still have a narrow-minded, rural way of thinking. Farmers are of course a disadvantaged group that the DPP should look out for, but it is key that politicians have open minds if they are to transform and advance their party and country.
The CCP seized power through revolution, so once it was in power it quickly became corrupt and endured constant struggles. The DPP’s mission is to bring democracy and progress to Taiwan, so it should not follow the old paths trodden by the KMT and CCP. It should have the courage to confront its own faults. The backward-looking, rural mentality involves only looking after one’s own position and only caring about what one’s family can get. In politics, this mentality means failing to look at the bigger picture for the party or Taiwan.
People may have their selfish interests, but when it comes to the DPP’s future and Taiwan’s prospects, when personal and common interests come into conflict, party members should put the common interest first.
Following its electoral defeat, the DPP seems to have lost its way, and that makes unity even more important. The purpose of unity is to stick to Taiwan-centered values. When the party was busy with election campaigning, many contradictions were hidden, but now it is time to resolve them. This process should not exclude dissenting voices. Rather, the party should handle dissent with an open mind, because that is the way to find real party unity.