The armed forces, the police, special operatives, prosecutors, investigators — these are all special tools with which the state seeks to maintain public order. In the long term, one should do one’s utmost to limit the powers and resources of these parts of the state apparatus, and divert the resources instead to educational and other supportive organizations.
One of the characteristics of authoritarian rule is that it relies heavily on these institutions and seeks not only to increase and extend their powers, but also to commandeer them for the personal ends of the autocrats, who seek to cultivate a sense of loyalty and obedience in them.
During the periods that Taiwan was governed by former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son and successor, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), the armed forces had five different types of allegiance. In addition to those learned from the West of loyalty to duty, honor and the nation, there were also the even more important allegiances to the leader — the two Chiangs — and the principles of the people — their political ideology.
The importance of getting the armed forces to answer personally to a nation’s leader was a notion that Chiang Ching-kuo brought back to Taiwan from his time studying in the Soviet Union, as well as the mentoring system designed to keep a watchful eye on how loyal people were and having personnel stationed at each public institution, and reporting directly to the Ministry of Justice.
Under the authoritarian rule of the Chiang family, anyone training staff in these institutions had to be a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). It was the same with the judicial system, which is why former KMT secretary-general Hsu Shui-teh (許水德) could say that “the courts are run by the KMT.”
In the four or five decades of authoritarian rule under the KMT, successive generations of personnel in these institutions came and went, forming deep and intricate affiliations with each other that have evolved into “old boy networks,” with vested interests piling high and a culture of mutual protectionism developing. These are now a major obstacle to public-sector reform in Taiwan.
The nation has achieved much in many aspects of life with its democratization, and yet these old boy networks, while not daring to protect their vested interests quite as brazenly as they were able to in the “good old days” of KMT authoritarian rule, continue to harbor these ossified attitudes in private and with each other, and are wholly resistant to reform.
Also, promotion within these institutions tends to comply with the inclinations of the powers-that-be, which makes it even easier for politicians to control the public sector and attain their own personal goals. If you want proof of this, in the last presidential election the Bureau of Investigation tapped the telephone of Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and monitored her movements.
Taiwan still has a long way to go to true democracy, because these people, whose actions are harmful to Taiwanese democracy and who exploit it for their own ends, continue even in the post-democratization period to act against the will of the electorate, while claiming to be upholding democracy.
However, the string of cases of official corruption and the violence of the military police show that the KMT’s ruling ideology and core methods of government have not changed or been reformed, making the KMT government’s behavior increasingly criminal.
Chu Ping-tzu is an associate professor of Chinese literature at National Tsing Hua University.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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