Taiwan and China are having increasingly frequent exchanges, entangling their politics in ways that are difficult to understand. While China is openly bullying Taiwan, this nation might be influencing China in far more subtle ways and to a degree which might surpass expectations.
After failing to win two presidential elections in a row, former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) became preoccupied with how to extend the political and economic fortunes of his family. After his first visit to China in 2005 to meet then-Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Beijing gradually started favoring exchanges between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the channel through which it communicated its wishes. This channel, largely coordinated by the Lien family, gradually changed its focus from politics to business, and then to personal connections.
After 2008, the KMT-CCP platform increased in importance and Lien, also a former KMT chairman, attended APEC meetings on five occasions as President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) representative. News media were awash with reports on the massive political and economic cabal being created between the second generation of government officials on either side of the Taiwan Strait, and the KMT-CCP meetings often replaced the official relations between China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation.
Ma, who should have focused on matters of national defense and foreign affairs, has never been one to sit back and watch. Not only did he have countless run-ins with Lien, but in 2009, he stood again for the KMT chairmanship and secured it, so that he could keep control of the reins.
The rendezvous with the enemy continued, with former KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄) going to Beijing in 2012 in the infamous “one country, two areas” trip followed by Lien’s sortie in March last year, when he came out with his 16-character mantra of “Establish mutual trust, shelve disputes, seek common ground while reserving differences and together create a win-win situation.”
All this showed that turf wars among KMT bigwigs were heating up. As the Ma administration established its power base, the KMT-CCP platform built by Lien started to lose ground. However, there is to be no meeting this year, which has set off alarm bells in Lien’s dynastic empire.
Members of that dynasty must have long been deliberating on how to proceed. For example, if they are not represented by someone in political office in Taiwan, how are they to protect their pan-Greater China, cross-strait empire? And therein lies the urgency in Lien Chan’s son, KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Sean Lien (連勝文), standing for office.
At the same time, the higher echelons of power in Beijing will be pondering how they are to deal with the Lien empire, which has so many political and business connections in China and enjoys a certain degree of political influence there.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) came to power, he has targeted corruption — be it to consolidate his power, to balance wealth disparities, to maintain his ideological stance or for personal reasons — in a way not seen before.
Many officials have been ousted, no matter their rank. Many big names, not just disgraced former Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來), have fallen, dragged into the CCP’s extralegal shuanggui (雙規) system for detaining and interrogating cadres who fall from grace. Heavyweights such as former Central Military Commission vice chairman Xu Caihou (徐才厚) and former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang (周永康) are but representative examples.
The sights of Xi’s anti-graft gun are edging toward former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin (江澤民). Once he has gone through the first generation, how long will it before he turns his attention to the second generation, which the New York Times and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have been so busy investigating?
That is anyone’s guess. Nor is it known whether the Lien dynasty will get caught up in all this and whether it could change the face of politics in Taiwan.
As election fever rises in Taiwan, Sean Lien’s campaign and that of independent Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) have been flinging mud at each other over the MG149 account case involving Ko and questions about Sean Lien’s ownership of Golden Meditech Holdings Taiwan depositary receipts through Evenstar, the Hong Kong-based fund he founded, a case which also involves Wen Yunsong (溫雲松), who also happens to be the only son of former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).
Perhaps the 100,000 Chinese tourists in Taiwan on any given day will take this news back to Xi and get him to do something about it?
When Taipei residents decide which candidate to back, the main players will be thinking about larger, life-and-death battles over power and financial dynasties.
HoonTing is a commentator based in Taipei.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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