People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has thrown his hat into the ring for next year’s presidential race. He brings some differentiating characteristics into the mix.
He is the only male, for example, and the only candidate who was born in China. He is also the oldest among the candidates thus far; he has contested the most elections; he has the muddiest face of the lot, judging from his official election poster; and his announcement declaring his intention to stand was the most long-winded. Essentially, however, his decision to stand is little more than a continuation of infighting within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The internal tensions within the KMT revolve around identification with the “orthodox” and the various “offshoots” thereof. Former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) rid himself of his political enemies by setting himself up as chief disciple of Republic of China (ROC) founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) and branding everyone else traitors to the cause; part of a renegade strain. Soong has sought to characterize himself as a political disciple of Sun and former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), Chiang Kai-shek’s son and successor.
This assertion, however, has been met with a certain amount of ridicule from within the KMT, the two sides accusing each other of diverging from the younger Chiang’s strain. Back in the day, the all-pervading climate was that of Chiang Ching-kuo’s authoritarian regime; the KMT had yet to encounter the democratizing offshoot of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) that was so popular among the public. That, or Lee’s offshoot was still considered to be a renegade strain within the party.
As chairman of the PFP, Soong is the leader of a minor party within the legislature. If he, against all expectations, is elected president, he would still not command an absolute majority and would have to enter into a grand coalition of parties that most suit his own interests. Coalition is not necessarily a good thing: It has been said that if power corrupts, absolute-majority rule corrupts absolutely, but this only applies to authoritarian parties such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or the KMT. It does not apply to Western democracies.
As far as national identification is concerned, Soong is no fool: He is not going to refuse to admit the existence of the ROC, but does admit that it exists within the false framework in which the KMT operates. By saying that “maintaining the ROC ‘status quo’ is the main consensus within Taiwan” he is not saying anything controversial, but his contention that cross-strait relations in their current form are an extension of the Chinese Civil War and that the dealings between the two sides are a struggle between the regimes of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the ROC, just does not tally with the facts, nor is it a position that the majority of Taiwanese would be prepared to accept.
The ROC the majority of Taiwanese recognize is not a regime vying with the PRC regime for control of China. It is, instead, a state and a government, the citizens and territory in its jurisdiction limited to those understood within the present “status quo.” Taiwan is not a part of China, neither is it owned by the KMT, and it is certainly not some kind of gambling chip between the CCP and the KMT. The only problem is that the PRC is insisting, against all reason, on taking Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Soong is offering nothing new. It will take more than him winning the presidential election for him to dispense with the KMT of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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