It is no surprise that former vice president Lien Chan’s (連戰) public career has lined up an eloquent succession of guises.
The prologue to his political career was as ambassador to El Salvador at the age of 39. Lien then served as minister of the Executive Yuan National Youth Commission, minister of transportation and communications, governor of Taiwan Province, and premier, before the pinnacle of his career in 1993 when he became vice president.
Throughout Lien’s public career, apart from the vice presidency, none of his official positions were baptized by the public at the ballot box. What he relied on was not voters’ support, but his politically fortuitous background. Strictly speaking, he was not really elected vice president by the public either. The vote at that time was to elect former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). Lien was just an ornamental addition who happened to benefit from the vote.
Lien has been a personage in two elite election battles, and both times Taiwanese have said “no” to him.
The first time was in the 2000 presidential election. Lien stood with the full momentum of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) behind him, representing elite family backgrounds and big business. Not only did he lose to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), he also came in behind former KMT colleague James Soong (宋楚瑜).
In 2004, Lien attempted a comeback, and even joined forces with Soong — who had become head of his own People First Party — to fight against their common enemy, Chen. In an apparent act of desperation on the eve of the vote, Lien and his wife both knelt down and kissed the ground, but in the end they could not escape Lien’s perennial losing streak.
What dumbfounded a lot of people was that after losing, Lien could not even show a modicum of basic courtesy and congratulate the winner. At least he could have chosen to remain silent. Instead he chose to scowl at the victor and contest the victory. There was no acknowledgement of losing in the spirit of good sportsmanship.
Lien, with his total lack of good sportsmanship, was given a strikeout by the public and it was his just desert.
However, when Lien lost popularity in Taiwanese political circles, China welcomed him in like some sort of political recyclable and created a joke by treating him as some sort of treasure.
If Beijing wants to find a character — either a comprador or a thug — to transmit their loudspeaker messages in Taiwan, they could at least find someone with an obvious selling point to put on stage and attract buyers. Instead, they choose political degenerates from a castrated and dying political party that cannot even express its viewpoint clearly.
Apart from satisfying nonentities’ ambitions for power, they are just tricking themselves. For Taiwanese who have confidence and hope in the nation’s future, China has no attraction whatsoever.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors and a retired National Hsinchu University of Education associate professor.
Translated by Clare Lear
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