Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members are to choose a new chairman on Saturday. The winner, be it former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), a two-time KMT vice chairman, or KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), is expected to implement an ambitious reform package to modernize the party.
Chiang is younger than Hau and seems a better fit to reinvigorate the party. He has listed five approaches that he said would help him bring in new ideas to the KMT: introducing a flatter organizational structure, leveraging the Internet to communicate ideas, digitizing services, decentralizing party operations and engaging more with the international community.
These are the best ways to bring the KMT into the 21st century, which would appeal to the younger generation, and allow more diverse and fresh ideas to inform party decisionmaking, he said.
The guiding principle behind his vision is to cultivate a new generation of talent within the party, which would be nominated in elections, and be involved in policy research and development, Chiang said.
These are sound proposals, but they are essentially organizational in nature. While they allow for the possibility of ideological adjustments in the party’s stance, they promise nothing for a change in the party’s platform.
This raises the question of whether Chiang is the right person to steer the party into new waters, or whether he would retain its entrenched ideology.
Despite the clear trend of Republic of China (ROC) citizens increasingly identifying as Taiwanese, not Chinese — as shown last month by a Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation poll, which put the figure at almost 85 percent — Chiang rejected out of hand changing the KMT’s name or removing the word “Chinese” from it, saying that he would rather focus on substantial reform than superficial name changes.
That was pure obfuscation. Now is the perfect time for such a change and it would signal the KMT’s commitment to deep transformational reform, and would not preclude other organizational or ideological changes.
Another indication that Chiang remains wed to the party-state ideology of the past is a statement he made while campaigning for Saturday’s by-election.
He said that the KMT was defeated in the January elections because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had “stolen the ROC ancestral tablet,” as if the ROC belonged to the KMT.
Perhaps Chiang is unaware of the nature of democratic elections. The ROC is the official name of the nation and voters handed the governance of the nation to the winning party. It is not the exclusive property of the KMT and the party should stop behaving as if it were.
Even if Chiang could argue that the DPP would like to see the end of the ROC, he cannot coherently argue that the KMT has not been embarrassed by the ROC’s existence — such as when Chinese dignitaries visit — or that the party is not implicitly planning for its demise should the ROC eventually be annexed by China.
The DPP is clear about its preference for independence, and yet sacrifices the purity of that message due to external forces and because it was elected to govern a nation named the ROC, in accordance with the ROC Constitution.
The KMT equates itself to the ROC and believes that changing the Constitution requires the permission and input of a foreign power. It is the KMT that needs to change.
If Chiang wants to convince people — not just party members, but the wider electorate — that he is the person to lead party reform, he needs to distance himself from the old party-state mentality instead of offering mere organizational changes.
China took advantage of the vacuum left behind when US carriers stayed out of the western Pacific Ocean due to COVID-19 outbreaks on several US Navy warships. The Chinese government is solidifying its hold on artificial islands in the South China Sea by moving in missiles and surveillance equipment, and formalizing its occupation by creating two municipal districts in the region under Hainan Island’s Sansha — Xisha District on Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島) to administer the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) and Nansha District on Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島) to administer the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) —
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