Editorial: KMT gets friendly with communists

Thu, Jan 04, 2001 - Page 8

Those who saw the film Sliding Doors will remember that the movie had two stories, the different story lines depending on whether the heroine caught a train or accidentally just missed it. Life, being sequentially linear, usually offers us no chance to find out what would have happened had a different choice been made at a crucial time. Taiwan politics however appears to be doing just that.

A major part of the history of the KMT in the 1990s was the conflict between Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and his aims of localization, of turning the KMT into a Taiwanese party, and conservatives who saw this as a deplorable erosion of the KMT's real mission, to bring about a strong, prosperous reunified China. Lee, of course, sidelined his enemies, starting with the old guard mainlanders in the late 1980s, then the neo-conservative young turks of the New KMT Alliance (新國民黨連線) which split to become the New Party in the early 1990s and finally, the epic split with the mainlander populist James Soong (宋楚瑜) in the later 1990s. As recently as a year ago, one would have thought that the KMT had been indelibly stamped with the characteristics that Lee imposed upon it, that reunificationist dissidents, who left -- or were thrown out of -- the party because of their ideological opposition to Lee, such as Chen Li-an (陳履安) and Lin Yang-kang (林洋港), were voices crying in the political wilderness.

Think again. Chen and Lin are now about to re-enter the party, and in Lin's case not as a despised renegade, now penitent, who ran against his own party in a presidential election, but as a grandee of the party claiming what is rightfully his.

Which is where Sliding Doors come in. For having seen what would happen if Lee trounced his reunificationist enemies, either neutralizing them or pushing them out of the party, we are about to see what would have happened if fate had determined the story go in a different direction, with Lee himself forced out of any active role and his values rather than those of the new KMT Alliance and its sympathizers becoming the "non-mainstream."

Now we see the party beating the reunification drum more strongly than at any time since the days of Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). But with a difference. Chiang was no friend of the communists, ever. But the KMT has worked hard to paint itself as a party seeking reconciliation with its old enemy, having had more interaction with China in the past eight months than in the past 18 years. So enamored is it with its new friends it has even begun to talk like them -- "return to the 1992 consensus" being a shared mantra. It is ironic for those of us who remember the paranoia in martial law days about "united front" tactics -- the communist policy of making friends with everyone who might be useful to you while they remain useful -- to see united front tactics actually resurrected and the KMT being the ones to succumb.

While this playing out in real life of a situation most of us only ever saw as counterfactual, a game of "what if" is bizarre, it is also useful, perhaps even necessary. We cannot help but feel that now the KMT has embraced not only the values but also the strategies of the New Party -- in neglecting its constituency in Taiwan in favor of posing as a cross-strait mediator -- it is heading for the same destiny: utter marginalization as a party of only ethnic appeal. This might be wishful thinking on our part, disliking reunificationism as we do. But if reunificationsim is anything other than a cause of crackpots, if it has some kind of political future among the mainstream of Taiwan political opinion, the KMT's participation in elections in the next couple of years is likely to find this out.