When former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) surprised the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) by winning the 2000 presidential election, the KMT decided to turn its back on Taiwan. This was because further democratization spelled the end of the one-party system, and localization the end of further sinicization.
Former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) drove out former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and then, as “elder statesman Lien,” made contact with China, which essentially meant making contact with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He then suited up and went into battle, contesting the 2004 presidential election for the KMT, but again failed to oust the usurper.
Having lost the election, Lien could only continue his contact with Beijing as party chairman, making frequent forays to pay tribute to Beijing on behalf of the KMT. In this way, he was able to trade the ignominy of his defeat for the rapturous welcome he received across the Strait.
When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won in 2008, former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) became, like Lien, an “honorary chairman” of the party. The two honorary chairmen vied with each other, making frequent trips to China to meet senior CCP officials to discuss Taiwan’s future and the withdrawal of the Republic of China (ROC), while Ma looked on, envious of the attention they received.
At the opening of the Ninth Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Cultural Forum in China, Wu emphasized the duties and accomplishments to cross-strait relations of “this generation” (這一代人), mentioning it on three occasions, and saying how they deserve high praise.
By “this generation,” Wu meant the KMT and CCP, and included the latter to court them and bring them into the fold. By specifying this generation, he implied a comparison between former ROC presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), and former Chinese leaders Mao Zedong (毛澤東), Zhou Enlai (周恩來) and other important figures in the CCP’s struggle with the KMT.
The previous generation fought tooth and nail in China, until the two Chiangs fled to Taiwan, from where they continued their struggle against China’s new leaders. That generation is to be shaken off. Is this new generation of Lien and Wu, with former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), going to be the generation that brings down the ROC? That is what Ma is contemplating.
There were no guarantees the KMT would be able to rule a democratic, progressive Taiwan. Politically, the nation is more advanced than China and there was an opportunity for the exiled ROC government to have a new lease on life. However, the current generation of KMT leaders, late-Chiangs-era politicians such as Lien and Wu, and even future honorary chairman Ma, who had previously indulged in anticommunist slogans, do not seem to be thinking like this. They have forsaken the spirit of the two Chiangs and conspired with China to maintain their grip on power, even if only in a proxy capacity.
Figures such as Lien, Wu and Ma should have been the generation that democratized the KMT and built a new Taiwan. They should have looked to their prodemocracy, non-KMT peers in this country, but from the words Wu used to court his peers in the CCP, it appears they remain supporters of the totalitarian era and of the successors in the CCP.
By saying cross-strait relations are not international relations, they have tied themselves to the CCP and can say this without a hint of shame and with a smile on their faces. Never before have there been more shameless politicians. There is nothing worse than seeing this generation of KMT politicians fawning to the Chinese communists.
Lee Min-yung is a poet and political commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper