DPP needs to eradicate KMT way of thinking

By Joshua Tin 田台仁  / 

Thu, Mar 08, 2018 - Page 8

During the last few years of Japan’s Tokugawa shogunate, before the Meiji Restoration of 1868, there were ambitious figures like Ryoma Sakamoto, Takamori Saigo and Toshimichi Okubo, who were determined to completely overturn the Tokugawa establishment. They recognized that it would be impossible to turn Japan into a modern nation if the existing establishment was preserved.

So, as soon as the Tokugawa regime was forced to give up its power, they set about radically transforming the machinery of government. Their everyday concern was which parts of the old establishment were still in place and how they could be abolished and replaced, rather than merely installing new faces at the top of the Tokugawa establishment.

This allowed Japan to break free of traditional Asian institutions and adopt European ways, rather than only making superficial changes.

Abandoning the Confucian imperial examination system, Japan was transformed into a European and US-style modern civilization.

From a country that could only forge samurai swords, it became one that could make modern machinery and guns. In just 26 years, Japan gained sufficient new strengths to launch the First Sino-Japanese War against China’s Qing Dynasty in 1894.

Even after suffering defeat in World War II, Japan quickly got back on its feet and became the only Asian member of the world’s seven major economies.

In comparison, more than 30 years have passed since the 1986 founding of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). During these three decades, are there any ways in which the DPP can be said to have thoroughly overturned the old establishment?

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) establishment, which has dominated Taiwan for seven decades, remains intact. Frankly speaking, the DPP and its supporters are full of ideas instilled by the KMT. They have failed to go beyond the established KMT-style ways of thinking.

One has to build a new bridge before demolishing an old one, and simply patching up the old bridge will achieve nothing.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, she does not seem to have thought about setting up a new, parallel system that would allow the old KMT government establishment to gradually fade away.

National defense, for example, is still under the control of the Whampoa Military Academy, where the ideology is one of fighting for the Chinese nation rather than for the people and the land. Under such conditions, if no new bridge is built, Taiwan’s so-called defense will be for nothing.

Although the outstanding performance of Aborigines in the military is clear, Aboriginal officers have not been able to get into the core command structure. If a new bridge can be built — one that is dedicated to fighting for the people and the land — ways will be found to make the armed forces more cohesive.

Similarly, with regard to judicial reforms, the minister of justice’s mindset unconsciously concedes to the KMT’s system of legal values. How, then, can judicial reforms proceed?

The same is true of other Cabinet ministries and organs of public power. Since holding on to power is their main concern, their priority under treacherous international conditions is not to offend the powerful countries concerned. This leads to an excessively cautious approach, while opportunities to build new bridges are overlooked.

Building new bridges calls for parallel thinking, but the government is locked in a cycle in which officials call for reform, campaign hard to get elected, get into office, maintain the old system, then call for reform and so on.

Only by setting up a new establishment will it be possible to institute great reforms like those of the Meiji restoration.

Joshua Tin is an economist.

Translated by Julian Clegg