Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Interview: The new face of unification

As support for unification with China hits rock-bottom, Chang An-le is pushing hard to make it a credible choice for voters. Surprisingly, he’s appealing to a new group of supporters — young people

By Aaron Wytze Wilson  /  Contributing reporter

Chang An-le, second row center, marches with China Unification Promotion Party supporters in March in Greater Tainan.

Photo: Wang Chun-chung

Chang An-le (張安樂) arrives at the front of his offices impeccably dressed in one of his famous white, no-collar dress shirts. He immediately comes over, shakes my hand and apologizes as he has another appointment, and disappears with a retinue of men into a room.

The longer I wait, the more nervous I become — a rational response, perhaps, to a man who has a well-known reputation as a former boss for the Bamboo Union Gang (竹聯幫), a notorious triad. My anxiety is offset, somewhat, by the fact that I’ve come to discuss the China Unification Promotion Party (CUPP, 中華統一促進黨), a party he formed while on the run in China from Taiwanese authorities, a time when he is said to have grown close to high-level Chinese politicians. As I’m led past an oversized and macho statue of the God of War (Guan Gong, 關公) into a large office, I recall Chang’s scathing rhetoric against Sunflower movement supporters, and his bombastic appearance (“You are all fucking offspring of China, but do not deserve to be Chinese.”) at the April 1 counter-protest in support of the government’s unpopular trade pact with China.

In person, though, Chang, who is commonly known as “White Wolf”, is the picture of rational and contemplative civility. Since taking on the new and intriguing role as the savior of the Republic of China (ROC) from democratic Taiwan, he has been attracting a group of unexpected supporters — young voters.

TALKING POINTS

Chang echoes the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) unification rhetoric when asked about his plans for the nine-in-one elections on Nov. 29. He says his first task is to turn the party’s slogan “one country, two systems is mutual respect, peaceful reunification is sharing prosperity” into palpable policies to attract new voters.

“The only reason people are afraid of unification is because they don’t understand it. If you explain to them that unification brings stability, prosperity and dignity, than they can accept it,” Chang says.

The CUPP promotes immediate talks for Taiwan and China to unify under a one-country, two-systems framework. Chang’s party is actively promoting Taiwan’s historical namesake as the ROC, and cultural connections with China in order to push his party’s perspective that unification is a historical eventuality.

But Chang may already be too late to make his mark. Support for both eventual and immediate unification has continued to plummet to rock-bottom levels among the Taiwanese public. His proposal appears more pie in the sky, than a surefire vote grabber in this month’s nine-in-one elections.

Chang’s strategy has already borne fruit, attracting a handful of young recruits who subscribe to a doomsday narrative that Taiwan is sliding towards economic and political decline. Much like Chang — speaking almost word for word — these young supporters say Taiwanese are in “denial” of their Chinese roots.

But it’s often unclear what they mean by Chinese roots. Like many pro-China politicians, they subscribe to a positive view of Chinese cultural history that for them Taiwan is unambiguously apart of. But the danger of historic-cultural narratives linking Taiwan and China is their propensity for neglecting Taiwanese the freedom of choice in deciding their future.

This leads to all manner of blanket statements about Taiwan’s undeniable connection to China in order to avoid inconvenient truths about Taiwan carving out its own path to democracy.

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