Readers of yesterday's newspaper may have seen two separate stories with an interesting, though unremarked upon link. In one, former president Lee Teng-hui (
The link between these stories lies in the history of the Bamboo Union. The gang was formed in the mid-1950s in Yonghe by the disaffected kids of Mainlander parents who banded together to stop themselves getting beaten up by Hoklo hooligans. Perhaps because so many of its members came from military families, the gang was far better organized and more prepared to use violence than its Hoklo rivals, and had soon used its muscle to become a major force in Taipei.
The gang prospered in an atmosphere where the authorities were far more concerned with political dissidence than with basic law and order issues, but it was in 1980 that the Bamboo Union really made it to the big time. In the late 1970s, the democracy movement and tangwai activism, as exemplified by the Chungli incident in 1977 and the Kaohsiung Incident two years later, had been getting more and more vigorous. In the wake of the Kaohsiung Incident, high-ranking Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials met with Chen Chi-li (
It was a typical "white glove" operation. The government realized it was getting an ugly reputation through its repressive tactics, and so gave the Bamboo Union a degree of impunity in return for being able to use the gang's muscle against the democracy movement. The most notorious result of this was the slaying of the writer Henry Liu (
As Taiwan started to democratize, gang connections became useful to the KMT in a different way. The KMT decided that as it actually had to fight elections, then it might as well load the dice in its favor. So it relied on its gang connections -- indeed still does -- to buy votes. The problem was that the party also had to be seen by the public as doing something about crime and public order. As a result it had the interesting technique of using the gangs when it wanted, and throwing some high level mem-bers in jail when it needed to buff up its law and order credentials.
The gangsters soon learned that rather than simply enjoying the KMT's mercurial protection, they could enjoy more protection by entering politics themselves and availing themselves of the constitutional protection from arrest elected officials enjoyed.
And so we end up with a legislature dominated by a party extensively connected to racketeers, many of whose legislators are racketeers themselves. This should not be a surprise. Corruption and violence have always been the KMT's stock in trade.
If Taiwan had anything like the US' Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, being a member of the KMT could be made a criminal offense. The government would shy away from this because it would face criticism abroad for "anti-democratic" behavior. But the KMT is not a political party as these are generally understood elsewhere; rather it is, as it has always been, an organized crime syndicate masquerading as a political party. And as such there are very real questions about whether, once it looses control of the legislature and some hard-hitting laws can be put on the books, it should be allowed to exist at all.
On April 26, British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly gave a speech on diplomatic strategy at Mansion House in London. He said that if a war broke out in the Taiwan Strait, it would not only become a human tragedy, but destroy global trade and the economy, which is worth US$2.6 trillion. He said that every year, half of the world’s container ships pass through the Taiwan Strait, emphasizing that Taiwan is a crucial point in the global supply chain, particularly its role in providing advanced semiconductors. If China invades Taiwan, it would be
A Beijing-based think tank last week published a poll showing that the majority of Chinese consider “international military intervention in Taiwan” one of the top threats facing China. Arguably, the sole purpose of the poll, which was conducted by the Tsinghua University Center for International Security and Strategy, is to serve as propaganda. A poll conducted in China, where freedom of speech is curtailed, cannot accurately reflect public opinion. Chinese would be reluctant to publicly express their true opinion, especially when it contradicts the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) narrative, as doing so would likely be construed as subversive behavior. RAND
China is demonstrating “growing aggressiveness” through repeated close encounters with US military aircraft and vessels, the White House said on Monday. A Chinese warship crossed 137m in front of a US destroyer in the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, and a Chinese jet crossed the path of a US reconnaissance plane as it was flying through international airspace on May 26. “The concern with these unsafe and unprofessional intercepts ... [is that] they can lead to misunderstandings, they can lead to miscalculations,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. Although China appeared to be expressing its displeasure with the US for
There is a worrisome trend toward militarization I observe in Taiwanese society, that I do not think has been commented on. The trend is broadly supported not only by the Taiwanese public and politicians, but by virtually every foreign commentator, politician and expert on Taiwan affairs. I see a vast militarization taking place in Taiwan, with all the negatives that can come with that. This can be seen not least in this newspaper, the Taipei Times, in which military acquisitions, preparedness and the acute danger of an imminent full-scale attack by China are splashed across page one and beyond in