One year after the Political Parties Act (政黨法) came into being, 90 percent of registered parties have ceased operations. As the number of political parties shrank, some people established the conservative Christian Formosa Republican Association.
Stephen Yates, a US politician concerned with Taiwan’s democracy, denied in a Facebook post on Dec. 10 that he was involved with organizing the group, saying: “I am neither a member nor a cofounder of” the association.
However, “for many years, I have noted to friends that American conservatives lack a natural partner in Taiwan for collaboration on policy and commentary... In that spirit, I have often encouraged friends to consider organizing outside of the political process in a way that would facilitate policy analysis and advocacy based on common principles and values,” he said.
Although the association is a minor group, the phenomenon is significant to Taiwan. The association considers Taiwan a conservative society, but no political party represents that ideology. Its members think that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is left-wing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is a Leninist party, while government transitions have been merely an illusion.
However, the KMT was a complex right-wing and Leninist party under Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), but followed a socialist path under former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). The DPP promoted social policies while in opposition, but after taking power, it quickly befriended big business.
Taiwan’s two major parties have no fixed values and can shift from right to left-wing and back again when they see fit.
The values of the conservatives are based on Protestant ethics: Morals override politics; people should be responsible for themselves and solve their own problems first and only then seek help from family, the community and the government in that order; fundamental human rights are God-given, but people have the choice to strive upward or fall. Conservatives thus advocate limited government, and oppose socialism and communism.
It sounds logical, but the association is naive in raising the idea of “rule by entrepreneurs,” which is fraught with problems. East Asian entrepreneurs, Chinese in particular, rarely introduce new technologies and models to increase profit and then share the profit with their employees. Instead, they tend to increase profit by cutting salaries and reducing expenditure, and then invest in real estate.
They are selfish believers in mercantilism, without the slightest sense of charity or humbleness. Someone who wants to promote “rule by entrepreneurs” should first ask themselves if they are mentally prepared for the consequences. The answer should be no and that is when conservatives need the balance of some left-wing naive idealism and reform fervor.
The long-term debate and competition of values between the left and the right has achieved spectacular accomplishments: democracy, human rights and environment protection.
The coming impact of artificial intelligence is likely to force people into a true left-right standoff. For example, the popular basic income theory could be interpreted as a left-wing social security measure, but it triggers an economic cycle favored by the right. However, capitalists oppose the idea without considering the devastating results to a stagnating economy.
Taiwan’s democracy movement has always been led by lawyers and political scientists. Three presidents over the past two decades went through law school. This makes them rigid and they tend to pay attention to detail. Now might be the time to elect a president from another field.
There will hopefully be a real policy debate between the left and right. This would be the only way to move beyond the trap set by the blue, green and white camps. The white faction’s objective to overtake the blue and the green camps is but an illusion, seemingly devoid of values and a philosophy. They are just another set of opportunists.
HoonTing is a political commentator.
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