Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), tasked with reforming the party and returning it to the viable political force that it once was, is faced with a Gordian knot. The complexities of the job ahead go beyond appealing to a younger generation of voters.
Chiang might have to decide between jettisoning much of what the party originally stood for and preparing it for a return to the Presidential Office, or doubling down on its founding purpose and representing what is increasingly, in the current state of Taiwanese politics, a minority view.
The KMT, as the founding party and self-proclaimed champion of the Republic of China (ROC), held sway over the nation for decades, initially under martial law as an uncontested authoritarian regime, and then as the architect of the nation’s economic development and — albeit forced by a grassroots pro-democracy movement — democratization.
It has not fared well in the post-democratic period, with the exception of its landslide victory in 2008 that was, at least partially, attributable to the perception among the electorate that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had become corrupt.
When the KMT had control over the curriculum, media, judiciary and parameters of public discourse, the ROC ideology was sustainable. This is less true after the DPP has had the chance to partially dismantle the KMT’s old party-state apparatus, amend parts of the curriculum and influence public discourse.
Another important trend has been the “natural independence” phenomenon, caused by a generation that has an increasingly higher proportion of people who identify as Taiwanese, not Chinese. A recent survey found that 83 percent identify as Taiwanese, while only 5 percent identify as Chinese.
On Tuesday last week, Chiang perfectly summarized the complexity of the situation, saying: “I was born and raised in Taiwan. I am Taiwanese… From the perspective of blood origin, culture and history, I am also Chinese... On the basis of the ROC Constitution, I am an ROC national.”
He added that the Constitution defined the territory of the ROC — including China — and that the model, short of constitutional amendments, would remain unchanged.
In doing so, he has wedded himself and the party to a vision of the ROC, as encapsulated in the Constitution, which is wildly at odds with objective fact and reality.
If he could abandon this conception and follow a more realistic vision for the nation, appealing more effectively to the majority view of the electorate and to the younger generation, he might stand more of a chance of returning the party to the Presidential Office.
To complicate matters, Chiang must be mindful of representing the party’s young members, many of whom did not vote for him in the March 7 chairperson by-election. His rival, former Taipei mayor and KMT vice chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), did slightly better among those younger than 40. Chiang enjoyed far more support among 60 to 69-year-olds — garnering more than 40 percent, compared with less than 10 percent for Hau.
Another problem is that some young KMT members have views that differ from those of the wider electorate. Some have said that the KMT should return to the concept of the ROC safeguarding a “Free China.”
Concerned that the party has drifted away from being a defender of democracy and become too close to the Chinese Communist Party, they want the KMT to return to this vision and to articulate it more effectively.
The question is, can Chiang bring these contradicting trends — stronger identification with Taiwan and a newly reinforced affiliation to the ROC and KMT of the past — under one tent?
Since COVID-19 broke out in Taiwan, there has been a fair amount of news regarding discrimination and “witch hunts” against medical personnel, people under self-quarantine and other targets, such as the students of a school where an infection was discovered. Quarantine breakers are almost certainly on the loose and it is only natural for people to be vigilant. One in Chiayi was found by accident at a traffic stop because his helmet was not fastened. However, those who follow the rules by quarantining themselves should be encouraged to keep up the good work in a difficult situation, instead of being
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator-at-large Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) has said that there is a huge difference between Chinese military aircraft circling Taiwan along the edges of its airspace and invading Taiwan’s airspace. He also said that whether it is US or Chinese aircraft flying along or encircling Taiwan’s airspace, there is no legal basis to say that such actions imply a clear provocation of Taiwan, and asked the Ministry of National Defense not to mislead the public. People who hear this might think that it is not a very Taiwanese thing to say. US military activity in the vicinity of Taiwan
As the nation welcomes home Taiwanese who had been stranded in China’s Hubei Province — arguably one of the most dangerous places on Earth since the novel coronavirus outbreak began in its capital, Wuhan, late last year — problems surrounding the “quasi-charter flights” that brought them back have been largely overlooked. The media used the term to describe the two flights dispatched by Taiwan’s state-run China Airlines because they do not count as charter flights. Taiwanese wanting to board those flights had to travel — most likely by train — more than 1,000km from Hubei to Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Burger King Taiwan on Wednesday last week posted an update on Facebook advertising a new “Wuhan pneumonia” (武漢肺炎) home delivery meal, catering to customers hankering for a Whopper, but who wished to avoid visiting one of its outlets. “Wuhan pneumonia” is the term commonly used in Taiwan to describe COVID-19. Beijing has been waging an extensive propaganda campaign against the use of the words “Wuhan” or “China” in reference to the novel coronavirus, calling it racist and discriminatory. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have claimed that the coronavirus might have originated in the US. The intention is obvious: to distract attention from the Chinese Communist