In the past few weeks, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) mayoral candidate for Taipei Chiang Wan-an’s (蔣萬安) ancestry has come under attack by several pundits.
Since Chiang threw his hat in the ring, he has been purporting himself as the descendant of the Chiang family to garner support from pan-blue voters.
In January, he said that his name “Wan-an” was given to him by his grandfather — former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) — as a reminder of his ancestral roots. On more than one occasion, he stated that he has always been proud of being a Chiang, and that he would follow in his ancestors’ — Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo — footsteps to make Taiwan a better place. He further underscored this lineage by placing an artistic image of himself with Chiang Ching-kuo, side-by-side, on his mayoral campaign flags.
However, not everyone bought into Chiang Wan-an’s account. On a TV show last week, media personality Clara Chou (周玉蔻) accused former KMT vice chairman John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) — Chiang Wan-an’s father — of falsifying his lineage, speculating that major general Guo Libo (郭禮伯), not Chiang Ching-kuo, was John Chiang’s biological father.
In his new book Inside or Outside the Door, media personality and former chairman of pro-China media outlet Want Daily Huang Ching-Lung (黃清龍) agreed with Chou’s theory, but added that DNA testing would be the most accurate way to find out the truth. He also said that his book had nothing to do with the mayoral campaign.
In response, Chiang Wan-an evaded the allegations, saying that his vision and policies for Taipei, not his ancestry, should be the focus of the campaign.
However, Chiang Wan-an’s conduct so far has shown that he has failed to understand what the public seeks in a suitable candidate. Furthermore, he has treated the Chiang surname like a buffet dinner: taking what he needs from the name while evading the baggage that comes with it.
In fact, a candidate’s ancestry has never been of public concern during elections. However, Chiang Wan-an’s erroneous decision to secure “iron votes” — supporters who share feudalistic sentiment for the two former presidents — by underscoring his ancestry, has invited questions and attacks from the pan-green camp and independent voters.
As the recent plagiarism controversy shows, what voters seek in a candidate is honesty and integrity. If Chiang Wan-an had not emphasized his ancestry throughout his campaign, critics and voters would not have cared about who his grandfather was. To make matters worse, his evasion of the issue raised concern that he could be so cunning and manipulative as to deny Guo — his alleged biological grandfather — and exploit the potential benefits of being a Chiang.
In the face of controversy, if Chiang Wan-an hopes for people to vote for him, his response should have been that people have no choice in who their ancestors are, and that he is the one running for mayor. He should have used his experience in the US and his accomplishments as a legislator to support his credentials for the role.
Chiang Wan-an should bear in mind that a politically laden name is both a burden and a blessing. He should be more aware that the public is seeking a leader with a vision and robust polices, rather than a descendant of a prestigious political dynasty.
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