Just as the party-state that Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) brought to Taiwan from China ended, the collapse of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is imminent.
The seeds of the KMT’s disintegration were sown in the 1990s, when the election for Taipei mayor was opened up, allowing Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) — who is now chairman of Broadcasting Corp of China — to challenge the KMT nominee, then-Taipei mayor Huang Ta-chou (黃大洲), as a member of the “Chinese” New Party.
The three-way race handed the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) nominee, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the victory.
Most New Party members belonged to an anti-Chinese communist, patriotic alliance. For a brief period, it had a voice in the Taipei area and in the legislature before it became embroiled in scandal.
In the 2000 presidential election, the KMT nominated former premier Lien Chan (連戰), irking former Taiwan provincial governor James Soong (宋楚瑜), who left the party and ran as an independent. This split the vote, and Chen was again gifted victory.
Lien and Soong joined forces in the 2004 presidential election, but were narrowly beaten by Chen. This was followed by two terms of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the KMT and then two terms by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the DPP.
Next year’s vote is to be the eighth since the introduction of direct presidential elections, and yet the KMT has still not transformed itself into a Taiwanese political party, instead allowing itself to drift toward Beijing’s influence, rejecting Chiang’s anti-communist stance.
Jaw’s opposition to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was born of the elitist, colonial mindset of the foreign regime. Soong was originally Lee’s right-hand man, but his ambition and disdain for Lien led to his downfall. Lee’s failure to transform the KMT into a Taiwanese party, and the stumbling progress of democracy in Taiwan in the post-party-state era, was essentially a matter of the conflict between “pro-China” and “pro-Taiwan” ideological stances.
The Republic of China (ROC) exists on Taiwan as a government-in-exile. The KMT has yet to come to terms with the fact that the People’s Republic of China has been China since the ROC lost its seat at the UN. This is why a nation that holds direct presidential elections remains unsure of its status as a country.
This is Chiang’s legacy.
The KMT’s presidential candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), is in a similar situation that Huang and Lien were.
However, his footing is even less sure. Immediately after being nominated, he proved to be not up to the task and plummeted in the polls.
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) is not a KMT member, but is regarded as one and aspires to replace Hou. In the post-Chiang era, a political party lacking strong leadership is sure to collapse.
Taiwan People’s Party Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is benefiting from the pan-blue camp infighting and Gou’s opportunism, but none of this is beneficial to democratic Taiwan.
The local factions and local government councilors, who KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) has called “cowboys and snakes,” were once the KMT’s foot soldiers. Most of them threw in their lot with Soong in the 2000 presidential election.
Hou is neither a cowboy nor a snake, nor is he the whirlwind that was former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the KMT’s candidate in 2020. Gou’s aspiration to replace Hou has struck a fatal blow to the KMT.
The collapse of the KMT is a historical certainty. Bereft of its party-state power base and lacking its anti-communist raison d’etre, it is difficult to see what residual worth it retains.
Lee Min-yung is a poet.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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