Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Taiwan Trilogy (On Taiwan's Political Parties and the Presidential Elections '08)...台湾三部曲(第二部曲)...

The Taiwan Trilogy continues....

Taiwan has three main political parties. They are:

1)The KMT (Kuomintang)

2) The DPP (Democratic People's Party)

3) The PFP (People's First Party)

Taiwan also has two side parties which are smaller but also wield some influence, one representing the most pro-unification stance and the other the most pro-independence faction. They are:

1) The TSU (Taiwan Solidarity Union)

2) The NP (The New Party)

The KMT is of course originally the KMT government of China who lost to the Communist in the civil war in 1949 and fled to Taiwan.

The DPP meanwhile has its origins from the martial law era in which it was the opposition underground party against the dictatorial KMT party which ruled Taiwan under dictatorship/martial law from 1945 to 1987.

The PFP came about in 2000 when James Soong, its leader, whom was formerly in the KMT was kicked out by the party after disputes with it and formed his own party with his supporters, most of whom were former KMT members.

Now, for the sake of those reading this and unfamiliar with Taiwanese politics, i shall briefly go through each parties guiding philosophy as well as cross-strait policy as well as key politicians in each party, before turning to my arguements on which party i would prefer to see win the Presidential Elections to be held in March 2008.

Pan-Blue Camp ( in Taiwan, this means the parties and people whom support eventual reunification with China once it attains democracy):

The KMT: The KMT had always regarded that it was the sole and only legitimate government of China (including present-day China and Mongolia) and that the PRC Communist government was an illegitimate 'occupying' force based in Beijing since its retreat in 1949 to Taiwan (and outlying islands of Penghu and Kinmen). The KMT party slowly, under now widely known pro-independence figure Lee Teng-Hui, shifted its position in the 90s and in 1992 signed a joint statement with the PRC now known as the 'One-China' policy. This 'One-China' policy states that there is only one China, and more importantly, this one China includes Taiwan. However, both Taiwan and China are free to interpret which government rules over both the Mainland and Taiwan. This presumably means that the PRC would interpret it as the sole government of both mainland China, HK, and Taiwan whilst the KMT would interpret the ROC (Republic of China) to be the sole government over China, HK, and Taiwan.

Now, if that wasn't complicated enough, the KMT, like i said, has since shifted its position and no longer actively claims to be the government of mainland China anymore. Thus it now (though legally, the Constitution of ROC stills claims the government of the ROC to be the sole government of all China and Taiwan) only claims to be the government of the ROC which consists of Taiwan and the outlying islands. It has effectively admitted that it is the Communist

Party which has effective control of China now and is the sole government of the territory the entire world knows as: 'China'.

The KMT's cross-strait policy is that of eventual reunification with China and an adherence to the One-China policy. However, given that it has effectively relinquished claims to the mainland, how they reconcile their claim of only governing Taiwan (ROC) and accepting PRC rule over mainland china whilst at the same time adhering to only accepting One-China is beyond me*rolls eyes* and pretty contradictory...(i mean doesn't it make KMT policy sound more like a 'TWO China' policy, one ROC in Taiwan, one PRC in China, which is completely against the one China policy????)

Presidential Candidate in 2000: Lien Chan 2004: Lien Chan 2008: Ma Ying-Jeo

The PFP: They are really an offshoot of the KMT and they also adhere to the One-China policy as the KMT and their cross-strait policy is also one of eventual reunification. In the

2004 elections they teamed up with the KMT so as not to split the pan-blue vote despite mutual distrust of each other (remember the PFP was formed out of the KMT because they couldn't get along in the first place!) Thus their 2004 'marriage' was a purely political one.

Presidential Candidate in 2004: James Soong as vice-President.

The New Party: They are a minor party whom are the most pro-unification in the entire spectrum of Taiwanese politics. Strong supporters of reunification with China and made up of mostly mainlanders and their descendants.

Pan-Green Camp (in Taiwan, this means those parties and people whom support Taiwanese independence):

The DPP: The DPP has its origins in democratic movements for democracy in Taiwan and was crucial for bringing democracy to Taiwan. They came to power in 2000 and have remained in power as the government of Taiwan since then. The DPP's founding beliefs is that Taiwan is an independent nation and should remain so and is separate from China. The cross-strait policy is that of one of negotiation with China and opposition to the One-China policy as this policy presumes that Taiwan is part of China, whether under ROC or PRC, whilst the DPP maintains that Taiwan is an independent state separate from China.

Presidential Candidate in 2000: Chen Shui-Bian 2004: Chen Shui-Bian 2008: Frank Hsieh

The TSU: A small party made up of staunch pro-independence members whom believe that Taiwan independence is the only way and oppose any reunification with China. The leader is former KMT leader Lee Teng-Hui.

Now for my opinion and arguements...

I personally prefer the DPP the most out of all the politicial parties and hope they win in the March Presidential elections ...now no party is perfect, but i think the DPP represent the most democratic, environmentally-friendly, progressive party out of all the rest. I think Taiwan needs to move with the times and the DPP represent that fresh change of new air and new concepts suitable for the 21st century. The DPP have always maintained that the issue of independence/reunification should be left to a referendum to the people to decide ultimately which way they want to walk towards. Despite their own leaning towards independence, the DPP has never said outright that reunification with China is not a possibility or that Taiwanese independence is the only option that they will entertain. Indeed, President Chen in 2004 said in an interview with the Washington Post that, "We should not exclude independence as one of the options nor should we exclude unification as a possible choice. Similarly, we should not make Taiwan independence the only choice, nor should we make unification the only choice."

I believe the DPP position is the most democratic as opposed to the KMT's policy which is one of adherence to the One-China policy which effectively limits Taiwanese people choice to only one of 'eventual reunification' with China. How democratic is that?

Further, the KMT have blocked bills to purchase arms from America which is essential for the balance of power in the Taiwan Straits giving one excuse after another (eg. arms race, too expensive,etc, blah,blah,blah) and also oppose any referendums which would allow the Taiwanese people to vote either for reunification or against reunification which has consistently been proposed by the DPP. I mean the KMT really compares poorly with the DPP and the above examples have just given me a poor impression of them and makes me feel that they are undemocratic and still have a by-gone era mentality. (lets not forget that this is the party responsible for political murders and incarcerations from the 40s to the 80s in Taiwan!!!)

The KMT's cross-strait policy is also contradictory, as I mentioned, since they admit that the ROC only rules Taiwan but yet insist on the one-China policy (akin to the PRC government)and the two can't be reconciled as this leads to an inevitable two-China policy. Further, the KMT also likes to have high-level well publicised meetings with CCP party leaders which is detrimental to the unity of Taiwan and for me seems like a sell-out of Taiwan...i mean the CCP does not even want to recognise nor talk with the DPP government and here we have the opposition party acting like they are the government of Taiwan holding high-level talks with the Chinese Communist Party government trying to curry favour and win political points which is highly self-serving and selfish and disregards the interest of the Taiwanese people at heart.

The KMT and PFP care more about their own political gains as most indisputably seen by their cooperation in 2004 when they hated each other, i mean how superficial can they get?? And then at the end of 2004 both parties stated that Taiwanese independence was an option now to garner pan-green votes and then did a back-flip in 2005 where they went back to the undemocratic one-China policy of opposition to Taiwanese independence and the sole option of eventual reunification with China.

The KMT and opponents of the DPP will no doubt point to the entire list of DPP faults which i shall list here and go over point by point to explain why these aren't major faults or that the KMT is worse:

The list: 1) The DPP is corrupt and corruption is rampant under the DPP. 2) The DPP handles the economy poorly and the Taiwanese economy is in shambles now. 3) The DPP won 'undemocratically' in the 2004 elections by 'staging' the shooting incident of President Chen.
4) The DPP is a disgrace to the Taiwanese people as they often have to use 'money-diplomacy' to buy the diplomatic relations of the few remaining small countries. Further, the Taiwanese President cannot stop over many countries which is a disgrace to Taiwan and Taiwan cannot access world bodies such as the WHO which is the fault of the DPP.

1) Everyone knows that the KMT were really corrupt during their rule and so corruption is certainly not a monopoly of the DPP, or for that matter, any single government of the world. Now, people nowadays, say that the DPP is far worst than the KMT but where is the proof? In fact, how can we compare? Lets not forget that from 1945 to 1987, the KMT ruled Taiwan under a dictatorship with martial law in place. We will never know the extent of KMT corruption simply cos there were no zealous media back then to expose all the corruption of the KMT or the freedom of political opponents to voice their dissent without being thrown into jail by the KMT unlike now where the Taiwanese media (one of the freest in the world mind you!) are free to expose all and every indiscretion of the DPP and its members and political opponents are allowed to expose DPP corruption without landing themselves in jail.
This is most prominently seen in the First Lady Corruption Scandal where someone exposed the fact that President Chen's wife (whom is paralysed from the waist down due to a politically motivated 'accident' in the 80s (most probably planned by yours truly KMT party) and stuck in a wheelchair)was involved in some Sogo departmental store vouchers scandal and wasn't murdered or bundled off to jail in the middle of the night before her exposure of the scandal. People, even overseas Chinese, like to ridicule Taiwanese politics and Taiwan's democracy but fail to see that the fact so much corruption scandals are exposed doesn't mean that the DPP is somehow unbelievably corrupt and how relatively uncorrupt governments like China, Malaysia, and Singapore are but that the media and Taiwan is truly a democratic society where the media is free to report and the judiciary independent enough to actually prosecute government officials. So next time you hear complaints of the DPP's corruption, just think of the corruption which occurs in places like Malaysia and in Africa but which don't make it to the newspapers or don't end up being prosecuted. Opponents of the DPP should remember what it was like under the KMT and realise that as bad as it is under the DPP, corruption under the KMT (with its lengthy history of corruption) could not have been any better.

2) It is true that the DPP is not handling the economy well but once again its not as bad as some Taiwanese say with recent well-publicised media incidents of people going up to President Chen and vice-Presid. Annette Lu and saying they 'can't live anymore cos of the poor economy' which is really an exaggeration... i mean these people should move to places like Nigeria, Tanzania, or maybe closer to home, like the Philippines or Vietnam, and then really understand what the meaning of 'can't live anymore' or a poor economy really means....but with that said, the DPP could well improve on its economic management skills...though they are more known to be environmentally friendly with their opposition to expanding nuclear plants and nuclear energy which is supported by the business-oriented KMT party..

3) This is the most common criticism of the DPP party saying that the shooting incident in 2004 just before election day was a setup by the DPP to win sympathy votes. I don't believe President Chen would risk his life to do this though it is possible that others in his party did which he cannot be responsible for. Further, the courts have already ruled that the elections were valid and the narrow margin was created only because the arch-rivals of Lien Chan and James Soong teamed up despite their personal and political animity meaning that if they didn't team up and the KMT and the PFP had campaigns separately, the pan-blue vote gain would have been reduced significantly.
And the worst part was the KMT total lack of respect for the democratic system with large demonstrations asking for the President to step down EVEN with the court's final decision that the elections were VALID. Basically, the KMT are sore losers, when they lost, they couldn't admit their defeat with grace, which would have given me a favourable impression of them. Instead, they protested and howled like spoiled children and accused the elections were 'undemocratic' (bcuz they lost!!).

4) You often see those whom dislike Taiwanese independence and the DPP engaged in nonsensical attacks against them. This happens alot in the Taiwanese media, HK media, and obviously the mainland Chinese media which are mostly anti-Taiwanese independence in stance. One common thing is to ridicule the DPP for having to use money to buy diplomatic relations with small nations and how Taiwan is isolated internationally. But hello??, in case these people and media didn't realise, this is not the fault of the DPP. The roots of Taiwan's international isolation started with the KMT and mainland China. Let us not forget that by the time the DPP came to power in 2000, Taiwan had lost most its diplomatic allies already under the KMT, including Japan, America, and other big nations. Further, money diplomacy was an inherited practice learnt from the KMT and not a DPP creation. And China is also to blame for applying pressure internationally in isolating Taiwan and thus the DPP cannot be blamed for Taiwan's international isolation now. Further, It was during KMT rule when Taiwan lost its UN seat in 1975 . But, you still see Chinese/HK/Taiwanese media blaming the DPP for Taiwan's international problems as if they don't realise all these problems stem from KMT days and also China's bully-mongering attitude! The DPP have had to basically deal with the 'crappy situation' 澜摊子left by the KMT.

Alittle update, in the recent Taiwanese legislature elections, the KMT won a majority of the seats and the DPP did unexpectedly badly. I was abit upset as this paves the way and is an indication of a KMT win at the Presidential elections in March 2008.

With a KMT win, it is already expected that all the changes to names will now be reversed and the policy of 'Localization' 本土化 will presumably be reversed slightly as well. Now, under the DPP there was a policy of 'localisation' which meant to create a Taiwanese identity. Thus, there have been name-changes to public institutions and monuments as well as public companies and organisations which is the only correct and 21st Century path to go. For instance, 'China Post' (the national postal system) has been renamed appropriately 'Taiwan Post' , many public companies with China such as China Petroleum has been renamed Taiwan Petroleum. I mean to any foreigner this would only make sense, its confusing to give the name 'China' to everything when you are in Taiwan. Further, passports now have the word 'Taiwan' printed on them as opposed to just 'The Republic of China' which is really confusing for customs at airports overseas whom may assume that the holder is from...well, China. The KMT wants to change the names bck to 'China' betraying their backward thinking mentality (as if we were still living in the cold-war era and Taiwan still represented 'free-China' as opposed to 'red-China'. ) There was a big debate over renaming CKS memorial hall to 'Taiwan Democracy Memorial' and Chiang Kai-Shek airport is now 'Taoyuan Airport'. This all came under DPP rule as i personally think its inappropriate to name such big institutions with the name of any single person. Many now like to talk about 'Desinicisation' 去中国化 which is a word coined by the opposition KMT and Chinese media in HK and China as if its a 'bad word'. They say the DPP is trying to eradicate the roots of Chinese culture from Taiwan and go so far as saying the DPP policy could lead to all traditional festivities such as Chinese New Year being banned, any customs with Chinese origins discouraged,etc which is just plain silly. Localisation and forming a Taiwanese identity does not mean denying Chinese origins. It isn't an either or, both do not have to be mutually exclusive.

This is just like saying developing an 'Aussie' or 'Canadian' culture means denying their anglo-saxon roots and not being able to speak ENGLISH or having christmas celebrations. Or that Chinese-Malaysians, Chinese-Americans, Chinese-Singaporeans, Chinese-Canadians are denying their Chinese roots when they identify with Canadian,etc culture as well. Thus, it is not 'desinification' which is occuring in Taiwan currently but a long overdue formation of a national Taiwanese identity which CAN be mutually compatible with recognising the Chinese roots of much of Taiwan's culture. I watched with interest this talk show in Taiwan last year about the 70th Nanking Massacre anniversary and how the people were all talking about how Taiwan's youth were no longer aware of this atrocity due to the DPP's policy of desiniscisation. The host and the guests were trying to say do we regard this as 'China's history' or 'Our history' as if the DPP were advocating lack of concern for historical issues. I mean, even treating China's history as separate from Taiwan's history does not mean that Taiwanese people cannot sympathise or learn about another country's history. Treating Taiwan as separate from China does not mean one cannot learn about the atrocity of the Nanking Massacre and feel sympathy just like one does not have to be an Israeli (or even a Jew) to feel sad over the Holocaust in Europe.
I mean the pro-KMT people are just using their usual scare-mongering tactics such as saying Taiwan is losing its culture and history under DPP policy of 'localization' and divisive ways to divide the people of Taiwan.

I would just like to end with my conclusion that the KMT and people against Taiwanese independence carry a huge historical baggage. That is that Taiwan must somehow belong to China, that just because Taiwan was part of China a hundred years ago, it must remain so, and that places with Chinese people must remain part of the territory of China. These are all backwards China-centric views which i term 'Chinese Chauvinism' just the kind of sentiments feared across South East Asia from the 50s through to the late 80s, where there was suspicion over the loyalties of the local ethnic Chinese. Adhering to this type of thinking, Singapore would have to also be regarded as part of 'China', an outpost in SEA, which would be clearly an offensive suggestion to any Singaporean or that America and Canada could never have become independent due to long cultural, historical, ties to Great Britain (lets not forget all the arguements used by anti-Taiwanese independence people can also be used against granting Canada or America independence). One must realise that times have changed and arguments along the lines of cultural roots, historical connections can no longer hold weight over any argument on whether a country should remain independent or reunite with the 'motherland'.

And if you've been reading until here, first off, thank you very much for having the patience and taking the time to read my post.
And, If you were wondering whether i was a native Taiwanese 本省人(those without mainland Chinese roots, as opposed to descendants of mainland Chinese whom fled to Taiwan in 1949) then you are dead WRONG!! I am what in Taiwan, one would term a 'mainlander' 外省人 with my grandpa being a KMT soldier from Hunan province, China whom went to Taiwan in 1945 and the family in Taiwan all living in Taipei and in the suburb identified with the highest concentration of 'mainlanders' Da-an district, Taipei. So my family is very 'mainlander' and live not in some rural area in Southern Taiwan but in the very pro-KMT district of Da-an in KMT stronghold Taipei. (quick note: Northern Taiwan incl. cities of Taichung and Taipei are considered pro-KMT whilst Southern Taiwan incl. Kaohsiung and Tainan are considered pro-DPP and opposed to reunification with China)
Thus i should be very pro-KMT and anti-Taiwanese independence in terms of my 'category' but I'm not cos i look at the facts with a progressive 21st Century pro-democracy pro-local identity outlook and not based on the background i belong to.

Post Script: It appears I'm not the only person with a background which does not appear to suit his political views. The great-grandson of Chiang Kai-Shek, whom was raised in Canada and studied in New York, one whom would presumably be very pro-KMT and anti-Taiwanese Independence given his family background (i assumed so myself and held an unfair presumption against him), is surprisingly progressive and open in his thinking and not at all pro-KMT. If anything, he even seems pro-DPP and 'pro-green' in his political views. His blog (in Chinese) can be read here: http://www.yubou.tw/index.html

Final Post of my Taiwan Trilogy coming in the next few days.....stay tuned:)


Dragon888 said...

In principle Taiwan should rightfully remain independent. Simple reason being that they had been 'unofficially' independent for so long! Its crazy to take back a country when so many years have passed since 1949.

Moreover, it is Taiwan who had been planning all along to take back communist mainland with the Allies support right til their ouster from the UN seat in 1971! It is still enshrined in their constitution til the '90s when Lee Teng Hui realised the inevitable and unofficially abandoned the agenda simply because the snake is unable to swallow the mouse that had turned into an elephant!

However, everything in life is conditional. China happened to have awakened from their deep slumber in the '90s, subsequently joined WTO in 2000, opened their markets and have became a much more wealthy and powerful nation. It is because of this fact that they now have the power to demand and coerce if neccessary.

If PRC's GDP and wealth is still the same like the Mao Era with the same old rigid, closed market communist ideologies now without a seat in UN, do you think they have the audacity to make so much noise? No of course, because they know the world would be against them! US and their allies would bombed these communists to shreds, which according to published history is exactly what the Allies had intended to do in the '50s right up til the '60s before Taiwan got kicked out of the UN and replaced by PRC, LOL.

Thank God it didn't happened, else the world would have lost a gold mine to feed them for the next hundred years.

Since China has now woken up with more American and world's interests vested heavily in them, it is only natural for US and most of the world to side with the CCP. Simply because it makes pure economic sense.

Hence if Taiwan is smart enough to take the realist's path, they must realised that the union is an inevitable fact, the goal post has shifted and they should try to negotiate for a peaceful settlement instead of going the independent route which will marginalise Taiwan even further from the rest of the world.

In other words, resistance is futile and any talk about a nation's pride is irrelevant here unless Taiwan is foolish enough to take the onslaught of 700 missiles which is aiming right at the Island now. No matter how much we detest some of China's policies, nothing on this planet earth can stop them right now. The Enlightened ones would choose to ride on top of this neo-communist tiger instead, LOL.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

dragon888: Thanks for your comments. Well, i can see your arguement but i respectfully disagree. I do not think reunion with China is an 'inevitable' conclusion as you put it, if that were the case, countries like South Korea should also be compelled and 'smart' to become part of China and countries like Singapore and Thailand should also be part of China to reap in the full benefits of China's booming economy right now. Further, Taiwan should have simply voted to become part of Japan in the 70s and 80s when Japan's economy dominated Asia..if one were to look from a purely economic perspective, then all Asian nations should have been 'smart enough' to want to become a part of Japan in the 80s..clearly that would not have been a desirable outcome. Economics may well be important but sometimes, dignity and a sense of pride in one's own country despite its cons may be much more important...