The KMT is at critical crossroads
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2023.5.31
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has nominated New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) as its candidate for next year’s presidential election. The selection process was replete with controversy, mainly because the KMT has never stipulated a set of protocols for its presidential nominations. Yet, viewed from a historical perspective, the KMT has improved to some extent.
There are two fundamental differences between the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP):
First, the DPP believes that the Republic of China on Taiwan is a sovereign country with independent autonomy, meaning that Taiwan and China are two different entities.
The KMT, on the other hand, believes that everything concerning cross-strait relations should be based on the so-called “1992 consensus,” adhering to the principle of “one China with different interpretations.”
Second, the DPP has insisted on democracy and freedom, whereas the KMT has argued for unification, and rarely talked about democracy or freedom. Hou has somewhat diverged from the KMT line on those issues — at least for now. It is very likely that he will change his stance again.
Hou has been evading questions about the “1992 consensus,” which points to differences not only between the KMT and the DPP, but also between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Hou is aware of this and therefore he sees no need to talk about it.
Moreover, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in 2019 said that China would implement the “one country, two systems” arrangement in Taiwan under Beijing’s “one China” principle. If Hou opposes the arrangement, he would be opposing the “one China” principle. As a result, he never says things in a straightforward way.
Similarly, Hou has said that he refuses to be used as a pawn by a superpower, but he again dares not say that China is also a superpower.
Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the DPP’s presidential candidate, has said that democracy and freedom are in his party’s DNA.
Hou also said the same thing, claiming that democracy and freedom are in the KMT’s DNA.
The DPP has since its founding adhered to democracy as its code of conduct, hence the party’s name. On the contrary, the KMT has been a Leninist party since its conception; it has shown some democratic qualities only because it was passively included in Taiwan’s democratic elections.
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), for example, was instrumental in establishing a democratic model in Taiwan, but was subsequently expelled from the KMT. This shows that the KMT was forced to participate in democratic politics, but democracy is definitely not in its DNA.
As a presidential candidate, Hou has not yet proposed any clear agenda and it is clear that he lacks a holistic vision to deal with the current situation. Neither is he capable of governing the country.
Yet, compared with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), Hou is still regarded as the KMT’s greatest hope.
When Gou was competing with Hou for the party’s nomination, he kept repeating the tired old KMT cliches, even though he was not a party member. He repeatedly talked about “one China with different interpretations,” accused the DPP of interfering with his procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and said that the government would look after children under the age of six, if he is elected. He even promised to undo President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) pension reforms.
On the issue of war and peace, Gou continued to spread his fantasies about the CCP, falsely believing that as long as he is president, China would not harass Taiwan. It was as if Gou considered himself the head of the CCP’s Central Military Commission.
Gou’s remarks were all about “peace, prosperity and integrity,” leaving out national sovereignty, democracy and freedom. This has several implications:
First, peace without sovereignty means that a dictator would be in charge of everything and nobody would express a different view.
Second, Gou suggested that everyone could prosper just like he did, but is that possible?
Third, integrity is already difficult to achieve even in a democratic system; naturally, it would be even harder to keep it without democracy.
Gou notoriously said that democracy cannot put food on the table. In that case, would he abandon democracy altogether if he became president?
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT has yet to congratulate Hou on his nomination.
Ma clearly has a different take on this issue: that the nomination of Hou means that the KMT’s local factions are gaining the upper hand. The heads of cities and counties governed by the KMT belong to the party’s local factions, and most of them support Hou.
Obviously, the power of the KMT’s waishengren (外省人, people who fled from China with the KMT after 1949, and their descendants) elites has been declining.
This is an irreversible development of history. Would Gou have been able to stop such a historical trend?
Paul Lin is a media commentator.
Translated by Emma Liu