EDITORIAL: KMT reform hits brick wall

In 2014, then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) tried to get the legislature to adopt a trade pact with China. At the time, many Taiwanese feared that, if ratified, the pact would have the effect of irrevocably tying the economy of Taiwan to that of China, allowing an annexation of a thousand dead, without a single blow. no fire is fired.

Ma’s stubbornness – many would say betrayal – not only drove the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to electoral ruin in the 2016 presidential election, but also spawned a popular backlash and political awakening among Taiwanese youth. , the Sunflower movement. Since Ma stepped down as president in 2014, the KMT has struggled to find a role and regain the confidence of the electorate. However, the party’s identity crisis dates further back to Taiwan’s democratization movement.

Former Chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the first Taiwan-born KMT chairman, toppled the party from within. He dismantled the authoritarian apparatus of the KMT party-state and introduced universal suffrage. The group emerged blinking into the sunlight, forced to make their way through a world that had changed beyond recognition. As former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson observed in 1962 of postcolonial Britain: “Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role. The same could be said of the KMT.

Ma’s resignation in 2014 was followed by a brief stint by Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) as interim chairman, before the party elected Eric Chu (朱立倫) mayor of New Taipei City as president. presidency. Chu was manhandled, inheriting the baggage of Ma’s misguided banter with Beijing, and the KMT lost heavily in the 2016 presidential election. Chu was replaced by Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), a hard-core Chinese nationalist and a proponent of “rapid unification” with China.

Hung quickly crashed and burned, and Wu returned as the party chairman. However, a populist insurgency by then-Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) led to his nomination as the party’s candidate in last year’s presidential election. Han conceded a landslide victory for the second term to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party, leading to Wu’s resignation as chairman of the KMT and the election of Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) to the head of the party in March of last year. Since then, Chiang has attempted to reform the party, but has reportedly been thwarted at every step by party extremists.

On Saturday last week, Chu made a comeback as party chairman, beating stiff competition from pro-Beijing school president Sun Yat-sen Chang Ya-chung (張亞 中) and a re-election bid from Chiang.

Although often described as a reformer, during his first term as president in 2015, Chu held a secret, closed-door meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), as did Ma before him and Hung after him. The exception to this rule is Chiang, who was frozen by Beijing and did not receive the usual congratulatory telegram after his election as president. Chu received an immediate congratulatory telegram from Xi on Sunday.

Chu’s flattering response to Xi was even more revealing: Chu blamed the DPP’s “deinization and anti-China policies” for changing the so-called “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait and reiterated his vows: recognize the existence of the mythical “consensus of 1992” and opposing the independence of Taiwan.

Chiang’s attempt to reform the KMT, an authoritarian organization with no trace of democratic DNA in its body, may have been doomed from the start. Under Chu’s leadership, Taiwan can expect more plots and intrigue with Beijing to undermine the elected government. While this may be a boon to the DPP’s electoral prospects, it is bad news for the health of Taiwanese democracy and for the security of the nation.

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About Joshua M. Osborne

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