President Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek... the Taipei Times reported:
Although they were sitting just an aisle away, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) were worlds apart as they attended an event at the Presidential Office in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). TV footage showed Lee being welcomed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) at the auditorium before being escorted to his seat next to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Many guests came over to greet Lee and shook hands.The Taipei Times report, which discussed what was said and who was there, unfortunately missed all the fun stuff, but Taiwan News, as usual, put the saccharine falseness of the event into perspective with a hard-hitting editorial that not only identified everything that was missing, but also pointed out that this is just another chapter in the ongoing KMT internal saga of "Where does the Chiang charisma reside?":
The taxpayer financed commemorations for the late KMT leader have included a mountain of "pulp panegyrics" and exhibitions, a music concert, a website (www.cck.org.tw) and an official memorial service topped off by a 11,000 Chinese character essay by President Ma Ying-jeou, who is transparently positioning himself as his mentor's political successor.The younger Chiang ran Daddy's security state during the martial law era. Later he brought Taiwanese into the KMT, but that was at least in part an attempt to establish a political base independent of the mainlander top crust that had supported Chiang Kai-shek. A notorious womanizer, he is also far more warmly remembered in Taiwan than his dictator father, and often gets the credit for the technology-based industrialization of the 1980s.
In his address posted on Friday, Ma lauded the younger Chiang for launching the so-called "10 Major Construction Projects" in the early 1970s, improving the livelihood of the Taiwan people and creating an economic miracle" and "guiding democratic reform and lifting the freeze in cross-strait relations" with the People's Republic of China which is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, which expelled Chiang Kai-shek's KMT regime from the China mainland in 1949.
Ironically, Ma's keynote account is more noteworthy for what it omits than for what it includes.
For example, readers will look in vain for any mention of the younger Chiang's role as the mastermind of the KMT martial law regime's security network in the 1950s and 1960s and his role as the hands-on executor of the "White Terror" purge of alleged "communists," Taiwan independence advocates, liberal dissidents and rivals for power that cost the lives of at least 5,000 mainlanders nd native Taiwanese, nearly 30,000 imprisoned political prisoners and the destruction of tens of thousands of families.
Readers will not see any mention of the massive "externalized" social, environmental, cultural and political costs of Chiang's touted "economic miracle" or the ever-present institutional corruption of the KMT party-state which later surfaced in its possession of over NT$200 billion in "ill-gotten" party assets.
Readers will also find no mention of the decades of struggle by Taiwan citizens for democracy and human rights and the suppression of the 1970s "Tangwai" democratic movement in the wake of the Dec. 10, 1979 "Kaohsiung Incident" engineered by the KMT secret police.
Readers will also hunt in vain for any mention of the Sept. 28, 1986 founding of the Democratic Progressive Party in defiance of martial law and this event's decisive impact on Chiang's correct decision to revoke the useless 38-year-old martial law decree on July 15, 1987.
Ma, as the Taiwan News noted, was transparently positioning himself as the recipient of the Chiang charisma. In the quasi-religious KMT with its Return to Zion theology, this is important -- as I noted several years ago in a long post on charisma and the KMT that is still one of my favorites. I think this quote of New Testament scholar Robert Price is still quite apropo:
"Sometimes the death of the founder of a religious community eventuates in a succession dispute: who has the right to succeed him as pontiff of the faithful? The successor may be entitled to the same degree of authority the founder had, or it may be a delegated, lesser authority, that of a vicar or caretaker. In either case, it is not unusual for conflict to emerge between partisans of the founder's relatives on the one hand, and of his disciples on the other. It is one of the messiest aspects of what Max Weber has called "the routinization of charisma," whereby the followers of a charismatic founder have to do the best they can to hold things together after the death of the leader. He was a tough act to follow, and no one can quite fill his shoes, so no one particular effort to claim to do so passes unchallenged."The Chiang legacy is a tough act to follow, but it appears that Ma will win almost by default -- Lee Teng-hui, Chiang Ching-kuo's vice president, is no longer in the KMT, while James Soong, who often positioned himself as a follower of Chiang Ching-kuo, also split off from the KMT and is now only a political shadow of his former looming self. Legislator John Chiang, the illegitimate son of the former President, is not a major player.
From my perspective the oddity of all this ceremony is that while it appears to be of supreme importance to individuals within the KMT as they jockey for position within the Party, the public does not appear particularly affected by it. In other words, voters appear to be more willing to treat the KMT as just another political party than the KMT itself is -- an important factor in its electoral success.
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