Sunday, May 17, 2015

KMTitanic 10: The Ship is Foundering

A bright new day is dawning.
Ruth: So this is the ship they say is unsinkable.
Cal Hockley: It is unsinkable. God himself could not sink this ship.
Twenty-five years I've been watching Taiwan politics. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed them so much.

I went off to Guguan on my bike yesterday planning to ignore the internet. I just wanted to come home to find everything resolved. Instead, it became more of a mess.

Not that I'm disappointed or anything.

The day opened with Apple Daily publishing an interview with President Ma Ying-jeou, who more or less ripped Eric Chu, the KMT Chairman, for not running.
"As party chairman, (Eric Chu) has the responsibility to find the most suitable candidate," Ma told Apple Daily, a tabloid-style newspaper. "If that fails, he himself has decent qualities and should not dodge the responsibility that is his to shoulder."
(Did you catch that? FocusTaiwan, the government's own news source, referred to Apple Daily as a "tabloid-style newspaper.")

Despite pressure from all sides, Chu again denied he was going to run for President.
"The decision not to run has subjected me to more pressure and criticism than if I had decided to run," said Chu, who is widely considered as his party's best chance of beating Tsai Ing-wen,(蔡英文), chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in next year's presidential elections. Chu said the decision not to compete does not mean he is " biding his time or fears defeat," but rather that he is honoring his promise of serving out his four-year term as mayor of New Taipei City, as promised during the local government election campaign last year.

As a KMT chairman, he said, he has been working to revive the party's spirits since its crushing defeat in the local elections last November.

He has also been working for true unity of the party, Chu said at a press conference held at the KMT's headquarters after the closing time for the collection of registration forms for the party's presidential primary.

Noting that some people have been saying that he is refusing to run for president because he is afraid to lose, Chu said if that were the case he would not have run for the chairmanship of the party.

Serving as KMT chairman is "a difficult and underappreciated job," said Chu, 53.

He said that if the KMT wins the 2016 election, the new president will serve concurrently as party chairman, and if the KMT loses, "I certainly will have to step down to take responsibility" for the loss.

He said, however, that if his decision not to compete in the presidential election will cause even more disarray and disunity in the party, he will step down as chairman.
Several sharp people I know have been saying since Chu became Chairman of the KMT months ago that he wouldn't run for President. I have never believed it, assuming that even if he really didn't run, all this kabuki theater would get him on board, eventually. But pressure from all sides has failed. In fact, there are calls already within the KMT for Chu to resign since he failed to provide a meaningful candidate (!).
After Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Friday apologized to supporters while saying he would not be joining the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential primary, some KMT lawmakers reacted angrily, blaming KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), with some calling for Chu’s resignation as chairman if the party ends up with a less-than-satisfactory candidate.
Ah, what a joy it is for me to be comprehensively wrong about Chu. I always thought he would come out. What a joy it is as well to see this acted out in public by KMT officialdom. My wife has been ROFL watching me walking around the house, grinning from ear to ear.

Solidarity has Chu's speech in English here.

This means that the KMT really has no candidate, with the election eight months from now. That leaves:
On Saturday, Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), and Huang Po-shou (黃柏夀), the chief secretary of Dayuan Township in Taoyuan County, were the only KMT hopefuls who collected registration forms for the party's presidential primary.
It's irrelevant who they pick from this bunch: Tsai Ing-wen will steamroller them. I will thoroughly enjoy watching former Vice President of JP Morgan and NSC director Douglas Paal come to Taiwan at election time and do his dog and pony show for... Huang Po-shou, a former township secretary with great ambition. Recall that Chu has already said that the KMT won't be spending money on the Presidential campaign -- whoever runs has to fund it on their own. A friend of mine on FB summed it up nicely:
Imagine if in 2008, knowing they'd lose because of Bush, none of the top Republicans ran for president, and the party was ultimately left with only these 3 primary candidates: former health secretary Michael O. Leavitt, far-right legislator Allen West, and the secretary of the GOP's Kokomo, Indiana chapter. This is exactly what's happening to Taiwan's ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), right now.
Chu is probably saving money for the legislative elections which will take place the same day. But if the KMT goes with one of these inferior candidates, then the legislative election will take a huge hit.

When they lose, Chu will have to step down.

Speculation about Chu is heading in several directions. Chu doesn't want to run because he wants to save himself for 2020 (he'll be 57 then). Chu doesn't want to run because he is gun-shy and out of his depth. Chu went to China and saw the light -- Xi, no politician either and apparently unable to identify where his interests lay, treated him like a mentally defective farmhand who wanted to marry his daughter, instead of a prodigal son come home -- and discovered he is Taiwanese, not Chinese. Chu doesn't want to preside over a presidency married to Ma's cripplingly stupid China policies. Chu doesn't want to run because the KMT will lose both the election and New Taipei City in the by-election, and then Chu will have to resign from the Chairmanship, meaning that he will be left with nothing but memories. Chu doesn't want to run because he really is committed to the people of New Taipei City. Chu doesn't want to run because he never wanted to be Chairman either.

Whatever the reason, Chu doesn't want to run. Even if they somehow draft him, he'll be seen as a reluctant candidate, wounded by repeated denials. Recall that the KMT has another month before it is supposed to announce a candidate.

And there's Hau, running the KMT on a day-to-day basis while Chu does other stuff. Like Chu (a former accounting prof, which also shows how the KMT uses the universities as job programs for mainlanders, one of the ways the KMT uses all the government and quasi-government and industry organizations as job programs for mainlanders), Hau is a mainlander and former professor who had greatness thrust upon him. One has to wonder whether he will have the same reaction as Chu.

And there's Wang Jin-pyng, the Taiwanese Speaker of the Legislature who withdrew from the race on Friday after having his candidacy blocked by the Ma camp and the mainlander core. Recall that Wang is the leader of the Taiwanese KMT, or the "southern KMT", the Taiwanese faction politicians who run the KMT at the local level and which the KMT is entirely dependent on for its local presence. The mainlander core didn't want Wang because he isn't a mainlander -- not a Chinese. Nothing like ethnic chauvinism as a basis for political choices. That's a giant middle finger to the party factions and to Taiwanese who are KMTers, because at the local level Wang is something of a hero in a local-boy-makes-good way. That won't be good for party unity going into the election.

I want to put away a nice bottle of whisky for election day. Any suggestions?

UPDATE: DON'T MISS Solidarity's excellent take on Eric Chu.
UPDATE: New Bloom on the KMT and Chu
UPDATE: Frozen Garlic on the mess
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Anonymous said...

Mike, have you paused to ponder the ramifications for Taiwan democracy if a KMT candidate does not contest the election? It seems this is a real possibility as neither Hung nor Yaung will pass the ruling party's internal nomination threshold. The most delicious constitutional dilemma then remains: Can Tsai take office after "winning" an uncontested presidential race? Perhaps your man Wang will end up running the show in his role as president of the Legislative Yuan for three months until the powers that be sort things out. As the old adage cautions, "Be careful what you wish for."

Anonymous said...

Can you elaborate on "the KMT uses the universities as job programs for mainlanders"?

Brian Castle said...

From the article about Canadian immigration officials being more suspicious about marriages between Chinese and Canadians, “Why Chinese people are singled out I have no idea, and then that they’re training officers to be suspicious of people of lower income and lower education when they get married, I thought that was pretty offensive.” As usual there are some people who are offended by rational reactions to reality. Women vary rarely marry men of lesser means especially when the difference is large. I would be offended if Canadian officials refused to do their jobs just because they found reality to be something other than what they wish it would be.

Michael Turton said...

,As the old adage cautions, "Be careful what you wish for.

I've been more focused on getting the KMT ot have a credible candidate. Because a crushing defeat that causes the KMT to break up might suggest to Beijing it needs a new policy...


Michael Turton said...

"the KMT uses the universities as job programs for mainlanders"

One of these days...

Jenna Cody said...

First, I love how I can basically hear the KMT implosion from my window. BOOM!

My husband's comment: "Well they tried having a candidate in the Taipei mayoral race and that didn't work out so well for them."

Me: "BOOM!"

My thought: Chu doesn't want to run in a race he knows he's going to lose, or at least has a fair chance of losing. He wants to both wait until there are better chances to win AND project the image of a responsible statesman by waiting.

My other thought: since they know they're going to lose, why not run an expendable candidate whose image, which will take a beating, doesn't matter? Lien Chan has a may have heard of him?

Re: businessmen and the shortened work week. **** them. If they can't run a business with workers doing normal, non-crazy hours, they deserve to fail. They are bad businesspeople if they can't make a profit without working people literally to death. Let them fail.

Also, note that the new law would cap work weeks at 40 hours but allow more overtime. That's hardly a win.

Marc said...

Would a possible alternative scenario be that Wang Jin-pyng decides to run as an independent?

Tommy said...

"My thought: Chu doesn't want to run in a race he knows he's going to lose, or at least has a fair chance of losing. He wants to both wait until there are better chances to win AND project the image of a responsible statesman by waiting. "

I would think that too, but it seems to me that if Chu holds out and the KMT loses, whether Chu would have beaten Tsai or not in the race, Chu runs a risk of being labeled as "the one who lost us 2016". He could have done something, but he did nothing...

That is not something you want on your record either.

Anonymous said...

It might be to the DPP's advantage for Chu to run in 2016. He's likely to lose big. What the DPP cannot have is for Chu to lose to Tsai narrowly. That will strengthen his credibility during a 2020 run, where he may well unseat Tsai the second time around. A big Chu defeat in 2016, however, and he might look as hapless as if Frank Hsieh, 16% loser in 2008, ran again for President in 2012.

The following years for Taiwan won't be good no matter who gets elected. Tsai lost by 6% in 2012 and look where she is today; poised to take the presidency. If Chu loses narrowlt next year, it wouldn't be implausible for him to be leading in the polls by 2020.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: If neither Hung nor Yaung pass the threshold, then the KMT will simply draft someone.

Anonymous said...

a political party won't pay for an electoral campaign - is this a first? it sounds totally unprecedented.

Anonymous said...

About work, salaries and pay.

I just realised that the minimum wage has doubled over the last twenty years to match inflation, but other wages have remained pretty much the same.

That would mean that we are making half of what we should if companies were adjusting for inflation along the government's guidelines for minimum wage workers.

What Taiwanese workers are getting, is robbed by their employers.

Anonymous said...

To first Anon., democracy can do just fine even if the KMT implodes / nominates a sub-par candidate. For one thing, anybody can start a new party, as several are doing right now, or run as independents. For another, whose responsibility is it anyway, to keep a political party competitive?

an angry taiwanese said...

I think that since mainlanders realize that they will never win another presidency in Taiwan again, KMT under Chu's leadership will stop being a serious political party and concentrate on using its unaccountable wealth and mafiosi to grab even more wealth and mafiosi.

KMT was born as a triad and will die as a triad.

Anonymous said...

Would Michael Turton care to share his thoughts of limited attack to islands that are not included in either the SF peace treaty or the Taiwan Relations Act?

Do you think their would be US support? Do you think Taiwan could hold the islands, and what do you think that would mean strategically?

John Scott said...

Although the many serious structural problems and and long-term demographic shifts that explain the KMT's current weaknesses are interesting to watch, there may also be some cause for some worry even among people who are happy to see the KMT demise. Let's hope the KMT dies slowly and gradually, and not too fast or soon.

Any resulting large-scale unrest or protest movements(remember when it was fashionable to wear red shirts and hang on Ketagalen Blvd.?) resulting from lop-sided electoral results (or allegations of irregularity, questions of mandate, legitimacy, etc.) could be used by PRC as excuse to ratchet up moves toward annexation.

The Hong Kong and mainland news media (on which the world bases its analysis of Taiwan) has for years successfully established a narrative of Taiwanese politics as unruly, lawless, corrupt, daily brawls in the legislature, etc. Moves to "return society to harmony and stability" would look entirely reasonable to millions around the world.

Brian Castle said...

It wouldn't the KMT hurt for a few unknowns to take a shot at competing for the nomination. They might be surprised at some talent they didn't know they had. And someone who seems unbeatable now may turn out to be very beatable in a few months. I remember the summer of 1991 when Bush the Elder was considered unbeatable and potential Democratic candidates were looking for places to hide. Then this guy Bill Clinton came out of nowhere and won in a landslide. Obama pulled the same trick on Hillary Clinton almost 8 years ago.

Michael Turton said...

Would Michael Turton care to share his thoughts of limited attack to islands that are not included in either the SF peace treaty or the Taiwan Relations Act?

You mean Kinmen and Matsu? Dongsha and Taiping?

I don't know what the US would do in either of those contingencies. I am sure it scares them.


Brian Castle said...

Re Kinmen and Matsu, if an attack occurs while Obama is still president then America probably won't respond. What will be more interesting will be the response of other countries in the region. Will they decide to get tough on their own as Saudi Arabia has recently done? Or will they decide they need to recognize the new hegemon in the region and begin to suck up to China?

If China can't isn't able to present the next president with an accomplished feat of having already annexed Kinmen and/or Matsu, then it will me a much difficult situation for them as the new President will be far more concern with maintaining American power and influence. The reaction could be anything from direct military intervention to working vigorously to cement a new multi-country alliance with real teeth to contain China both economically and militarally.

Anonymous said...

China taking Jinmen and Matsu would basically be like Russia taking Crimea. There'd be sanctions from the international community, but nothing much.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about foundering, but certainly dead in the water. What the officers are up to is anyone's guess.

Seamus said...

21 comments and no whisky suggestions!!!

Got no idea what you like but Glenfarclas 105 is a nice drop that doesn't break the bank. Kind of subtle rather than a flavor bomb - though it's cask strength, so guaranteed not to disappoint on the flavor front. Just mean it's one of those whiskies you need to sit down with and pick apart a bit. Should be a good drop to sip while picking over the carcass of the KMT.

Mike Fagan said...

"Re: businessmen and the shortened work week. **** them. If they can't run a business with workers doing normal, non-crazy hours, they deserve to fail. They are bad businesspeople if they can't make a profit without working people literally to death. Let them fail."

You haven't got a clue what you are talking about, as per fucking usual.

Jerome Besson said...

Why all the fuss over Kinmen and Matsu?
Zhongnanahai can do as it pleases with those still rebel territories. When Zhongnanhai extends the reach of its constitution over those territories, the international community will not bat an eyelid. Why? Those are CHINESE TERRITORY, which Taiwan-Penghu is not part of. You do not have to believe me. Ask AIT.

Jerome Besson said...

“KMTitanic: Captain Ma's scuttling the ship” would be the more appropriate header. And not a shred of cynicism here, mind you. Already commented under M. Turton’s Apr. 15 “BREAKING: Wang Out”

Incidentally, the current situation on the island is like witnessing the run-up to the quietest, most peaceful second Meiji Restoration.
CHAPTER 1 - Demise of the Taihoku Shogunate

Brian Castle said...

"... and discovered he is Taiwanese" I don't think this is really it, but if the theory is correct that he has discovered he is Taiwanese, then having him run would be a good thing for Taiwan. When both parties are moving the same direction that's the direction the country is going to go. He'll be pulling the KMT to the right (in the right=nationalist (the nation being Taiwan) sense).

Michael Turton said...

It's only a theory, Brian. I think Chu is a product of his class and background, struggling to reform the KMT but wont be able to, because his identity doesn't include the things that have to be done. The KMT is in the half-measure phase right now. The next Chair will find it in a far worse position.


Anonymous said...

As per fucking usual, I haven't got a clue either, since Jenna's comment makes a lot of sense to me.

Anonymous said...

How about a bottle of Kavalan Soloist? Or those Johnnie Walkers with laser-etched Formosan scenery?

Michael Turton said...

As per fucking usual, I haven't got a clue either, since Jenna's comment makes a lot of sense to me.

Haha. Fun to hear all the comments. I don't know if an expendable candidate is the answer, since the legislature might be in play... just thankful I'm not in Chu's shoes.


Mike Fagan said...

"As per fucking usual, I haven't got a clue either..."

I am not at all surprised by that.

MJ Klein said...

Glendronach - the best Scotch i've ever had, and you can get it at A-mart!