Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The KMT Rules

I didn't know that if you water rattan, it grows.

James Hilton remarks in Lost Horizon that the Chinese manage to combine official rigidity with unofficial flexibility. I got a dose of that this morning, when I presented my standing ticket and asked if there was a seat on the train, which there always is.

The ticket seller, an older man with one of those flat, sincere faces, tapped a stubby finger on a notice posted on the window. "Can't make changes within one hour of the train leaving." 

I made a few tart comments that cast aspersions on the ancestry and good behavior of the idiots who thought up that rule. 

"Ok, ok. It's no problem," he relented. "I'll give you a seat." I thanked him profusely and soon I was the proud owner of seat 23, car 6, for the next two hours. "But don't do it again," he warned. "Rules are rules."

I was thinking about this in the context of Frozen Garlic's excellent post on Hung Hsiu-chu winning the primary. He remarked:
In retrospect, this battle was a victory for front room politics. All the people who thought that the game in the front room was meaningless and that the real decision would be hashed out in the smoke-filled back room were rudely surprised. I’m convinced that if they could do it again, Wang and Wu would have simply registered for the primary. Hopefully this year’s experience will convince aspirants in future races to jump in and participate in the regular procedures rather than hoping for an old-style coronation. If you want the candidate’s sash, you need to seek it openly and aggressively. (I wonder if the Sunflower students are happy at this victory over black box politics! J)
In fact, KMT Chairman Eric Chu had been battling for real rules in the primary process that had actual teeth, rather than backroom deals. Speaker of the Legislature Wang has been making running-if-my-party-needs-me noises, so I think there are still plenty of people still not convinced that backroom deals are dead. But what's interesting is that Wang and Wu didn't run because they figured, as always before, the KMT bigwigs would arrange events behind the scenes. The purpose of rules is to shaft lesser beings, not to apply to oneself...

The excellent writer Anon at Thinking-Taiwan reviews the Hung candidacy... he noted:
If such protest movements are an illegal and undesirable way to express public opinion, how about enacting change through the lead opposition party? That’s no good, either; Hung despises the DPP. She called it a troublemaker using populist tricks that will destroy the foundation for peace, close off the country, incite social hatred, and lead the people into destitution. A common trope of hers is that popular protests against KMT prerogatives are not manifestations of the will of the public; instead they are incited by the DPP and its ilk. For example, when asked about the high school history curriculum controversy yesterday, she said, “Don’t use the pure hearts of students to manufacture conflict.” 
Anon reviewed her positions and came to the same conclusion I did the other day: she's totally out of touch with the mainstream in most of her positions. Yesterday she remarked that Taiwan independence was unconstitutional. She then went on to describe the problem of Taiwan's people:
Hung said that what worries Taiwanese is the prospect of unification taking place on China’s terms, because China wishes to apply its “one country, two systems” formula in the unification of Taiwan, while Taiwan wants to see a unified China characterized by freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Nope. What worries Taiwanese is annexation to China, period. Fullstop.

Even Ma, who prior to 2008 had taken the exact same position that Beijing did in saying that both sides of the strait should determine the future of Taiwan, shifted to the position that only Taiwan's people could determine its future. He reiterated that last year (WantWant finds three instances of that since Nov of 2008). Hung in fact is to the right of Ma's public statements (but note that Ma also paired that with the ROC Constitution in his Jun 2014 statement). Ma was able to grit his teeth and urk out that he was Taiwanese before each election and even leave Taipei for a "long stay" among hoi polloi outside Taipei. I'm very curious to see how Hung will handle that. Her comments about how the KMT has been forced to be quiet about its core beliefs (ThinkingTaiwan)...
Over these past years, we have lived as if we are inside the framework established by our opponents. When it comes to basic principles about the position of our country, and the core ideals of our party, we have fearfully forfeited the right to speak
.... suggest that she will go down with the ship, guns proudly spitting "I'm Chinese!" defiance in all directions. Solidarity had a good laugh on Twitter at her shock at being thought of Ma Ying-jeou v2.0.

Solidarity pointed me to a Storm media piece on early polls. TVBS offered a poll that showed Hung over the DPP's Tsai by 3. The NCCU prediction market responded with a poll showing Tsai over Hung 50-29, with Tsai over Hung/Soong 44-22-21. Soong hurts them equally apparently. So concerned is the KMT over her candidacy that the legislative KMTers derailed constitutional negotiations by attempting to have the legislative and presidential separated as part of the deal.

I warned on this each time I mention Hung: it ain't over yet. She still has to pass the Congress on Jul 19th. But nothing suggests that the July Congress will revoke this process and pick a candidate the old way.

Anon at Thinking-Taiwan noted that she's a regression to the mid-1990s KMT. I think to understand how the backroom dealers were content with Hung and what this "regression" context is, we need to return to the 1990s. I wrote on this before:
In fact, in January of 1988, when Chiang Ching-kuo died and Lee ascended to the Presidency, a hardline faction of mainlander officers threatened a coup. The intervention of James Soong, who mediated the crisis, enabled Lee to retain power. The early years of Lee's presidency were thus overshadowed by the conflict between Hau, point man for this faction (the "non-mainstream faction"), and Lee representing the Party Machine and the mainstream KMT factions, over the direction of the KMT, and the shape of the government. Lee moved Hau out of his position as Chief of the General Staff, into the post of Minister of Defense, and finally to the position of Premier in May of 1990. Hau was appointed to that position because of the continuing threat of hardliners who wanted to run Hau as an alternative Presidential candidate in the March 1990 election, and because the previous premier, Lee Huan, had sided with the hardline mainlanders against Lee Teng-hui (he was a close associate of Chiang Ching-kuo). In fact Hau would eventually run as the Veep on an alternative ticket with Lin Yang-kang in 1996.
This struggle between the more-Chinese-than-China, more-KMT-than-the-KMT faction led by Hau and the mainstream KMT led by Lee Teng-hui has now played out to its last bitter, pathetic end in the KMT: the non-mainstream faction has won the war and iced all mainstream candidates like Wang and even Chu (I suspect), but at the cost of the party itself. If there aren't major changes, and soon, their candidate, like the ancient impersonator of the Meso-American god Xipe Toltec, will be paraded around the nation like royalty for a year before being flayed alive.
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StefanMuc said...

I'm hopeful that might turn out to be a good thing - not just for Taiwan, but for the KMT, too. Before the Ma presidency the KMT was able to claim to be the party who could fix the economy - having actually failed to deliver on that the claim can now be laid to rest. Similarly with Hung - there are still people in the KMT who believe the old style party can win. Her defeat would place reformers in a much better position than the defeat of a mainstream candidate.

an angry taiwanese said...

Frozen Garlic blogged Even now when I have a far larger base of readers, that article is still the most viewed post I have published on this blog. You can imagine my horror. I had finally written something that seemed to make an impact, and it was being used as a partisan attack piece! (

Even a scholar with a foreign citizenship such as Garlic can not but feel the fear when he thinks that he might be 'noticed and picked up' by the Chinese Nationalist Party and his next grant application is in jeopardy. Imagine the TERROR that we no-way-out Taiwanese have suffered from those Chinese terrorists?

KMT oppression is still an ongoing process! High school students will swarm the streets to protest against KMT's brain washing curriculum. Our fight for our freedom and honesty will also be an ongoing process.

Anonymous said...

@ an angry taiwanese

I don't think frozen garlic is terrified that the KMT is going to retaliate against him. He's concerned because his goal with his blog is to examine Taiwanese elections from a neutral standpoint. He wants to create a space where both greens and blues can go and learn something.

In the quote you cite above, he is pointing out how ironic it is that the article he's most famous for, is now something that is being used in a partisan way.

Jerome Besson said...

Paul Lin nails it down:
. . .
「當她把台灣的民主視為「民粹」,提出「爭取十三億民心」(實際上是共產黨黨心)而絲毫沒有顧及兩千三百萬台灣人民時,請問,她選的是中華人民共和國主席,還是中華民國總統?」. . . 「而最曖昧的角色卻是朱立倫,以他與美國的特殊關係,卻出現「兩岸同屬一中」的言論,並根據他的制度推出「一中同表」的洪秀柱出選總統,把國民黨徹底「中國化」,自絕於台灣,自己卻一無所求。」. . . 自由廣場》〈林保華專欄〉訓導主任的中國路- 自由電子報自由 … (

My comment : KMT wants out of Taiwan. Off Taiwan, back to China.

Anonymous said...

For the benefit for readers, my translation of the two quoted sentences from Paul Lin's article in Liberty Times (quoted by Jerome Besson above):

「Given that she [Hung] views Taiwan's democracy as "PopulaNazi[*]" and talks about "fighting for the acceptance of the hearts of 1.3 billion [Chinese] people" (which in reality means the heart of the CCP) without any regard to the 2.3 million Taiwanese people, one must ask: Is she bidding for the Chairperson of PRC, or for the ROC President?」 ... 「The most ambiguous role one sees in all the happenings falls on that of Eric Chu who, in spite of his special relationship with the US, holds up the view of "Both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait belongs to the same one China" and accordingly paves a path for Hung's presidential bid; in so doing, he totally deems KMT "Chinese-Only" and cuts himself off Taiwan's society. And yet, Chu [seemingly] does not wish for anything for himself in all this.」

*The term 「民粹」 was originally supposed to be a translation for the English word "populism". But the way 「民粹」 has been used, in particular, by KMT's propaganda machines, has always given the term an underlying Nazi-shade, with the visual/semantic link of the Han character 「粹」 (Nazi being 「納粹」). Thus, I translate 「民粹」 into "PopulaNazi" to render the proper meaning within the context. 「民粹」 as used by KMT's propaganda has never meant "populism", which in proper way should be translated as 「取悅主義」 in Chinese.

Anonymous said...

This feels all wrong. Is the Hung nomination a Trojan Horse?

Anonymous said...

Register is important in translation, just as it is for KMT primaries! May I propose "volkisch" as a close equivalent of 民粹 ? That would preserve the fascist overtones without going over the top.

Michael Turton said...

I've used volkish before, it's more correct than you know. See Dikotter on Chinese construction of race.

an angry taiwanese said...

to examine Taiwanese elections from a neutral standpoint
once upon a time when some taiwanese scholars, doctors, artists did similar things with spoken words, they were killed by the Chinese Nationalists, after first being tortured and mutilated.

If anyone still believes that the Chinese Nationalists welcomes a neutral criticism, they are like those zoologists who are puzzled why crocodiles refuse a high fiber balanced meal.