Thursday, January 21, 2016

Yes, Larry Diamond, the KMT is doomed

Hillside in Taichung.
On behalf of the party headquarters, Huang said he respected the Taiwanese people's decision and attributed the loss to a split KMT, adding that the party will speed up its pace of reform to win back the people's hearts. March 19, 2000
At the conference on Sunday longtime East Asian political economy and democracy scholar Larry Diamond asked whether the KMT was going to collapse. I've answered his question below using many points I've made in disparate posts; the most important point is the last... it's a long post, so you'll have to click on READ MORE...

Liu Che-chay, the convenor of the youth alliance Super KMT II, said that KMT members were too old to compete with the Democratic Progressive Party and hoped that a younger person could fill the post of KMT vice-chairman.

Members of Super KMT II, which takes its name from SKII, a kind of cosmetic which claims to help maintain an appearance of youthfulness, vowed to become key reformers in the quest to bring young people back to the KMT. 
Jul 8, 2005
KMT supporters are aging. This TISR poll from a couple of months ago shows the candidate support broken out by age. Just around 30% of the under-39 camp planned to vote for either of the two pro-China candidates, Eric Chu of the KMT, and James Soong of the PFP. That's a group Tsai commands nearly 50% of. But note that KMT supporters are slightly less than half that group -- there's a large segment of young people who want a Blue alternative to the KMT, while the 40-49 bracket, which came of age when Soong was the governor of Taiwan "province", still adores him. Many in that group will likely search for alternatives, though some will return to the KMT.

Moreover, the highest age cohort support for the KMT is the 70 and over group. The Old Soldiers, now in their 70s and 80s, remain the Iron Vote. But they will be dying soon, and there is no one to replace them.

Meanwhile, Taiwan ThinkTank found that only 6.4% of 20-29 year olds and 5.0% of 30-39 year olds voted for Eric Chu. Good bye, KMT!

Like all the Party's problem's the KMT has known for years it has no appeal for the young. Most analyses explain that by pointing to the Taiwanese identity, which is nearly universal among the young. But the problem is deeper than that -- independence has majority support in Taiwan, yet pro-China KMT politicians keep getting elected. Clearly pro-Taiwan people are willing to vote KMT, even at the national level.

Thus, the second problem: there is no career path to the top for young Taiwanese in the KMT. The KMT is not a political party (more on that below) with a robust and reliable structure for getting talent from the bottom to the top. A Taiwanese from Changhua who begins at 20 by knocking on doors for the local KMT candidate can never become Chairman of the KMT and President of Taiwan. At best she can hope to become a legislator or perhaps the County Chief, if she is really lucky. Moreover, local level politics is dirty, and the young are idealistic. With the power of the factions on the wane (see below), there are fewer local structures for nurturing the next generation of KMT politicians at the local level. Finally, the DPP has established dominance over much of Taiwan, leaving fewer choices of location to start a KMT career. All in all, anyone young who asks themselves Can I have a career in the KMT? is going to answer Nope.
Lien Chan (連戰) admitted defeat in the presidential race, saying that together with the party, he would undertake a period of soul-searching after suffering a setback that put an end to nearly 55 years of rule by the KMT...March 19, 2000

"However, the most urgent thing for the time being is to unite our party members and to launch a complete reform," he said, calling on the party leadership to remain in place to lead the reform process." March 20, 2000

The Taiwan identity is creating two problems for the KMT. The first there is no point in belaboring : the young are sick of the KMT and, like the majority of people in Taiwan, identify as Taiwanese and are pro-Taiwan. They will support any party that supports Taiwan and are actively seeking to support alternatives. They will not want to vote for a party that identifies as Chinese. For them independence is a settled question (answer is of course). Thus, this is Taiwan's first post-independence generation.

The second problem is also fundamental to KMT rule. For decades the KMT has ruled by ethnic divide and rule, cutting up the Taiwanese into four main ethnic groups: Hoklos, Hakkas, Aborigines, and Mainlanders, and then playing them off against each other. Few outsiders appreciate the extent to which the KMT is supported by a rickety minority ethnic coalition. The new Taiwanese identity is gradually subsuming these ethnic divisions -- the historic Hoklo-Hakka rivalry is disappearing among the young, and the third generation of mainlander children is identifying as Taiwanese (or emigrating). The Taiwanese identity is killing the ability of the KMT to play the old ethnic politics.
"Why are KMT members abandoning the party? Because the party lacks a democratic mechanism," Yang said.

He said important party decisions were traditionally made by the chairman and that this had created a gap between high level leaders and the rank and file.

"Meetings held by the KMT Central Standing Committee consist of one person laying down the law. There's no democracy at all in the party," Yang said. March 24, 2000

The key to KMT control of the Taiwanese heartland is its control of local factions. These factions, often centered on a temple association, interlink powerful local faction, local businesses, local organized crime, and local politicians. Traditionally the KMT has allowed the factions to plunder local government development money and distribute it to faction cronies via public construction. In exchange, the factions were not permitted to form regional or national networks.

These factions are evolving, and becoming less important over time. Frozen Garlic has an excellent post from Nov of 2014 that explains why:
Today, even in local politics, money operates in different ways. On the one hand, if you try to play the traditional game of recycling money through local construction projects, it doesn’t work as well. On the one hand, prosecutors have much better tools for sniffing out corruption and more leeway to pursue those cases in court. On the other hand, the presence of organized crime has diminished considerably. There is much less (visible) prostitution and gambling. Vote buying doesn’t work as well as it used to. Perhaps most importantly, administrative reform in 2010 eliminated local township governments in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung Counties, removing a vital source of cash in many of the most prosperous areas of Taiwan.

Of course, building stuff in the old ways is still attractive, but the future might be in the John Wu 吳志揚 Taoyuan model. As Michael Cole has repeatedly reminded us over the past few years, the Taoyuan government is pursuing an enormous development plan around the airport. However, rather than handing off contracts to lots of small time local cronies, Wu has invited big Chinese investors to come in and fund the project. It is hard to know exactly how the money is then recycled, but it doesn’t take much imagination to speculate that these Chinese investors repay the favor with political influence for Wu’s (or allies’) business dealings in China.

This may be simplifying things too much, but it seems to me that the old factional politics that used to be the basis of KMT local power in central and southern Taiwan have simply become much less lucrative. As the money slowed down to a trickle, faction politics were squeezed out by party politics. Since the DPP had always had quite a bit of sympathy bubbling under the surface in the south, once the factions weakened, it was nearly impossible for the KMT to maintain its partisan hold on those local governments. What was left of the factions switched sides and transferred their remaining support to the DPP. In the center where the two parties are much more evenly balanced, the factions have not yet made the same move en masse, but a few people have switched sides. In the north, the DPP had much less support and the factions have not been tempted to change sides. Now in Taoyuan, Wu may have figured out how to marry the traditional construction development state model with the new integration into the Chinese market. This new source of money might allow him and the KMT to maintain and reinforce their coalition of ideological supporters (of whom Taoyuan has always had many) and the watermelon faction who go wherever their economic interests point them.
The 2014 election cemented these trends. The municipal government positions in Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, Taoyuan, New Taipei City, and Taipei city are all appointed by the mayor. The KMT controls only one, New Taipei City, where failed Presidential candidate and recently resigned KMT Chairman Eric Chu is the Mayor. He himself observed that he couldn't step down to run for President (he took a leave of absence) because over 100 people would lose their positions. That is the last major place the KMT can reward its local factions, and in 2018 it will likely lose that, since Chu is unpopular and has done a meh job. Where the DPP has control the factions will eventually roll over to the DPP, abandoning the KMT. Indeed, in Miaoli, where the KMT has had an iron grip, in this election the mayors of the 4 largest towns all turned out for Tsai Ing-wen, Frozen Garlic noted.

Even if the KMT could somehow quickly set up a structure to integrate the factions at the national level, local faction politics are dirty. It is quite likely that prominent faction candidates from major districts have quite a few skeletons in their closet and will not be suitable for national level political careers.

With the KMT in decline, the factions are also exploring regional and national party politics as a route to power. In this election the new Minkuotang (MKT) party collected some faction politicians from the KMT and ran them in Keelung, Taipei, and Hsinchu. It remains to be seen whether it will endure, but space is now opening up for regional and national faction parties. This space will only widen if, as expected, the new DPP-controlled legislature passes some kind of proportional representation/multiparty system reform of the electoral process. Then faction politicians will not need the KMT to gain office.
Chen Chao-jian (陳朝建), an assistant professor of public affairs at Ming Chuan University, holds a similar view.

"Ma's victory had nothing to do with whether the KMT had carried out party reform," Chen said. March 23, 2008

There are no competent politicians and administrators in the higher reaches of the KMT. The closest thing the KMT has to a politically savvy leader is Jason Hu, the former Mayor of Taichung, who is well liked and knows how to win campaigns. But he ran the city as a fief of the construction-industrial state, balancing factions and doling out largesse (in fairness, he did have big dreams). Compare Yilan, Tainan, and Kaohsiung to Taichung, Taitung, and Miaoli, and you'll see the difference between competent and incompetent administration. Public surveys show again and again that the public thinks DPP-administrated areas are more livable.

Michal Thim observed in SCMP recently:
Ma’s propensity to appoint scholars in his cabinet has further degraded the quality of the party’s human resources. Not only are scholars largely unsuited for government positions, they have little incentive to work for the party after they are dismissed from their government positions.

The KMT had eight years to groom a new generation of politicians, by giving them executive experience in various levels of governance, but completely wasted the opportunity.
Further, no one is coming up in the KMT, for the reasons outlined above and below. Chiang Wan-an, great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek who ran for a legislative seat in Taipei, was hailed as a savior -- but because of his bloodlines, not his administrative experience. Because the KMT has no robust party structure, it has no systematic way to develop such individuals. Compare that to the DPP, which has a large number of competent and admired administrators and space in the south and elsewhere to nurture more. As the rising power, it will likely to continue to attract such individuals.
Besides, the power succession issue in the KMT has never been really settled, which made the middle generation of the KMT's political figures feel trapped and uncertain about their future development. They were reluctant to give all their efforts to campaign for Lien and Soong. March 21, 2004


Take note of that map above, showing the areas won by Tsai Ing-wen in the Presidential election. The only counties the KMT won are on the east coast, with a total population of less than 600,000, about what you can find in a Taipei cafe on a saturday night. Moreover, Taitung is losing population over time. Tsai won traditional bastions Miaoli and Nantou, along with the entire north. The DPP even won the two legislative seats in Taitung and Hualien.

The map above shows the same outcome but at the township level. The blue areas are deceptive, they all have very small populations. That dark blue blotch in the east-center where everyone voted KMT is Zhuoxi township, with the staggering population of 6,000. Almost all areas with significant population concentrations were won by the DPP. As a friend pointed out on Twitter, Chu failed to get 50% of the vote in any township outside Kinmen/Matsu and districts with significant indigenous populations.

The KMT is now a party of mountain townships and the heart of Taipei city. No politician can cultivate a local power base, because there isn't enough money in the KMT areas. Miaoli was so broke the government had to send it emergency cash to enable it to pay salaries, while Nantou was renting public land for advertizements to generate revenue. There is no place to train up and coming KMT politicians in the arts of politics and administration.

The North, the traditional stronghold, is also eroding. First, working families can no longer afford a house in Taipei and are moving out to Taoyuan, New Taipei City, and Keelung. Younger family people tend to vote pan-Green, changing the voting patterns of those areas. Additionally, in Taipei and New Taipei city, the bureaucracy, once solidly Blue, is fading to Green. The Ma Administration attacked the bureaucracy in many ways, reducing and combining agencies, reducing its pensions, and transferring people around. Many in the bureaucracy are angry at the KMT. Moreover, as I know from many interactions with government agencies, the bottom rungs of the bureaucracy are dominated by young people who are largely pan-Green. The bureaucracy will continue to become Greener as those people rise, further eroding the KMT power base in the North.

Meanwhile the DPP has an abundance of locations to develop people, and strong power bases, especially in the south.
According to Tsai, the report said that Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had earned the KMT NT$10 billion by disposing of assets -- which many detractors consider laundering stolen property -- and used the income for the party's retirement fund. Aug 21, 2006

New Bloom has the numbers on the KMT's assets...
Nonetheless, it is well known that the KMT has possessed substantial resources. It is a myth that the KMT’s current party assets consist of the gold it brought over from China in 1949, as feeding into notions of the KMT as a bandit party which loots from wherever it resides, whether when in China or when it came to Taiwan. Yet there is no denying the existence of substantial party assets by the KMT, which are holdings in everything from news agencies, construction companies, hospitals, and karaoke to 870 pieces of real estate scattered across Taiwan from Taipei to Kaohsiung, though seemingly concentrated in Taipei. Total assets in 2014 totaled 26.8 billion NTD ($892.4 million USD), which generated 981.52 million NTD in interest that year. Though not exactly stolen gold from China, KMT party assets may be a legacy of past authoritarianism nonetheless, assets often alleged to be the result of past state-owned monopolies and land seizures by the KMT during the authoritarian period.

However, the KMT’s assets may have actually shrunk in recent history. The KMT’s party assets were estimated to be between 200 and 500 billion NTD in the early 2000s and there being even larger claims by Wealth Magazine (財訊月刊) in 2000 that KMT assets could be as high as 600 billion. There have been accusations against Ma recently, coming from within the KMT, that he embezzled the missing 170 billion which disappeared if KMT assets are now only 27 billion in KMT assets. Accusations of Ma embezzling have been longstanding and may reflect internal party conflict more than actual corruption on the part of Ma. Though laws require political parties in Taiwan to report their party assets, fluctuating numbers of what the KMT’s total party assets are could also be a product of that some assets are hidden in a network of dummy corporations and organizations. For its part, the KMT claims to have had 62.8 billion NTD in 2000, which declined to 23 billion NTD in 2006, as a result of losses.
These assets are going to be stripped from the Party, the DPP claims. I remain dubious that they will get them all, but there is no doubt that the KMT will have to take a substantial hit. When the assets go, so will a substantial portion of the KMT's strength and its attractiveness to Taiwanese.

Further, as the KMT declines, big business is going to switch its donations from the KMT to the DPP. The KMT may be feeling the pinch in a few years...
Speaking on a TV talk show yesterday, National Taiwan University political scientist Pao Tsung-ho (包宗和) said the KMT lost the elections because the party had become separated from the public and relied too heavily on party mobilization and local factions. March 27, 2000

The hardest thing for outsiders to grasp is that the KMT is not a political party; it is the political organization of a colonial ruling class. The KMT has a political structure, but it is not the structure of a political party. Rather, it is a Leninist revolutionary organization that has been forced by circumstances to adopt the trappings of a democratic political party. Political scientists who view this through the lens of party politics in democracies are seeing it wrong.

The "colonial ruling class" are the mainlander elites who have maintained a grip on the Party since it came over in 1949. The KMT is run to assure this group a flow of wealth, privilege, and power. They educate their children abroad and park them in local universities until they are called to a high level political career (Jason Hu, Eric Chu, Hau Long-bin), while using mainlanders from the less privileged strata, the children of soldiers and bureaucrats, to run the executive agencies (the Ma Administration's agencies were almost all run by mainlanders) and control the military, police, and bureaucracy.

The colonial state has its ideological mirror: ideas such as the Return to China, the KMT being the True Chinese, an anti-Japanese stance, the Party-State, Sun Yat-senism ("I'm not a radical," reactionary KMT Presidential candidate and Chairman candidate Hung Hsiu-chu said today, "I'm just carrying on Sun Yat-sen thought") and other aspects of the KMT identity. Thus the KMT has two functions: organizing the colonial apparatus to benefit the mainlander rulers of Taiwan, and defining and maintaining the faux Chinese KMT identity, which was invented in Taiwan to unite the disparate Chinese ethnic groups that came over with Chiang (the great irony of the mainlander identity is that it is a Taiwanese identity).

Thus the KMT is both the political organization of a colonial state, and the Church of the Mainlander Identity. The second is harder to understand if you don't hear this stuff every day, but I've explored it here. It is easier to understand the KMT if you think of it as the Catholic Church with real political power, ruling a nation where the vast majority of people are atheists.

This strange dual structure overlaying a colonial state has many implications for the future of KMT rule.

For example, the obvious move to rejuvenate the KMT would be to create a structure to promote promising people out of the Taiwanese hinterland. But because the KMT is at heart a colonial state run by ethnic mainlanders, it can't promote Taiwanese without the party becoming Taiwanized and losing its "Chinese" identity. The internal conflict within the KMT is the old conflict between the Church which must remain pure and the State which has to rule. For the last twenty years the KMT has been struggling with the role of the Taiwanese in its colonial state and Church. With the ascendancy of Hung Hsiu-chu as Presidential candidate, the mainstream KMT (those who accept a limited role for the Taiwanese) finally looked like it had lost the battle to the non-mainstream KMT (those who want to keep the Party "pure"). Note that neither side is considering becoming a Taiwanese party, though that has been proposed over and over again since the 1970s. The struggle is over purity of identity and ideology, not direction of Party.

Think about it: even as everyone in Taiwan is becoming Taiwanese, the KMT is rejecting becoming Taiwanese. This is a party with no future in a Taiwanese society. It can't bounce back because it is in the world, but not of it, like a Church.

Further, there is no third generation of KMTers to run the Party and continue the colonial state. The KMT career path is: granddad comes over from China in the military or bureaucracy, Dad works in the military or bureaucracy, son... emigrates to the US. In most colonies the mother country simply sends out more people when the ruling classes need replenished, but the mainlanders can't do that -- they can only reproduce by reproducing.

Which they aren't. Ma Ying-jeou himself is a good example, with one daughter (and all his sisters) a US citizen. Sean Lien's wife and children are Canadian. Jason Hu's daughter is a Brit and interested in movies, not politics. Lung Ying-tai has two German children. Because mainlanders have had travel privileges and money, their children have emigrated. If they haven't emigrated, many have become Taiwanese, and quietly and stubbornly vote pan-Green. Their children will not be mainlanders. The mainlander ruling class is going to melt away.

As so often the case, this ethnic dissolution is causing the hardliners to become even harder. At present, bitter-ender Hung Hsiu-chu is running for Chair of the KMT, as is Hau Long-bin, son of bitter-ender Hau Pei-tsun. They are both mainlanders. The Old Soldiers are retired and don't have to pay Party dues. Hence they form the core of the KMT rank and file, and they utterly reject any Taiwanese candidate.

The next Chairman will likely be another mainlander, a strong signal to the Taiwanese that this is not a party to join. Because they will have the mainlander mindset, no genuine political party structure will be erected, and Taiwanese will not be able to climb to the top. "Reform" is going to mean greater purity, a circling of wagons, and a long fade into the sunset.

Good riddance.

UPDATED: Anonymous at Thinking Taiwan on how the KMT rules preclude reform
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Anonymous said...

Another great piece of writing Michael, telling it like it is. You should translate and publish it in a Chinese-language publication as well.

Jade said...

"Good riddance". Yes indeed. It should have happened sooner but better late than never.

Grant said...

Wow, that was a great read. I guess the KMT never learn.

Anonymous said...

The only career path for the bitter-enders will be as trolls on TaipeiTimes articles.

Nice work MT. Maybe something to do with with judicial system not slanting blue in the future would be #8.

Mike Fagan said...

I disagree with you on most things, but this is a very good post. I haven't done the research you have on the KMT, but it does seem to have the ring of truth to it.

However: you forgot to add the obvious conclusion: that if the KMT cannot be reformed, then it will be replaced. There is surely no shortage of Taiwanese people who are both in favour of Taiwan independence, and yet opposed to much of the democratic socialism that they will experience in the next four to eight years. These people are a "market", and somebody, somewhere will eventually figure out how to sell them what they want.

Marc said...

Salient and well-presented!

bumfromkorea said...

A question from an uninitiated.

If KMT was fighting a full-scale civil war with CCP in the 50s (plus several more battles afterwards),) over who gets to be the official "China", why is the modern KMT so hellbent on being so pro-PRC and anti-Taiwan independence?

I realize my ignorance is caused by oversimplification of historical contexts and pedestrian understanding of Taiwanese history, but I just couldn't find an adequate answer online.

Anonymous said...

All this reminds me of South Africa's Broederbund.

I would like to know more about the temple associations you mentioned--ideally, with a list of the most important ones in each city or region (and with an indication of party affiliation, assuming some are DPP and some KMT). Can you recommend any good sources? You've previously mentioned those temples which organize the Mazu pilgrimages. And the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan is famously pro-DPP, while most of the "Big Buddhist" organizations (except Tzu Chi?) are pro-KMT.

Mike Fagan said...

Actually, a small point to be made on the competence of local administrations... I live in Tainan and one problem is the continual fly-tipping at the local parks which occurs on a daily basis. It's primarily food waste which attracts rats and is a continual hazard when I am walking my dogs (though once, late at night, it was a large bag full of used diapers which the local stray dogs tore open - literally leaving shit all over the place - and guess who had to clean it up?).

What happens is that people miss the garbage collection truck, presumably because they are still at work or something, and then just dump their trash in the local parks. It does not seem to occur to them to ask a neighbour or relative to help, or to keep hold of their trash until they can next go to the garbage truck on time - which is what I do on the rare occasions I miss the collection truck. Similarly, it does not seem to occur to the Tainan city government that the municipal garbage collection service is inadequate and should be reformed.

The obvious thing to do is to introduce numbered skips and bins per household that can be wheeled out onto street corners by residents and, at the appointed time, the garbage collection people can empty them into the trucks. Residents can then collect their bins or skips when they are ready. And just as there are two trucks, a green one and a white one with the white one handling the recyclable materials, there could be two types of skip or bin - one green, one white.

Why this wasn't already done years ago baffles me. So far as I can tell on my travels around Taiwan, every city seems to have an identical garbage collection service, so it's not a partisan point. Why don't the people get annoyed at this pretty awful system and demand reform?

Anonymous said...

Wow! I've learned a lot. Thanks!

The concept of KMT being a Church of "Pure Chinese" is perfect (Lien Chan's words: "Thank God, I am a pure Chinese [i.e. unlike the Taiwanese]".)

Michael Turton wrote:
"This [KMT] is a party with no future in a Taiwanese society. It can't bounce back because it is in the world, but not of it, like a Church."

This says it all!

an angry taiwanese said...

This is not the first time KMT facing distinction.
When outperformed by warlords in China, Sun Yet-sen took Soviet in (year 1924) and defeat all the warlords.
When KMT was kicked out of China by Chinese Communists, they ran to the US for help and colonized Taiwan.

Before 2016 election, KMT knew that it will likely lose power and guess what it did?
Ma met up with China's Chairman. In that Singapore meeting KMT ditched Americans in the middle of South China Sea tension and submitted to China's version of One China.
It's so obvious what KMT will do next.

an angry taiwanese said...

If KMT was fighting a full-scale civil war with CCP in the 50s (plus several more battles afterwards),) over who gets to be the official "China", why is the modern KMT so hellbent on being so pro-PRC and anti-Taiwan independence?

Simple. To KMT and CCP, no friend is forever, nor is enemy. They can be in bed with anyone anytime; and when necessitated by new situation, stab the bed mates on the back next minute.

Their instinct is reptilian.

an angry taiwanese said...

This post is the most accurate analysis of what the KMT truly is, except that I disagree the following point:

Further, there is no third generation of KMTers to run the Party and continue the colonial state. The KMT career path is: granddad comes over from China in the military or bureaucracy, Dad works in the military or bureaucracy, son... emigrates to the US. In most colonies the mother country simply sends out more people when the ruling classes need replenished, but the mainlanders can't do that -- they can only reproduce by reproducing.

On December 3rd 2015, Ma administration passed a new administrative regulation, which allow companies to hire foreign professionals and technicians with near-minimum wages. Their children and spouses can also work in Taiwan. Oversea Chinese-born students can also study and then work in Taiwan.

Don't think that is targeting at attracting Western talents. No, the minimum wage reveal KMT's true purpose- to get Chinese in.

Carlos said...

Bumfromkorea, the KMT and CPC are brothers fighting over the family land. Both consider themselves patriotic Chinese and think they're doing the best thing for China - and think they're the rightful rulers of it. Taiwanese independence would end the KMT's claim. It would also end the Republic of China. Telling someone that you want to destroy their country is a fairly big deal (not in the sense of territory, but its symbols and heritage). That's what's often missed outside of Taiwan, that Taiwanese independence means independence from the ROC. Some people in Taiwan don't want eventual unification but identify with the ROC (one definition of "light blue") and they'd be hurt by it too.

But more than that, Taiwanese independence would, in the blue and red perspectives, ruin the dream of achieving Sun Yat-Sen's Three Principles of the People, which include unifying the various "Chinese" peoples before achieving everything else. True Chinese patriots would rather lose the civil war to the other side than see "China" permanently divided.

Mike Fagan said...

Further thoughts...

After discussing the fly-tipping issue further with my Taiwanese co-workers, I have reached a tentative conclusion. They would prefer the municipal government carry out basic sanitation on the cheap, even if the service is inadequate, because they don't want to be subsidizing the people who do the fly-tipping. Moreover, less money spent on basic sanitation means more money available for fireworks, new year's eve parties and other luxuries.

My personal opinion is that this is disgusting. Fly-tipping is a health hazard, and while the Tainan city government was perfectly willing to spend serious money reacting to last year's dengue outbreak, it seems they aren't interested in spending serious money on prevention - which is surely what improved public sanitation is.

That leads to a more general point viz the competence of local municipal governments. How is such competence to be judged? Basic sanitation would seem an obvious criterion to me, but then again I'm the type of killjoy who thinks firework displays aren't particularly important, and could instead be paid for privately. But perhaps the locals agree with me that public sanitation is very important. In that case, why has there been no reform of the garbage collection service?

I think part of the answer is that local democratic mechanisms are weak - you'd have to get a petition together and go through your local Li Zhang and even then, all he would do would be to try to raise the matter with the mayor and/or the district legislator. Why then bother with the Li Zhang? But in an area like Tainan city, there is little pressure for such Big Knobs to take any notice. What happens if they ignore us? Nothing; it's not like people in Tainan city are going to vote for anyone other than a DPP candidate for mayor.


People might rate say Tainan as much more "livable" than Taipei, but that isn't necessarily a reflection on the competence of the municipal administration. There are alternative ways of accounting for that, for example in the fact that Tainan city is far less crowded than Taipei city.

Anonymous said...

wtf are you babbling about fagan? the article is on the downfall of the KMT, not your garbage problem. Jeez, give MT a break with your constant complaining.

Unknown said...

It's a fork in the road. They can remain a China-centric party or remain a large powerful party. They can't have it both ways.

Jacob said...

@Anonymous who would like to learn more about temple associations in politics:

In English, an interesting anthropological portrayal of Yen Ching-piao and Cheng Ming-kun of Dajia is Percival Santos' PhD thesis "Inventing the public enemy. The Gangster in Taiwanese Society" from 2007. Joseph Bosco's articles on local factions have some interesting material on that, too, but they are from the early 1990s. David Seaman is even older, but he retells the story how a local temple became the locus of factional power struggles after 1949.
In this paper, I have also written on this topic:

Very informed and informative read! I can't wait for the future to start!

Anonymous said...

Things can change quickly. Don't write off the KMT off too soon. For one, the DPP can mess up. The majority of voters don't vote out according to their identity, but bread-and-butter issues. This is the case in all democracies and Taiwan is no different. If identity and demographics decide who wins elections, we can say the same about the Republican Party in the US. That party is also doomed, as well as its voter base.

Carlos said...

I'm also skeptical, especially after the KMT maintained itself as the primary pan-blue party. The PFP is still a one-man show and none of the smaller pan-blue parties seem to have any upward momentum. For a year in which everything went wrong for them (economic indicators, a terrible campaign, a good campaign by the DPP), their result looks fairly normal and recoverable. The KMT came back from a previous moment of doom in 2000, and the DPP came back after pundits were thinking their grand was irreparably damaged in 2008.

But… MT makes some great points. The KMT will have a harder time reforming itself than the DPP did, or than the Republican Party will in the US. Those two can adjust for a changing electorate without giving up too many of its core values - the KMT can't. (The DPP might accept the ROC flag and temporarily accept its constitution, but those aren't existential matters for the party). The KMT's core values and fundamental mission are being lost among voters. And the DPP had more talent in 2008 than the KMT appears to have now. So it could happen. Either that or the KMT will change thoroughly, which wouldn't bother me at all.

Mike Fagan said...
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Anonymous said...

KMT will not change since its internal structure guarantee 黃復興 in dominance. All the current candidate for party head are from same group and generation. If DPP mess up, I predict that DPP will split up and merge with other group then move on. KMT will just become like New Party and fade away.

Michael Turton said...

"'The KMT came back from a previous moment of doom in 2000""

The KMT did not come back from the moment of doom, Carlos. It just postponed it. The whole point of my post is that no "reforms" ever took place. They were just lucky that the older generation of Taiwanese was still large enough to ensure their control and place the last popular politician they had, Ma, into power twice, with the cooperation of US officials who wanted to get into the lucrative China business. Now none of those conditions entail.


Carlos said...

In 2000 was it already inevitable that Taiwanese identification would become so strong?

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, UDN's op-ed lives in a bubble universe where all of the people who didn't vote are kmt supporters: "They won by 3 million votes? Nay! They are mistaken! They only gained 0.8 million votes since last time. It is just that we have 1.8 million slightly disheartened voters."

John S. said...

to Bum,

The KMT began as a Leninist political machine, much like the CCP. Like most ruling communist parties, the main purpose is to stay in control and take whatever measures are necessary to prevent any social or political movements from challenging the control of the party over society.

If they can adopt any sort of plausible ideology to make it seem like they are doing it for the good of the people, and get academics to teach it, then fine.

Since ideology is just superficial, it can be endlessly adapted to suit any strategic moves.

The KMT has not changed its basic ideology of control (first, to control China... later to control Taiwan), it has merely adapted its strategies. The KMT got support by giving benefits to certain groups. In this way, any historic conflicts between, say, Hoklo, Hakka, and aboriginal groups could be handled in such a way as to benefit the KMT.

Back when the KMT had complete control of Taiwan and was able to kill or jail any dissidents, there was no need for them to seek any help from China. Later, however, when the pro-democracy movements forced open the political process and challenged the primacy of the KMT, then the KMT changed strategy to trying to win elections by focusing on their Chinese identity,preaching to their mainlander base, and making high-level contacts in China.

The KMT then wanted Taiwanese to see them as the "good cop" who, with good, high-level connections in the PRC, could get the people a better deal with the "bad cop" (China). They lost big this year because Taiwanese don't want that sort of decision forced upon them.

Anonymous said...

You're forgetting the obvious, as already indicated above by another: the KMT's end game is ultimately to ally with the CCP, and to get the CCP to help it accomplish the grand enterprise of reunification, under which it will initially play the role of governor of Taiwan, and then gradually move up the ladder. There have been many historical precedents in Chinese history for unpopular warlords surrendering their provinces to a more powerful warlord/central government, so as to salvage their rule. The CCP will no doubt be generous to the KMT in such a scenario. Chinese nationalism defines the new generation of CCP leaders even more so than Mao's generation, as nation-building - the removal of inter-provincial barriers, the replacement of local languages with Mandarin, patriotic education, etc. - is proceeding a-pace within the PRC.

There will be a generation of Chinese, soon, who will see Taiwan as China's Crimea, and the KMT will willingly be their 5th column. Much of Taiwan's military high command is comprised of KMT mainlanders, and it would be easy for them to, with the PRC's help, overthrow any civilian government and place the island under martial law, after which they can sign a reunification treaty with the PRC and proceed from there.

The only variable is how NATO will respond in such a scenario, as the US has proven to be less willing than ever to aid its allies in recent years.