Sunday, May 07, 2006

KMT: Leadership, Charisma, Crisis

If Don Corleone had all the judges, and the politicians in New York, then he must share them, or let us others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly he can present a bill for such services; after all... we are not Communists.

Just a couple of days ago I wrote on how it was looking like Chairman Ma of the KMT had things under control within his own party (Ma Cracks Down on the KMT troops ), and lo! there is fresh news of the ongoing struggle within the KMT.

The Taipei Times reports that Ma is being admonished by a group of older politicians who essentially belong to the previous generation of KMT leadership. Today it was KMT veteran Wu Poh-hsiung's turn.

Disappointed by the recent party split over constitutional amendments, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) yesterday lectured KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for his "ineffective communication" with party legislators, and urged him to handle relationships with senior party members with more delicacy.

"Frankly speaking, your communication with party legislators needs to be improved ... former chairman Lien [Chan (連戰)] sees your achievement as his ... and [Legislative] Speaker Wang [Jin-pyng (王金平)] is one of the KMT's treasures, you should make him feel respected," Wu said yesterday during a KMT central standing committee meeting at party headquarters.

Wu dismissed media speculation that Lien, Wang and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) had joined forces against Ma. However, Wu said Ma should be more omplaisant, rather than being like a "non-stick pan," and urged members of the so-called "Ma troop" to keep a low profile.
Getting a handle on the split is not easy because of the identity cross-currents -- many Taiwanese KMTers and Legislative Speaker and Ma rival Wang Jin-pyng lining up with Lien Chan and the other older KMT leaders against Chairman Ma and his troops on the other side. There are Taiwanese and Deep Blues on both sides of the split. Wu himself is a Hakka. So what's the fight over?

Wu Poh-hsiung's demand that Ma give more respect to party elites looks like said elites are beginning to recognize that Ma's plans include them out. Basically Ma resembles Michael Corleone, on one hand telling the party faithful and outsiders that the KMT family will be entirely legit in seven years, while on the other waxing the heads of the Five Families in his power play for control of the KMT. The old model KMT was Deep Blue and pro-China in the core, but it was an ethnic coalition that ran on flows of money out from the government and into the coffers of party businesses and local businessmen, co-opting local crime gangs, promising Taiwanese and Hakkas, and aborigines into its system of rule. Its tight local links serve it well to this day -- just this morning I saw a serious traffic snarl due to an accident, and who was guiding the traffic there? Not the three policemen who were busy drawing up reports. It was the KMT candidate for Township Chief, out displaying his excellent local touch by standing in the middle of the road with a baton. Anyone who wonders how a corrupt and authoritarian party could continue to succeed in modern democratic Taiwan needs to reflect on that incident, for analogues occur constantly all over the island.

Groomed for the presidency by his well-connected father from birth, Ma is far more ideological than his predecessors, who played the KMT as the only game in town, wheeling and dealing. The old KMT was run by party insiders in the best Leninist fashion; Ma's innovations, such as widening the vote on party positions to include certain party rank and file, threaten that core decisionmaking structure by both undercutting and centering it on a single person. Because so much of Ma's support comes from the Deepest of the Deep Blue, his ascendancy may also threaten the complex and delicate ethnic make-up of the KMT, aptly symbolized by Chairman Ma, a mainlander, and Vice Chairman Wu, a Hakka. Finally, Ma appears to want to run the KMT using his personal popularity as leverage, a dangerous game that can work only as long as Ma remains popular. Ironically, the more successful this approach becomes, the more unpopularity it will generate -- for there is no obvious way to translate that popularity into money flows to lubricate the links between the KMT core and its local periphery. That can only be done in a party where privileged insiders can strike deals away from the public eye. It should be noted that Ma has perhaps signaled his willingness to adhere to the System by supporting dirty Party candidates.

Deal-making brings us to another issue. Pan-Blue leaders, including Ma's Vice Chairman Wu, have recently been making trips to Beijing to cut deals on pan-Blue/China cooperation, presumably for the period after China takes over the island. Ma's restructuring of the KMT to undercut party insiders, and his advocacy of a 30-50 year treaty period across the Straits, may well threaten those deals.

The DPP, by contrast, is merely in disarray over the personal ambitions of its members and the high-handedness of Chen Shui-bian. The DPP's problems, while embarrassing, are fixable. The KMT, by contrast, is still in the midst of a long-running crisis that began when Chiang Ching-kuo died with China still unrecovered, leaving no obvious successor to inherit the Chiang charisma and keep control of the KMT, and no obvious direction for the KMT. Ma and his charisma offer potential to resolve this crisis by establishing a new source of charisma for KMT leadership: Ma's own. Will Party insiders permit this? The upcoming cycle of elections is certainly going to be interesting.


Anonymous said...

"Ma's election as Pez Senior in 2008 will bring Taiwan a measure of sanity sadly lacking today. His 8 year admin will bring Taiwan back into the real world, and he will also change the KMT culture. He is the best thing that is ever going to happen to this fricking island, altho Chen sure promised promise at one time. No more. With Ma at the helm, this ship o state will sail on to imperfect but much improved intl waters. And not a momento too soon! 2008 cannot arrive soon enuf."

I heard this last night at a bar in Barbados!

mah29001 said...

I do not trust the KMT. Yet KMT propagandists paint any pro-independence parties in Taiwan on the side of totalitarianism, when the KMT is on the payroll of the Chinese government.

Now that's just wrong on so many levels.

David said...

2 reasons to like Ma:
1) KMT Party elders didn't want him to become chairman
2) KMT Party elders are complaining about what he's doing as party chairman

The guys who ran things in the bad old days whining can only be a good thing, no?

Anonymous said...

michael turton is a gnat

Taiwan's Other Side said...

So let me get this straight - Ma is anti-diversity? OR the KMT is anti-diversity and is mad because he's trying to make the party more diverse?

"Pan-Blue leaders, including Ma's Vice Chairman Wu, have recently been making trips to Beijing to cut deals on pan-Blue/China cooperation, presumably for the period after China takes over the island."

Bullocks. How about a source for that whopper? How can you sanctimoniously criticize the Apple Daily when you use the same tactics?

Michael Turton said...

What are you complaining about? Wu went to China in 2000, a trip that helped paved the way for top sellout Lien Chan to kiss CCP ass, publicly, and for the meetings in 2003 prior to the elections on divvying up things here. This has all been a long time coming.

I'm curious to see what will happen when Ma blows the 2008 elections, though.