Monday, May 28, 2007

The Indigenous

"The wheel of the Tarot is the wheel of Dharma," Mama Sutra said softly when he had concluded. "It is also the wheel of the galaxy, which you see as a blind machine. It rolls on, as you say, no matter what we think or do. Knowing that, I can accept Death as another part of the wheel, and I can accept your nonacceptance as another part. I can control neither. I can only repeat my warning, which is not a lie but a fact about the structure of the Wheel: By denying death, you guarantee that you will meet him finally in his most hideous form."

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) announced last week that it would put "Taiwan" into the KMT charter, as the Taipei Times reported:

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday acknowledged that it would include "Taiwan-centered" values in its soon to-be-revised party regulations, but said it would not ditch ultimate unification with China as one of the party's goals.

"The phrase `adhere to a belief that will prioritize Taiwan and benefit the people' will be added [to the party's regulations], but the basic principle of opposing independence for Taiwan remains the same," chairman of the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee Yang Tu (楊渡) said yesterday at party headquarters.

Yang made the remarks in response to a report in yesterday's Chinese-language China Times that said the party would add the term "Taiwan" and delete "unification" in its revised regulations in an attempt to broaden the party's appeal.

The KMT will revise its party regulations on June 24 during the party congress, and the changes will mark the first ever mention of "Taiwan" in the party's regulations.

There were mixed reactions, as some KMTers wondered aloud whether including "Taiwan" in the Charter might be acceptable to the Deep Blue base -- yes, you read that right -- the very word "Taiwan" is offensive to the Deep Blues. The DPP predictably dismissed it as a ploy, while some of the more rational voices in the KMT thought it was a good idea. KMT bigwigs presented the move in the usual conflicting we-mean-it- But-we-don't-really-mean-it style, arguing that it was a necessary change and a normal one, but stressing that Party's goal of obliterating Taiwan and annexing the island to China remained inflexible.

As the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) plan to prioritize "Taiwan" in the proposed charter change threatens to split party members, KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) tried to play down the issue yesterday, insisting that the party was still seeking consensus on the revision.

"The KMT's biggest responsibility at present is to defend the Republic of China ... We are being pragmatic, but we won't make big changes on the party's goals," Wu said yesterday before hosting a KMT local government chiefs meeting in Taipei County.

The KMT is expected to revise the party charter during its congress on June 24 and include "Taiwan-centered" values in the revised version. The changes will mark the first ever mention of "Taiwan" in the party's charter.

KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated yesterday his support for the revision, but denied that the changes were an election ploy to help him attract votes in the presidential race next year.

"The phrase `prioritize Taiwan and benefit the people' has been mentioned many times before. We are just including it in the charter to reflect what we've been doing all along," Ma said during the meeting.

The indigenization of the KMT has been a long process filled with contradictions for the party and its associated organs. Originally the Party legitimated itself and its authoritarian rule by claiming to represent all of China, and building its theology around retaking China. That went by the wayside. During the late 1970s and 1980s the Party began bringing in members of prominent local families, the Golden Oxes, who had to make substantial contributions to the Party coffers in order to get access to positions of power at the local level. Further, to hold many positions of importance in the government and society, the Leninist Party-State required membership in the KMT. Gradually the number of locals in the KMT rose, and they in turn rose within the KMT.

The Taiwanization of the KMT created significant problems for the KMT. During that same period, as it became obvious to even the densest Zealot that the KMT would never retake China, the guiding theology underwent a shift from taking China back to annexing Taiwan to China. This is, interestingly, an advertently pro-China position, and an inadvertently pro-Taiwan position. To wit: the old position asked: What shall we do with China? and treated Taiwan as nothing more than as base of operations to be exploited. The new theology instead asks: What shall we do with Taiwan? which places Taiwan at the center of the conundrum, not China. The answer may be pro-China, but the question is not. Like it or not, the creeping Taiwanization, and a strong presence at the local level, is inevitably making the KMT a Taiwanized party. If the KMT loses the Presidential election, especially if it loses it badly, expect a far more open call for reform of the party's position. As I have noted many times before, as long as the KMT's guiding theology calls for a denial of its Taiwanization, it will experience internal conflicts between the need to guard its identity and its need to get its people elected.

I spent the weekend hanging out with one of the island's most informed foreigners, Andrew Kerslake, who pointed out to me another example of this inadvertent indigenization process: the Blue media. In cultural studies, the media (in its broadest sense of books, journalism, and so on) is an important part of shared experience that helps form and transform national identities. In Taiwan the pan-Blue media constantly criticize the local government and the local pro-Taiwan parties. Despite their pro-China stance, their insular focus on Taiwan -- to the exclusion of all else -- helps create in the locals a sense of a shared Taiwan experience. Even as they attack the Taiwan Consciousness, they can't help but build it.

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