Saturday, December 11, 2004

Today's Taiwan Election: The Future of the KMT and Taiwan

Taiwan will today hold a legislative election that will probably determine the future of the KMT and which might allow the DPP to pursue independence. Both sides know that the stakes are high and so they are both trying their best to get their candidates elected. But, depending on the outcome, the future of one or even both parties may be in jeopardy.
The KMT has fallen on hard times in recent years. It has seen its monopoly on power slowly erode since Lee Tung-hui left office. As everyone knows, the KMT is the richest political party in the world and even though much of their money came with them when they fled China, a substantial part of their funds came from their seizure and use of assets in Taiwan. The DPP has long coveted those assets, and they may be poised to finally take them back if they can win a majority in the legislature in this election.
So the KMT is fighting not just for an election, but for its political life. If the DPP wins a majority, they will immediately call for investigations into the various assets that the KMT hold. Native Taiwanese that support the DPP have called for such investigations for years but were unable to break the deadlock that the KMT legislative majority posed. There's a saying in Chinese: the investigation can't go forward because it can't go upward. That impediment could be removed today depending on the will of the voters.
The DPP is also struggling because they have made the quest for independence their central goal in past years. That quest allowed them to rally the base and cast themselves as the opposition. Now that they are in power with Chen Sui-bian in office, they are engaged in a very delicate dance of trying to appease the independence-minded base while not angering the only Taiwan ally that counts: the US.
The past couple of weeks have clearly shown the difficulty of pleasing both the base and the key ally as Chen has made clear remarks about replacing "Republic of China" with "Republic of Taiwan" (despite promising not to do just that) while also calling for a new constitution. The US is clearly upset over these moves and Chen's administration has fallen back on the old Chinese trick of speak and double-speak in order to obscure what was actually said and meant. The Byzantines truly had nothing on the Chinese.
So as voters go to the polls today, the future of the KMT is at stake and with the DPP, the future of all of Taiwan may be at stake. The best possible scenario is that things stay exactly as they are, a likely outcome considering the bizarre accusations and ball-dropping antics of both parties in recent weeks. If by some slim chance the DPP wins a majority, then Taiwan will likely go through a very difficult period as the DPP seeks political payback from their foes. Investigations will be launched, some politicians will leave the country in hastily prepared vacations, and the DPP will become the new boss (same as the old boss). Then the independence talk may begin in ernest, depending on the stance the US takes toward the election. Considering all the talk of empire we hear these days, the US is amazingly gentle with Taiwan in a time when they should probably be more assertive. If the DPP goes too far, that assertiveness may eventually come out.
So keep your fingers crossed as another election holds the future of Taiwan in its hands.


Blogger dundare said...

Great post!

I do not know enough about the domestic politics of Taiwan to make any points. The one thing I would highlight is what you mentioned - Taiwan needs the US and really can only count on the US. I think this eventually pulls up whoever is in power at a point short of independence.

As for Byzantine intrigue and the Chinese, you might be on to something Lol.

Personally, in terms of the PRC, I cannot think of any country that practices realism in its foreign policy on a level even approaching that of China.

December 11, 2004 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger NetRealist said...

Thanks for the comment as always. What might allow the DPP to push for independence is their belief that, despite some reticence, the US will defend Taiwan even if independence is declared. Many in Taiwan actually believe that when push comes to shove, the US will defend Taiwan even if Taiwan acts provocatively. If the DPP win a majority today, then we might see more provocative action from them in the future. Will the US get tough with Taiwan in such a situation?

Your comment about China pursuing realism is correct I think. I just wish some of that realism would seep into Taiwan.

December 11, 2004 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Hi there,

I am also intrigued by IR and especially the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.

What do feel is the greatest reason the U.S. has committed to such a solid relationship with Taiwan?

Secondly, how long do you think the U.S. can practically defend Taiwan from the militant threat of China.

January 13, 2006 at 1:27 PM  

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