The KMT is destined to face history

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Friday August 27, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

In retrospect, the year 1979 proved to be the tipping point for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) one-party state and its dreams for the Republic of China (ROC). Most KMT did not see it then and some still do not yet the KMT must face especially it as it prepares to choose its next chairperson.

The foreshadowings of 1979 were evident a decade earlier. In 1970, members of World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) attempted to assassinate then Vice Premier, Chiang Ching-kuo in New York City. In 1971, the KMT as “followers of Chiang Kai-shek” were officially “booted out” of the UN with General Assembly Resolution 2758.

Thus when 1979 arrived, the stage had been set. It proved to be a pivotal year, and one that began and ended disastrously for the KMT.

On January 1, then US president Jimmy Carter moved the US embassy from Taipei to Beijing and the ROC lost the main advocate of its legitimacy.

The US, whose official position on Taiwan remains “undetermined;” no longer refers to this nation as the ROC; instead it calls it Taiwan in all official dealings. The ROC dream of “retaking” China and returning as China’s representative in the UN are dead.

From the KMT’s standpoint, 1979 also ended poorly as the Taiwanese “dangwai,” those outside the party, staged a protest in Kaohsiung on Human Rights Day, December 10. They wanted a democracy. From within and without, the tipping point had finally been crossed.

Participants in the Kaohsiung human rights celebration would be arrested of course; trials would be held; people would be sent to prison and several high profile murders would follow; all this happened under the KMT’s watch and Taiwan’s identity was taking shape as the KMT’s one-party state Stockholm syndrome wore off.

However, these issues of identity have not yet been learned or grasped by some KMT.

Even as Taiwan’s athletes performed exceedingly well in the recent Olympics, they had to participate under the ignominious name of Chinese Taipei.

Sun Yat-sen’s democratic principle of government of the people, by the people and for the people remains on the back burner by several KMT who long to be part of the empire that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) strives to build the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan has witnessed the “traitorous” remarks of retired former general Kao An-kuo, who urged all Taiwanese military to join with China’s People Liberation Army if it would attack Taiwan.

Some members of the KMT still insist on holding to the “1992 consensus,” a fabrication by Su Chi, former head of the Mainland Affairs Council that the ROC can be seen as China. How can this formula help deal with the voracious CCP as it demolishes the liberties of Hong Kong, the Uighurs and others in China.

Old paradigms die hard, but the past is prologue and 1979 is part of the past.

As it prepares to choose its next chairperson, the KMT must look back to 1979 and see all that has developed since then. Today, some 90 percent of the people identify as Taiwanese.

As losers in the Chinese Civil War, the KMT are diaspora on Taiwan. By 1987, then ROC President Chiang Ching-kuo faced and admitted this in allowing a multi-party state.

There is perspective in asking: Where were they in 1979 and how has that influenced their current thinking? This is important as it reveals both the stance that many took then and whether today they still support those results. Do they see Taiwan as a de facto independent nation?

Examine the current KMT candidates for chairperson. In 1979, Eric Chu was a student at National Taiwan University. Current KMT chairperson Johnny Chiang was seven, and candidate Cho Po-yuan was 14. The oldest, Chang Ya-chung was pursuing graduate studies. Chang is the only one who still openly advocates unification with China.

How conscious were they then and even now of all that had happened in 1979 as a necessary step in Taiwan’s democracy?

The KMT will never rule China even if it wanted to go home. Do members still hanker for the China dream as Kao An-kuo does? Do they feel that like him they can twist that to their advantage?

Many unresolved issues remain as residue after 1979. Everyone in Taiwan should face these issues, but in particular those that aspire to be the KMT chairperson.

Taiwan needs a different name than that the "ROC." The Olympics again raised this issue; Taiwan cannot be Chinese Taipei. Are KMT candidates open to shedding Chinese Taipei and the ROC name? How would they solve this?

As regards UN membership. What they would do to get Taiwan back in the UN? Taiwan can never enter the UN under the name of the ROC. A new strategy is needed.

What about the flag? Taiwan still needs a new flag. The KMT flag, which was brought to Taiwan by the diaspora KMT is no longer adequate. Can the KMT sacrifice it? If not, how does it justify the flag as being representative of all Taiwanese?

A new constitution is needed. The old Constitution of the ROC is no longer valid; it has become a patchwork of what the KMT created in 1947. It must fit Taiwan.

All of these may not be immediate, front burner issues, but they must be faced as Taiwan seeks recognition as a nation. Four decades have passed since 1979; and these questions will help sort the wheat from the chaff.

As the KMT looks to select a new chairperson its candidates are most on the spot. Will they face or dodge these hard issues?