Major political parties in Taiwan
The KMT: Chinese Nationalist Party
The KMT, the Chinese New Party and the People’s Party formed the Pan-Blue coalition which generally supports the eventual unification of Taiwan with China and are more right wing in its economic policies. However, from the 1990s, the KMT has had to play this down and promise to maintain the current independent status during elections because the majority (75%) of Taiwanese see ourselves as Taiwanese, Taiwan as sovereign and would like to at least maintain the current independent status.
The KMT originated in China in 1912, founded by Song Jiao-ren and Sun Yat-sen shortly after the Qing Dynasty of China was overthrown. Later led by Chiang Kai-shek, it ruled much of China (Republic of China) from 1928 until it escaped to Taiwan in 1949 after their ultimate defeat by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). CCP later called their country People’s Republic of China. Before that, the KMT (Chiang Kai-shek) had sent troops and a governor over to Taiwan in 1945 on behalf of the Allies as an administrator after Japan renounced its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan without naming a receiving country. In other words, the ROC was NOT the legitimate receiving state of Taiwan, the KMT was NOT the legitimate ruling body of Taiwan and therefore are NOT supposed to have legal status over Taiwan. Taiwanese are supposed to be given a choice to make their own decision about the future status of the country rather than being bullied by the KMT. However, the truth of this part of history has never been properly addressed.
After its arrival at Taiwan, the KMT illegally took ownership of countless government-owned properties, business and assets from the Japanese government. To date, the KMT is still worth billions and billions of NT dollars and is one of the richest political parties in the world. They use the money on elections, dominating the majority of media in Taiwan and allegedly influencing the stock market in Taiwan. The KMT maintain that they have properly dealt with those properties and assets. However, it has been strongly suspected that some of those sales were spurious because they were sold to people closely related to or heavily involved in the KMT party. Legal investigations were launched and not yet concluded. Most importantly, those assets should have been returned to the people, to the country but the KMT has never honoured that.
The KMT controlled Taiwan under a single party state where the country was put under martial law from 1948 under Chiang Kai-shek and later his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, until it was lifted in 1987 and abolished in 1991. The period of martial law in Taiwan has been the longest in the world history. Thousands of Taiwanese were killed, tortured, persecuted or jailed without a fair trial by the KMT during this period and most of the victims were the elites and the finest intellectuals of Taiwan. The most serious was the 228 massacre in Taiwan where it was estimated that 1 in every 300 Taiwanese (total between 18,285 and 19,418) were killed by the KMT. So far, the KMT has always minimised their responsibilities in this incident and its consequences. They have never made available some of the crucial documents (i.e. Chiang Kai-shek’s diaries and records) for a thorough investigation.
After the 228 massacre, there was an extensive period of ‘White terror’ during which approximately 200,000 or more were victimised. On the surface, it was a set of measures against communism. In reality, the KMT spied on people through a fine web of intelligence network and used violence against everyone who questioned or spoke against them or talked about democracy, self-determination and Taiwanese history. In school, children were taught that they were Chinese, not Taiwanese and the use of Taiwanese language would be punished or ridiculed at school. Between the late 1970s and the late 1980s, more and more protests and demonstrations pushed for democracy and freedom of speech/information, which caught the attention of the international community. The KMT was eventually forced to loosen its grip on power as a result.
When Chiang, Ching-kuo died before finishing his term as President and Chairperson of the KMT in 1988, his Vice President Lee, Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese, took presidency and leadership of the KMT. Former President Lee abolished the martial law completely in 1991 and from then on, other political parties became legal and freedom of speech improved significantly. He also responded to calls for changes by skilfully pushing through a series of political reforms. The first presidential election in Taiwan took place in 1996 and was seen as a historical landmark for which China fired missiles as a warning. This action actually did not achieve what they wanted because the support for the candidate they did not like, President Lee increased further afterwards.
Lee’s successor as party chairman, the KMT presidential candidate, Lien Chan, lost presidential elections in both 2000 and 2004 to the DPP candidate President Chen Shui-bian. Supporters blamed President Lee for Lien’s loss in 2000 and Lien allegedly told President Lee to leave the KMT afterwards. As a result, President Lee left the KMT. A group of pro-Taiwan politicians in the KMT left with President Lee and formed the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU). Although President Lee has never been the TSU party chair, he has been seen as the ‘spiritual’ leader and consulted on important decisions the party has to make.
Lien Chan, on the other hand, started seeking support from China and made under table agreements with the Chinese leader, Hu Jing-tao after his loss in the 2004 election. His actions seriously jeopardise Taiwan’s interest. The current party chairperson, Wo Po-hsiung, is following Lien’s step and is also getting unpopular because of this. A lot of Taiwanese are against what Lien has been doing NOT because Taiwanese do not want to communicate with the Chinese government but because Lien should have let the Taiwanese government do the talking. His actions have undermined the Taiwanese authority and not been in the interest of the country because he was not democratically elected and therefore could NOT be held accountable and certainly could NOT represent Taiwan. The same applies to Wu, who although is the ruling party chair person, is NOT elected by people. China is undoubtedly using this to weaken the Taiwanese government but Lien and Wu should have put the country’s interest before their own.
China and the KMT have always maintained that the DPP and Former President Chen refused to talk and used this to justify the KMT-CPC platform. However, the truth is that President Chen had expressed his wishes to talk to the Chinese government several times. It was China who refused to talk to the DPP government but blamed it on the DPP. With the world media usually in favour of China and biased against the DPP, this has been the myth reported everywhere in the world.
In 2008, the KMT candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, won the presidential election. Some may interpret it as Taiwan seeking closer ties with China. However, Ma mainly based his campaign on promises on economic improvements and repeated and publicly declared his love and devotion to ‘Taiwan’. He promised that the future of Taiwan had to be decided by Taiwanese and proposed ‘No reunification, no independence, no military actions’. In other words, most people voted for him as an economic choice and believed that he would at least protect Taiwan’s interest and improve the relation with China without compromising our sovereignty and national security.
Since he took office, Ma’s government has not protected Taiwan’s sovereignty as promised and deliberately blurred the Taiwanese identity. There have been deep anxiety and anger over this within the country. Combined by his inability (or a deliberate lack of effort) in improving the economy, a series of demonstrations and protests take place in August 2008, the biggest one being on 30 August, exactly 100 days after he was sworn in.
The DPP: Democratic Progressive Party
The DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union are major parties in the Pan-Green coalition, which is pro-democracy, pro-independence and generally more concerned about social welfares, environmental issues and social equality.
The DPP started off as a social force leading pro-democracy and pro-independence movements to challenge the KMT’s previous one party dictatorship. It was mainly founded by family members and defence lawyers of political prisoners who endeavoured to promote democracy and human rights but caught and put in prison by the KMT. The party was founded in 1986 and became legal in 1991. The democracy and freedom Taiwan enjoys now was partly due to those people’s persistent endeavour and partly due to Former President Lee (KMT)’s effort in reforming from within the system.
Even though the DPP supports the total independence of Taiwan, they have moderated their stance on this to be more inclusive upon winning presidency in 2000. They were also open to communicate with the Chinese government but would not cave in on Taiwan’s sovereignty and therefore wrongly accused of being ‘obstructive’.
Former Presidents Lee (KMT) and Chen (DPP) have both promoted a Taiwan-centred (rather than a China-centred or KMT-centred) way of thinking and increased the weight of Taiwanese history and Taiwanese language in school curriculum. Under the DPP government, Taiwanese developed a better understanding of our own history and now more of us identify ourselves as Taiwanese.
In recent years, Chen’s family have been under investigated for insider trading and keeping funds overseas. Such allegations have affected Chen’s as well as the DPP’s popularity and support. Recently, Chen has admitted keeping leftover from campaign donations accumulated up until 2004, which was NOT illegal in Taiwan at the time. What he did wrong was failing to honestly declare the amount of campaign donations and spending. It was later found that his wife had been involved in receiving bribery.
Of course, any wrong doings should be condemned. However, it is the legal system and the majority of the media have applied double standard to Pan-Green and Pan-Blue politicians where actual or alleged corruptions among the Pan-Blue figures are often covered up or minimised but those among the Pan-Green politicians are exaggerated or made up. Pan-Green politicians and their families are often harassed and followed around by the press for weeks and weeks but Pan-Blue figures are rarely treated the same way or at least not chased for the same length of time.
It seems that a fair number of people in Taiwan are still affected the poison the KMT fed us for half of a century that the KMT rather than the people ‘owns’ Taiwan, implying that Taiwanese are inferior to Chinese or Pan-Blue and that Pan-Green politicians are ‘rebels’ and ‘bad people’ and therefore do not deserve the same level of respect as Pan-Blue. Those people enjoy the freedom that Pan-Green fought for them but do not feel grateful or understanding in any way.
In 2008, the DPP candidate, Frank Hsieh lost the presidential election to Ma Ying-jeou. He stayed the acting party chairperson for approximately 2 months so that the party could recuperate, get organised and run a proper party chairperson election. Ms Tsai, Ing-wen was elected as chairwoman on 18th May 2008. Now, with the KMT in power, legal persecutions and harassments to the Pan-Green coalition have just gone from bad to worse, partly to destroy the Pan-Green political force and partly as a smoke screen, masking what Ma is doing or failing to do.