Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mandate to March to the Mainland

Taiwan's Nationalist Party, known as the Kuomintang, garnered a stunning 81 of 113 legislative seats in Parliament; giving it a commanding three-fourths majority together with its 5 allies. This landslide victory provides a powerful momentum to retake the Presidency in the upcoming elections in March. Kuomintang head Ma Ying-jeou, a Harvard-educated former Taipei Mayor will be the Presidential candidate of the Kuomintang. The Democratic Progressive Party will now be chaired by Frank Hsieh, a former Premier of Taiwan, who will square of with Ma Ying for the Presidency.

Sixty eight years ago, the Kuomintang ruled over mainland China and was engaged in one of the bloodiest civil wars in recent history with the communists under Mao Tse Tung. Led by Chiang Kai-shek, the Kuomintang eventually lost the support of the peasants and retreated to Formosa (Taiwan). Taiwan was under a single party rule under Chiang until his death. His son Chiang Ching-kuo began to liberalize Taiwan's political system and appointed a native Chinese technocrat to be his Vice-President, Lee Teng-hui in 1984. Since then, the democratization of Taiwan slowly regenerated its industries and became one of the tiger economies of Asia in the 1990's.

The Kuomintang victory is significant for its historical ironies. They left the mainland and initiated efforts at securing US protection from threats of communist takeover. They also inculcated this paranoia among its citizens and staunchly maintained its independent status from the People's Republic of China (PRC); campaigning against the PRC's acceptance to the United Nations in 1970. But the reality of the situation could not be evaded by Taiwan, since it is logically impossible to conclude that an island of about 12 million at the time could claim to be the sole representative of 700 million people in mainland China. Such delusions were dismissed by American and European nations that left Taiwan isolated in the international community. Even the US abandoned its two-China policy since it is a diplomatic fallacy, but continued to provide security arrangements for the island nation. Today, it is the Kuomintang who favor a more active exchange with the PRC, opting to reopen air and shipping routes between the mainland and Taiwan, as well as to pursue business engagements with counterparts in China. Most importantly, the Kuomintang is a vocal proponent of a reunification with mainland China.

The Kuomintang electoral win is expected to be carried to the Presidential elections in March. This is also viewed as a fresh mandate for the Party to reiterate its agenda of marching back to the mainland and reunite with its fellow Chinese citizens whose population of 1.4 billion clearly dwarfs its 22 million people.

The civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communists continued until after the end of the cold war . While the war was never resolved and has been regarded as an inconclusive civil war; the Communists obviously have the big advantage, and any continuation of hostilities is a foregone conclusion in favor of the PRC. It would be interesting to see how the reunification will take shape. Will Taiwan be treated as a prodigal son or will it be a poor cousin with the rank of second class Chinese? Why would they establish a nation and call themselves Nationalists, then move back to the mainland and squeeze their nation in it? This is nationalism? Or is this move purely an economic decision to take advantage of what their communist counterparts have achieved which they cannot replicate in their tiny island? Is it a surrender to reality? Or has the PRC won without firing a single shot?

Reality bites. Perhaps they will get to know how fierce the true bite of the PRC is once they reunite. I hope they don't get swallowed into oblivion.


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