Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.3.96.981207104605.8751C-100000@uhunix4>
Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 01:52:57 -1000
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
From: Vincent K Pollard <pollard@HAWAII.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.XII.1998 Taiwan election results

Re: 5.XII.1998 Taiwan election results

By Vincent Kelly Pollard, 8 December 1998

Comments and addenda by Kwei-Bo HUANG and E. Philip LIM are welcome! For convenience, below I am reproducing URL’s cited in this thread as sources for election-related articles forwarded to SEASIA-L, most of which are ours, courtesy of Professor Huang: (Chinese) (Chinese) (English)

Although the incumbent KMT/GMD mayor of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, was unexpectedly defeated by the Democratic Progressive Party candidate, the more important victories Saturday were those won by Nationalist Party. Among other lessons, Saturday’s election results show that the ruling Kuomintang/Guomindang continues to *learn* from opposition parties (especially, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but also the New Party), adapting policies while maintaining a working majority of elected positions. What the DPP has learned remains to be seen.

And, yes, Professor Huang is absolutely correct to point out that the spelling Kuomintang is the (Wade-Giles) transliteration preferred by the Nationalist Party in Taiwan. It also remains the more common transliteration in American newspapers, as well as in English-language books published in the US, especially until about twenty years ago. In scholarly books published outside Taiwan, one increasingly finds either Wade-Giles or Pinyin spellings—or even both transliterations. Sometimes orthography has political overtones; sometimes, not: I used both spellings in my post simply because both are used.

Viewed comparatively, the democratic transition in Taiwan is like a majority of such transitions occurring since 1974 in the following respect: The ruling authoritarian parties managed the transitions, transformed themselves to a greater or lesser degree, and stayed in power.

According to Ching Cheong’s 7 December 1998 Straits Times Interactive article on (forwarded by to SEASIA-L by E. Philip Lim), The vote share for KMT’s splinter right-wing New Party (NP) shrank to only 2.96 per cent, a steep drop from the previous 30.17 per cent. The New Party has been the party most enthusiastically advocating reunification. With the March 1996 and November 1998 elections, the KMT has increasingly marginalized the New Party while acquiring the character of a revolving door. It will be interesting to see if the 5 December election

The following summary of mine may have been misunderstood: Also, while unwilling to declare independence, the GMD’s own delaying tactics towards the PRC’s calls for reunification have elicited irritated denunciations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

Professor Huang responded to that portion of my summary as follows: This seems to be an unfair comment on Taiwan. First of all, the KMT and its leader, Lee Tneg-hui, are still looking forward to a peaceful and democratic reunification of China (but this is not the most important goal, I believe, because the most important goal now is to win elections.

I do appreciate Huang’s leaving open the interpretation of my summary. Unless characterizing Beijing’s public reaction is unfair (and I don’t believe Huang was making that claim), the comment is accurate. My summary reported the irritation of the PRC. Their irritation is easily documented in Beijing Review, China News Digest’s Internet archives and other sources during the past 18-24 months. Mentioning the criticism is not identifying with it.

The characterization draws attention to the *adroitness* of President Lee’s delaying tactics. Beijing is unhappy because Lee has shifted the terms of ROC public diplomacy to democratic reunification. As long as President Lee continues to emphasize the desired role of democratization in any future reunification, there really is no need for him to say, maybe in 25 or 30 years. The reading or listening audience can make the inference for itself.

If the Taiwanese professor quoted by Ching Cheong is correct about the prospective conversion of pro-KMT voters to the New Taiwanese identity, that conversion would seem to be an additional pressure on President Lee and the rest of the KMT leadership to continue his emphasis on democratic reunification.

I am not sure if I understand the intended meaning of the following statement by Professor Huang in reference to Tainan’s referendum on 5 December: . . .unwilling to be ruled by the PRC does not mean supporting Taiwan independence, because the PRC and Taiwan (ROC) are two political entities independent of each other (although currently both are claiming that they represent China).

If Taiwan (Republic of China) and the People’s Republic of China are independent of one another, doesn’t unwillingness to be governed by the PRC mean that Taiwanese people support independence for Taiwan? The parenthetical statement is more puzzling because the Republic of China on Taiwan no longer claims that it represents all of China. The step the KMT is unwilling to take is *declaring* independence, probably because that would foreclose reunification.

Elsewhere in his comment on SEASIA-L, Professor Huang asked the excellent question, What on earth do the US political leaders think about this matter? His initial answer (stability) to the question is probably correct.

There’s another kind of answer: Partly because of the structure of the US Government, it has difficulty speaking with one voice on Taiwan PRC issues. However, something changed since the Jimmy Carter administration. And that something is the degree of democratization in Taiwan during the 1980s and 1990s. In January 1979, that democratization apparently was unanticipated by Carter or Deng. However, democratization in Taiwan, in turn, has made elements in the US Government subject to human rights and media pressures that did not exist twenty years ago.

Human rights organizations and mass communications media influence Congress on issues perceived as affecting Taiwan’s future. Here the ROC’s flagging media campaign to reenter the United Nations appears to have sensitized attentive public opinion in the US, as well as the American political leaders to whom Professor Huang refers. Although the President and the Department of State sometimes approve arms sales to Taiwan but often lean toward accommodating Beijing, members of key Congressional committees sometimes take positions conflicting with the PRC’s desires and at variance with public statements by the President and Department of State.

In March or April 1998, a PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson publicly insisted that the US speak with one voice on PRC-Taiwan matters. (A summary can be found in the China News Digest archives on the Internet.) Yet shortly after Clinton enunciated the three No’s during his visit in Beijing, a resolution strongly supportive of Taiwan was passed by the US Senate.

Despite some differences in emphasis and nuance, I agree with Professor Huang when he predicts that peaceful reunification seems more likely with a democratic Mainland China (PRC) than otherwise.

Vincent Kelly Pollard
Fax: 808 956-6877