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Friday, March 30, 2007

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A feast of KMT myths

This post should have appeared a few weeks back before the rally but somehow never got published. I've changed a few tenses and made a few minor revisions. This rally was one of the developments Wang Chin-pyng was respnding to ]weh he said that the KMT was dominated by a minority (mainlander) elite.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is held a "Love Taiwan/Defend the Republic of China" rally tomorrow near CKS Memorial Hall. The press conference was a litany of KMT canards.

Acting Chairman Chiang Pin-kung invited KMT supporters to come out and "express blue anger." He went on to say that "under presidents Chiang Kai-shek and Chinag Ching-kuo, Taiwan enjoyed an era of happiness, prosperity, and beauty. We cannot allow the DPP to erase history." Note the conservative appeal to a happy past totally unrelated to the dictatorial rule of the Chiang family when few were allowed to leave the island and political dissidents were arrested or shot by the tens of thousands. Happy, prosperous, and beautiful indeed!

Behind Chiang at the press conference were posters that read "We've been Pissed Off for a Long Time. Come Out and Show Your Anger!" Print ads for the rally in the China Times today said that "Look at how the DPP can do nothing but change names and ignores the people. Nothing but slogans. The DPP doesn't know how to govern. If you don't want to see them go on acting up, come out and let them hear you roar!"

As with Chiang's comments, note the tone of resentful, petulant anger. KMT supporters are pissed off (bushuang), showing anger (qiangsheng), and roaring (nuhou). If you go out to the rally tomorrow you will see ample evidence of this sullen resentfulness.

Oddly enough, this tone is always filtered out in international media reports about Taiwan. But the other message in the print ad comes out loud and clear--the DPP is allegedly misgoverning Taiwan. The filtered-out resentment is then transposed to the entire Taiwanese people (as opposed to one conservative, resentful constituency) and represented as being the causal effect of the other message of poor DPP governance. The end result of this alchemy? The Taiwanese people are sick of DPP misrule and the rational, pragmatic KMT will right things by getting back to business.

Chiang expanded on his theme. The purpose of government, according to Chiang, is to allow the people to live in peace and pursue their private business or careers (anju leye). But what these libertarian-sounding sentiments really mean is that we should go back to the low-crime days of martial law and allow big business free rein to blow the savings of the Taiwanese people on high-risk investments in China.

The means to achieving these ignoble ends are peace with China, ethnic harmony, bi-partisan cooperation, and getting tough on crime. What a hoot!

Peace with China means making deals over Taiwan's sovereignty and future status with consulting the Taiwanese people, cozying up to China, and intentionally eroding Taiwan's defenses. Ethnic harmony means getting back to the good old days when those uppity Taiwanese knew their place.

Bi-partisan cooperation is especially rich coming from a party that has been willing to leave Taiwan without a budget unless it gets control over the Central Elections Commission.

The rally will march around the walls of CKS memorial in a ludicrous reprise of Shih Ming-teh's Naztec line marches last fall (what ever happened to Shih, btw?) followed by film clips of Chinag Kai-shek's statue in Kaohsiung being 'desecrated' and images of Taiwan from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Chiang said that those were Taiwan's salad days, when Taiwan's economy was taking off. In those days everyone was full of hope. Now everyone wants to find a way for Taiwan's economy to take off again.

The linkage between an imagined past and a new era of unlimited economic development is striking. The poverty and indeed regressive nature of the KMT's vision of Taiwan 's future is underlined in Chiang's next comments. Over the past seven years, Taiwan's GDP has grown by an average of "just" 3.5 percent a year. Meanwhile, where Taiwanese per capita income once led the hated Koreans by US$5,000, Taiwanese per capita incomes are now the lowest among the four East Asian dragon and US$2,000 behind the Koreans. The KMT's economic policies left the Taiwanese "standing up to their eyeballs in cash."

I'll leave it to the experts to debate Taiwan's economic history, but it should be noted that it is an open question whether the KMT state-directed economy drove Taiwan's economy or inhibited the entrepreneurial drive of the Taiwanese people. Taiwan's economic miracle also came at a horrible cost to Taiwan's now ravaged environment and to exploited workers in the sweatshops of yore. Of course, things were pretty good for Taiwan's massive and cosseted state sector who lived inside a magical circle of cradle-to-grave benefits including lifelong job security, pensions, and free education and health care unlike the unwashed masses who pretty much fended for themselves.

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