Taiwan Brief: The critical KMT chair race, part 3, transcript

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This show and part 4–which is already done and will come out soon–has been worked on for awhile, and I’ve had to go back a re-write it multiple times as things keep changing.
And so you don’t have to punish yourself, I watched candidate registrations and the KMT chair debate, and in this show I’ll be looking at the candidates, and in part 4 more general analysis on the KMT at the state of the race, including polling.

We finally now know all the candidates for KMT party chair.
The utterly forgettable Wei Po-tao (韋伯韜), former head of the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, who had previously declared he would run didn’t show up to register, so he’s out.
Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), president of the KMT’s Sun Yat-sen School and former Changhua County Commissioner Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) did indeed register and are in the race.
Cho I’m not going to talk about very much, I think his entire purpose of being in the race is to remind everyone he still exists and won’t likely have much impact on the race unless something changes–and I’ll update you if that happens.
Chang is the remaining deep blue candidate now that former KMT presidential candidate Dan Han Kuo-yu has decided not to enter the race.
I don’t know why Han decided to not run, it was widely known he was thinking about it and he did up his Instagram game in the last few months–but come registration time no Dan Han the cabbage man.
Very curious to see what his next move will be going forward.

The two heavy hitters in the race are, as expected, Johnny Chiang running for re-election, and another former KMT chair and presidential nominee Eric Chu.
Clearly Chiang failed to secure some kind of deal to keep Chu from running, but Chu did secure his deal with Sean Lien, who has offered Chu his endorsement.
After finishing recording part two of this series, Eric Chu declared on Facebook and held a press conference announcing his intent to run.
It came with a campaign image of him in a spiffy blue suit with the slogan, roughly translated, “with change there is hope”.
He claimed he was “duty bound” to run and that he would selflessly work to promote the best candidate for president in 2024.
After that post, he reiterated that stance and name-dropped some potential candidates, a list that included New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih, Han Kuo-yu and Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen.
Those strong statements came after a poll showing him not doing well stacked up against several potential opponents in 2024.
In his original announcement he seemed to be leaving the door open, and I don’t think anyone seriously thinks if he thinks he has a shot at 2024 he won’t jump at it.
Another promise he dropped was to have the KMT surpass the DPP in opinion polls in a year–just days after he stated that a TVBS poll showed that was already the case, something Johnny Chiang was quick to take credit for.
That poll, however, seems to be an outlier, no other ones back it up and continue to show the DPP with a healthy lead over the KMT.
So far everything has been pretty typical Chu “all-things-to-all-people” with little of substance.
In subsequent posts and comments he has been more clearly pan-blue–naturally since he’s targeting the KMT base–and has been name-dropping Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Ching-kuo and of course a lot of “protect the ROC”.
He also has been repeatedly proclaiming that the KMT was the “true blue” party, and there are no ‘light blues’ and ‘deep blues’.
He’s also seemingly pouring cold water on any tie-up with the Taiwan People’s Party or making the kind of reforms that would put them in the mainstream of public opinion that the DPP currently dominates by saying the KMT can’t become “little white” or “little green” in reference to submitting to those parties political platforms.
He did, however, say he’s in favor of good ties with the US and plans to visit by the end of the year.
In the debate on China, this was the CNA summary of his stance:
“former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), said the KMT as an opposition party should establish a channel with China to promote social exchanges and focus less on politics.
He said the KMT believes in defending the Republic of China and its love for Taiwan, and the party should not be distracted by being labeled China-leaning by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).”
I–because I’m such a wild and fun guy–watched both Chu and Chiang register their candidacies and their events afterwards.
Interestingly, Chu paid his dues with a cheque.
He then took to the stage backed by a bunch of young people–perhaps next time he can ask one of them how wire transfers work.
He spoke forcefully, and made the case that the party needs to reform and attract youth.
His youthful props behind him were largely ignored, and as his speech wore on increasingly they started to look more like hostages than supporters–though perhaps they were just tired of standing still for so long.
Chu worked to project a classic KMT leader image, and–in spite of making his main pitch about change–didn’t actually propose much new.
In fact, he’s been calling for three things he’d change–which ironically the KMT under Chiang has been doing in similar form, including doing more polling and online outreach.
Chu wants to have in-house pollsters so they can remain in touch with public opinion.
Chiang has been using outside pollsters, which actually makes the results somewhat more credible.
Chu has also been taking potshots at Chiang, saying the KMT needs “effective leadership” and generally suggesting Chiang has led the party into crisis.
He also set himself the goal of on “day one” to set up a committee to plan for the 2022 elections in order to win over half of the “big six” metropolises, and specifically win back Taipei and Taoyuan.
Overall, Chu doesn’t come across as having any real plan to actually reform the party to the degree necessary to make it electable with the broad public.
He’s sticking with all the unpopular bits, including the 1992 Consensus.
Of course at this point–considering that one KMT internal poll showed over 80% of KMT members support the 92 Consensus–he’s not going to rock the boat too openly by offending the very KMT members he needs to win this race.
That being said, there are no indications currently or from his past tenure I can see that suggest he’s going be much more than a moderate reformer at most–though he could surprise everyone, you never know.
If I had to summarize his stance from what little meat there is to it, it’s an ever so slightly milder version of Ma Ying-jeou.
If that is the case, the KMT will continue its long, slow slide into oblivion–just slower than if, say, Han Kuo-yu had run and won.

Speaking of deep blues, Chang Ya-chung is calling for a peace treaty with Beijing, and has been trashing the KMT as having lost its way.
By losing its way, he means–as he asked in the debate–is this the country that Sun Yat-sen wanted to build?
He also accused Lee Tung-hui and the DPP of leading Taiwan off the correct path.
Overall he came across as the most angry of the four, and was the only one with a distinctly mainlander accent.
He’s a bit of a gadfly, and has previously run for chair and in the KMT presidential primary and was resoundingly crushed.
There is one thing that gives me pause in totally ruling him out as a factor in this race, which I’ll get to in the next show.

So, on to Johnny Chiang.
When registering to run he paid in cash, which is even more low tech than Chu’s cheque–though in the debate he very obviously brandished his iPad when reading his notes.
Interestingly, at his registration he showed up with former Taichung Mayor and Foreign Minister Jason Hu, and former lawmaker and Taichung Black Faction heavyweight Yen Kuan-hung.
I was a bit surprised at Hu–a party heavyweight–throwing his weight behind Chiang, in spite of them both being Taichungers.
Hu is generally considered creative, but still pretty deep blue–after all he took a position with Want Want China Times and has been seen frequenting events in China.
Yen showing up sent another message: unity between his Black Faction and Chiang’s Red Faction.
It’s been known for awhile the two Taichung KMT patronage factions have been getting along, but Yen recently very visibly resigned from his party post with a weird placard saying “I just want to breath”.
It was widely interpreted as a sign of no confidence in Johnny Chiang as chair, in spite of him swearing up and down that wasn’t the case and he wanted to return to his district, presumably to help out with the recall campaign against the guy who beat him out of his seat, Chen Po-wei of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party.
By attending he was underscoring he really wasn’t sending a message of no confidence, and Johnny Chiang referred to him as his “brother” at the event in English.
That was smart, as “brother” in Mandarin can sound gangsterish, and the factions are associated with that sort of behaviour.
Indeed Yen’s father, the notorious Yen Ching-piao, has served several prison terms, including for spending millions of NT$ of public funds at KTVs and for gun possession.
OK, I’ll stop with the Taichung politics.
Like Eric Chu, he showed up with a bunch of young people.
Unlike Chu’s uncomfortable looking young props, they were more animated, and Chiang interacted with them a lot more, and gave them much more opportunity to speak.
He’s been a lot more specific than Chu on how he would boost youth involvement in the party, and pointed to–among other things–his efforts at visiting universities, recruiting young people and passing a rule setting aside more party list seats in the legislature for people under 40 to kickstart their careers.
Interestingly, during the debate he also accused older members in the party talking down to younger ones–and in this he may be speaking from experience.
He also didn’t shy away from pointing out that only about 3% of the party membership is under 40 in spite of his efforts, though that is up from closer to 2% when he took office.
Not a lot to show for his efforts, but I suspect it’s the first time in years it has grown at all.
On foreign policy, he also tried to be all things to all people in the pan-blue camp, reiterating having a good relationship with the US, but also saying that he wants to have a party special envoy to China–which I knew immediately he was using to try and win over Ma Ying-jeou’s support, and sure enough a few days later name checked him as a great person for this position.
More on this next show.
Chiang also emphasized that Taiwanese are ethnically Han and have a lot of ties to China, and all should come together, and talk about building mutual trust.
Like Chu he talked a lot about defending the ROC and loving Taiwan.
He also re-iterated his ‘1992 consensus based on the ROC constitution’ stance, which means…basically the 1992 consensus as far as I can tell with a slight nod to public opinion.
He knows that over 80% of KMT members support the 92 consensus, so in spite of trying to get it removed–and failing–and having previously calling it “outdated, lacks flexibility and is gradually losing the support of Taiwanese”, now he has backtracked and supports it again.
At least for now he’s pandering for votes within the party, so he’s not going to drop it yet-and it’s anyone’s best guess if he’ll try again.
If he wins himself a full term this time, and especially if he wins it with a strong margin, then he’ll be a stronger position.
He now sounds much less like the bold reformer he pitched himself as during the by-election that he won.
This time around he sounds like Ma Ying-jeou lite.

Screen grab of the KMT debate courtesy of the KMT FB Page

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