ON RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
Outcome of the 1st
December Elections in Taiwan (“Chinese Taipei”)
In the Chamber report, dated 17 November
2001, we stated that the majority of seats held by the KMT in the Legislative
Yuan is expected to change after the 1st December elections. That did occur, but the results of the
elections deserve additional commentary.
They indicate that Taiwan’s political environment
is evolving, but in a somewhat uneven and unsteady way.
Ø The results do not appear either to add or detract from the current
The ruling Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) was declared the “winner”, with an increase of 20
seats and the largest plurality.
Prior to the elections, the DPP was considered to be the ruling party
since it became a major element in the Executive Yuan after the election of
Chen Shui-bian as president in May 2000, but it lacked strength in the
The win was nevertheless
narrow. The DPP’s share of seats
increased from 30.4 per cent to only 38.2 per cent, which is obviously well
short of a majority. The significance
of the results lies mainly in the demise of the Nationalist Party (KMT),
whose share of seats dropped from 50.7 per cent to 29.8 per cent (see table
below which contains the results announced on 2nd December).
Not all of the decline in KMT
support went to the DPP and its associated party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union
(TSU). The People First Party (PFP),
led by James Soong as an early breakaway from the KMT, increased its share from
9.2 per cent to 20.4 per cent.
Even if Chen Shui-bian manages
to obtain support from all of the independents (12 of them), the resulting
coalition, including the TSU, will have only 49.3 per cent of the seats. Comfortable control of the Legislative Yuan
by the DPP will therefore depend upon eight or nine defections of elected
deputies from the “Blue Team”, consisting of the Nationalist Party (KMT), the
People First Party (PFP) and the New Party (NP).
Interpretation of the results is
further complicated by the swing toward the “Blue Team” in the local
government elections that were conducted at the same time. The swing was particularly pronounced in
the north, thus creating a north-south polarisation.
The “Blue” North
KMT candidates for county
commissioners and mayors defeated the DPP incumbents in the following:
The results are attributed to the
failure on the part of the DPP incumbents to focus on local economic or
environmental issues, and, in at least one case, to internal bickering within
In Keelung City,
DPP Mayor Lee Chin-yung lost to Hsu Tsai-li, who was the speaker of the
outgoing municipal council and a vocal critic of the mayor’s policies.
In Hsinchu City, the incumbent
mayor, Tsai Jen-chien, lost voter support after his failure to manage the environmental
problems associated with science-based industrial park in Hsinchu. The incoming mayor, Lin Jung-chien,
promised to merge the administrations of Hsinchu City and the industrial
In Hsinchu County, the newly
elected commissioner, Cheng Yung-chin, received support from the KMT, as well
as from the PFP and the New Party. He
apparently gained from the absence of bickering.
City, Mayor Chang Wen-ying stood as an independent after being elected
initially as a DPP candidate. This
probably split the vote for the DPP candidate, allowing the KMT’s Jason Hu, a
former foreign affairs minister, to obtain nearly half of the votes.
The mayor of Taichung County,
Liao Yung-lai, opposed a local investment project of the Bayer Corporation on
environmental grounds. Some analysts
suggested that about 1,000 jobs in the county were lost as a result, and this
contributed to a shift in support to the KMT candidate, Huang Chung-sheng.
The “Green” South
From Nantou County in the
central part of Taiwan Island to the southern tip, DPP candidates won local
government positions except in Taichung City
and County and Yulin County. DPP
victories are particularly notable in:
Kaohsiung County, and
The success of the DPP in these
areas is attributed mainly to the close relationship between local branches
and the DPP-led central government.
The More Remote
The People First Party (PFP),
which participated in local elections for the first time, now dominates two
remote counties previously held by the KMT.
Legislator Hsu Ching-yuan took Taitung County, previously held by the
KMT, while Chen Hsueh-sheng swept to victory in Lienchiang County -- the
official administrative title for the Matsu archipelago.
A victory in Kinmen County was
the New Party's only success in the elections. NP legislator Lee Chu-feng gained the largest number of votes
ever in local elections for commissioner in Kinmen.
Kinmen and Matsu would of course
benefit from improved cross-strait relations since the islands lie off the
coast of Fujian Province and expect to become a central part of direct links
with the mainland. It is therefore
not surprising that the parties pressing harder for such links gained their
The KMT added one more post to
its tally in the previous elections of 1997, securing a total of nine posts,
while the DPP lost three posts to leave it also with nine positions. The overall result was therefore not devastating
for the DPP, but it did result in some disappointment.
The most important element
emerging from the local government elections is that 12 out of the 23
positions that were contested this time resulted in new administrations. Hence, at this level the voting displayed
dissatisfaction with the incumbents.
This could be a key element in
explaining the voting pattern, and it is therefore relevant to the effect of
the results on cross-strait relations.
A number of analysts have
suggested that the election results indicate that the Taiwanese voters are
“thinking for themselves” and are continuing the move away from traditional
politics, which has been built around KMT dominance.
This of course is not
surprising. As we mentioned in
previous comments, the one-party system in Taiwan, which was initiated and
perpetuated for specific purposes by the KMT, would eventually reach the
limits of Taiwanese acceptance.
It is significant to note,
however, that a main vehicle to move away from this dominance has been, and
continues to be, the breakaway parties.
As noted previously, James Soong established the People First Party
with defectors from the KMT. It
remains close in ideology to the KMT and is classified as part of the “Blue
The Taiwan Solidarity Union was
given a substantial boost with support from former president Lee Teng-hui,
who was expelled from the KMT as a result of this support. The TSU is identified with the “Green
Team” since it is a strong promoter of localisation (and is thus an opponent
of mainlander dominance). TSU people
are therefore less traditional (“blue”) compared to the PFP, but are nevertheless
not as far to the left (“green”) as the DPP.
Voters in Taiwan would appear to
have a range of choices, but it is not clear whether the votes that were cast
on 1st December represent an ideological swing. An editorial in the Taipei
Times (2 December 2001) suggests that it as more an expression of
The voters of Taiwan have sent a clear message to the parties: "We are not satisfied with your performance, none of you are completely trustworthy." There was no big winner in yesterday's elections -- no party won an absolute majority in the legislative polls. The stage is set for a partisan realignment.
The need for a partisan
realignment is obvious and has existed for some time. It is also clear that the hurdles to such
a realignment are unchanged. They are
imposed and perpetuated by the four political leaders:
President Chen Shui-bian,
former president Lee Teng-hui,
KMT Chairman Lien Chan, and
People’s First Chairman James Soong.
Each will seek a base of power
and influence, and any alliances among the four are likely to become shaky if
those individual bases begin to weaken as a result of the alliances.
The conclusion is not very
satisfying: we must wait and see.
Nothing new seems to be added in
the sense that the election results offer little or nothing to either
stimulate, or discourage further, the resumption of cross-strait
Some analysts suggested that
“China would be compelled to deal with Chen’s administration if he has the
governing majority in the country one way or another” (statement by Larry
Diamond, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University as
reported by the Taipei Times in
“Foreign Observers See Cross-Strait Tensions Easing”, dated 2 December 2001.)
We note, first, there is
ambiguity in the use of the word “country” (see Annex A). Second, Chen Shui-bian may succeed in
forming a DPP-led majority in the Legislative Yuan, but that has not yet been
accomplished. Third, if such a
majority is formed it may inspire a new effort to resume the cross-strait
discussions, but it is difficult to see the compulsion to do so.
Even if Beijing had been waiting
for the 1st December elections to reveal the will of the Taiwanese in
connection with cross-strait relations, which is very unlikely, they would
have learned very little.
Wang Yeh-lih, professor of
political science at Tunghai University, made an interesting observation,
again reported in the Taipei Times:
Viewing voters' support ratings for the "pan-blue" camp and the "pan-green" camp, on the other hand, no significant structural change took place in Taiwan's last five legislative elections. In other words, the percentages of ballots cast for the major parties have remained the same -- the "pan-blue" camp attracted around 54 percent of the votes while the "pan-green" camp attracted around 45 percent. Therefore, voter support for local parties is quite stable, as no structural "political realignment" has occurred.
The most we can say, therefore,
is that the election results indicate that the Taiwanese are dissatisfied
with current conditions – economic as well as political – but do not have a
grasp on how those conditions can be improved.
They look to the four political
leaders mentioned above to provide the solution, but each has been around for
some time and no new progress has been made.
BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL AGREEMENTS ON THE STATUS OF TAIWAN
We can of course understand how
easy it is to refer to Taiwan as a “country” or as a “nation”, but in fact it
is recognised as such by only a small group of nations. The vast majority of sovereign nations
recognise Taiwan as a separate economy and, with official entry into the WTO,
as a separate customs territory.
We can also understand that the
Taiwanese, and many others, consider that to be unfair in view of their
economic achievements since 1949.
Whether it is “unfair” or not, it was a decision made by a large
number of governments.
A statement conveying the nature
of the Sino-US agreement is available from the US Library of Congress’
Internet site (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/cntoc.html,
“Sino-American Relations” in Chapter 12):
Ties between China and the United States began to strengthen in 1978, culminating in the December announcement that diplomatic relations would be established as of January 1, 1979. In establishing relations, Washington reaffirmed its agreement that the People's Republic was the sole legal government of China and that Taiwan was an inalienable part of China [emphasis added].
As far as we can determine, the
agreement did not specify the way in which Taiwan, as an inalienable part of
China, should be designated, but it is clear that calling Taiwan a “country”
or a “nation” would not be consistent with the agreement.
It is also clear that referring
to Taiwan as the “Republic of China” would not be consistent with the
agreement since the context in which it is used by the Taiwanese presumes
reference to a “legal government of China”.
It is of course not necessary
that citizens of a nation conform to all that is agreed upon by their
government, but not doing so is either an indication of ignorance or of
deliberate defiance. Without
clarification, such usage it is therefore ambiguous.
We mentioned in the previous
comment on Taiwan’s entry into the WTO that it represents an opportunity to
change the context of Taiwan’s relations with the rest of the world. Specifically, a “special customs
territory” member of the WTO conveys acceptance that Taiwan is fully
autonomous in the conduct of its external relations. From the WTO’s Internet site (http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/eol/e/wto08/wto8_52.htm):
Governments accede to the WTO. Normally these are the governments of sovereign States. However, separate customs territories, such as Hong Kong, may also be members of the WTO, provided these customs territories possess full autonomy in the conduct of their external relations and of the matters provided for in the Marrakesh Agreement and the Multilateral Agreements annexed thereto.
The rest of the world recognises
that Taiwan has been fully autonomous in the conduct is its external
relations. What is new, after Taiwan
ratifies the WTO agreement, is that all WTO members (including the People’s
Republic of China) explicitly recognise that autonomy.
Taiwanese may not be fully
satisfied with the designation “separate customs territory”, but it can
supply more than they have at the moment.