Taiwan Communiqué No. 78, December 1997

Major election victory

Surpassing the KMT for first time in history

On Saturday, 29 November 1997, elections were held in Taiwan for 23 positions of county executives and city mayors. The pro-independence democratic opposition achieved a major victory by winning 12 positions, doubling the number of seats they held until now. Even more importantly, the opposition candidates won nearly 44 percent of the vote, for the first time in history surpassing the Kuomintang - which dropped down to 42 percent.

The results show a continuing erosion of the Kuomintang's traditional hold on power, and has significant implications for future national-level elections: The opposition DPP is coming within striking distance to win the Legislative Yuan elections in December 1998 and even the Presidential elections in 2000.

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New Taipei County Magistrate Su Chen-chang

The results mean that the democratic opposition now controls virtually all major population centers on the island and their surrounding counties, covering an area holding some 71.5 percent of Taiwan's population: Taipei City is governed by DPP presidential hopeful Chen Shui-bian, while in the surrounding Taipei County, Mr. Su Chen-chang won an important victory, holding on to the position previously held by Dr. You Ching.

Farther to the south, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung counties are all held by the opposition. Only Kaohsiung City is still led by a Kuomintang mayor, while the surrounding County will continue to be governed by incumbent DPP-Magistrate Yu Cheng-hsien.

Eighty candidates vied for positions as mayors and county chiefs in the 18 counties and five cities. The Kuomintang received a majority in only eight counties, most of them thinly populated areas in central and eastern Taiwan, and Kinmen and Matsu, the two small islands off the Chinese coast, which are considered separate counties by the Taiwan authorities. Important opposition victories were:

Taipei County, the area surrounding Taipei City. Here the DPP's Magistrate You Ching was ending two successful terms, and according to the rules could not run for a third term. DPP Lawyer / legislator Su Chen-chang is now succeeding him. In a hard-fought campaign he won some 570,000 votes against his KMT opponent's 540,000. The heavily-populated county is an important stronghold for the opposition.

{short description of image}New Tainan City Mayor George Chang

Tainan City, where Taiwan Independence leader George Chang Tsan-hung, former chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence, ran as the DPP-candidate and won a hard race against six other candidates, three from the KMT, two independent candidates (including former DPP-legislator Hsu Tien-tsai), and one from the right-wing New Party.

{short description of image} Mark Chen

In the surrounding Tainan County, DPP-incumbent Dr. Mark Chen Tan-san was a sure winner. Mr. Chen is a prominent former overseas leader of the democratic movement: living in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he headed the Taiwanese Association of America and the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations. In the early 1980s, he was instrumental in establishing the Washington D.C.-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA).

In Taoyuan County, just south of Taipei, incumbent DPP-Magistrate and Women's Rights leader Ms. Annette Lü Hsiu-lien won a hard-fought re-election campaign. Since the late 1970s, she has been a prominent advocate of democracy and human rights in Taiwan, which landed her in prison in 1979. She was released in 1984, subsequently joined the DPP, and became a prominent advocate for Taiwan's entry into the United Nations. From 1993 through 1995, she served one term as a member of the Legislative Yuan.

In Ilan County, DPP candidate Liu Shou-chen won. Ilan has a long history of DPP-Magistrates, and has become a showcase for good and clean government. With his hard-won victory, the Mr. Liu is now continuing this tradition. The Kuomintang fielded a strong candidate, but failed to wrestle Ilan away from the DPP.

Taichung City, where the DPP candidate, Provincial Assembly member Ms. Chang Wen-ying, was a popular candidate with broad grassroots support. In the surrounding Taichung County, DPP-Candidate Liao Yung-lai was a clear winner in a crowded field of six candidates.

Three non-affiliated candidates running as independents won, while the pro-unification New Party received only 1.3% of the vote and failed to win any seat. In two places, the non-affiliated candidates are leaning towards the DPP: Mr. Peng Pai-hsien in Nantou County and Mrs. Chang Po-ya in Chiayi City.

In the following table, we present the overall results of the elections. For comparison, we also give the results of the previous elections, held in November 1993.

1997 1993
Number of positions Percentage of the vote Number of positions Percentage of the vote
Kuomintang 8 42.0% 15 47.3%
DPP 12 43.5% 6 41.2%
New Party -- 1.3% -- --
Smaller parties and Non-affiliated 3 13.2% 2 11.5%
TOTAL: 23 100.0% 23 100.0%

Ending the status quo

The election results in Taiwan show that the people on the island are not satisfied with the Kuomintang's status quo, and want change. They want change on the island itself, away from the corruption, pollution, and lack of public safety which characterized the Kuomintang's rule. Earlier this year, thousands demonstrated in Taipei against the Kuomintang's inability to stem violent crime.

The elections also show an underlying trend that the people on the island want to be accepted by the international community as a full and equal member. Prominent advocates of Taiwan independence and Taiwanµs entry into the United Nations, such as Tainan City Mayor George Chang and Taoyuan County Magistrate Lü Hsiu-lien were all elected. In a separate by-election in Chiayi City, UN-membership advocate Chai Trong-rong regained his seat in the Legislative Yuan.

At a victory celebration in Taipei, the DPP's likely candidate for the Presidential Elections in 2000, Mr. Chen Shui-bian appealed for multi-party cooperation to raise the islandµs international stature.

In esssence, the underlying conclusion is thus that the people in Taiwan consider the ·One Chinaº policy outdated and no longer valid. This present-day reality should lead to a reasessment of US policy. As we have emphasized before, present US policy towards Taiwan - as well as the policies of other Western nations - is ambiguous and confusing, and doesn't reflect the growth of Taiwan into a full-fledged democracy.

Towards a "Fifth Policy"

An examination of the various interpretations of the "One China" policy shows that there are actually four "One China" policies:

  1. The policy as it was originally formulated in 1971-72, when the authorities in Beijing were accepted as the representatives of China in the UN - taking the seat held until that time by the Kuomintang regime. The US and other nations at that time acknowledged (=took note of) the Chinese position that there was but one China, and that the regime in Beijing considered Taiwan part of their China. This "acknowledgement" was never meant to be a permanent policy, but was intended to be a temporary holding position. It was hoped that time would somehow solve the issue.

  2. A second "One China" policy is the one which evolved in the minds of some academics and policymakers over the past 25 years: the original "acknowledged" became fuzzy, and - in a peculiar definition-creep - came to mean "accepted" or "recognized." This second "One China" policy is much closer to the PRC-position than the original one.

  3. The third "One China" policy is the one taken by the PRC-authorities in Beijing themselves: this one bases itself on the mistaken fiction that historically Taiwan is somehow an integral part of China. In fact Taiwan has never been part of the PRC, but was a Japan-held territory, occupied after World War II by the losing side in China's Civil War. According to this distorted PRC view, the issue of Taiwanµs future is an ·internal, domesticº Chinese matter, and that other nations should stay out of it.

  4. The fourth "One China" policy is the one promoted by the Kuomintang authorities in Taiwan, which maintain that there is "One China", but that within this "One China" there are two equal political entities, the PRC and their ROC. This policy boils down to a "Two China" policy.

The Fifth Policy is the "One China, One Taiwan" policy. This one recognizes the reality that Taiwan and China are two separate nations, which can coexist as two friendly neighbors without claiming sovereignty over eachother. In this policy, the PRC is recognized as being the sole China, and Taiwan is accepted by the international community as a full, equal and independent member of the family of nations.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: we believe strongly that this Fifth Policy is the only realistic, rational and reasonable one. It would mean that both the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists end their Civil War, and that the 21 million people of Taiwan are finally accepted by the international community as a free, democratic, and independent nation.

Taiwan independence is good for China

We make the argument here that Taiwan independence would be good for China, and that it would be helpful if policymakers and academics would convince the Chinese leadership that it is in Chinaµs own interest if they would accept peaceful coexistence with Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, instead of perpetuating an old Civil War.

Until now, the Chinese leaders in Beijing - and a number of Western policymakers and academics - have been rather paranoid about Taiwan independence. They either do not wish to discuss the issue in a fair and evenhanded manner, or hit the ceiling upon hearing the words.

As we have argued before, the Taiwanese were just as much - or even more - a victim of that Civil War when the Kuomintang moved its repressive regime to the island. The "February 28th Incident" of 1947, in which between 20,000 and 28,000 Taiwanese were murdered by the Chinese Nationalist troops, is a vivid proof of this fact. The Chinese should learn to distinguish between their old enemies (the Kuomintang) and their possible new friends and neighbors (the Taiwanese).

Coming to terms with the reality of a new and independent Taiwan would bring stability and new prosperity to East Asia. It would enhance trade, cultural and social exchanges between Taiwan and the coastal provinces of China, and would remove an old sore which the people on both sides have already long forgotten.

The latter point was illustrated quite clearly recently in interviews, conducted by International Herald Tribune writer Richard Halloran held in China during the first weeks of November 1997. In discussions with people on the streets of Beijing, he discovered little interest in Taiwan. The topic was hardly brought up. When he questioned people on their views, they made statements such as:

"Let the Taiwanese decide for themselves what they want to do", said a teacher in Shanghai.

A scholar from Beijing agreed: "Nobody really cares about Taiwan. They have too much else on their minds trying to get better jobs."

"I'd like to see Taiwan become part of China," said an intellectual, "but it's not worth fighting over."

"The Taiwan obsession isn't for everyone"

Richard Halloran, Internatioanl Herald Tribune, 28 November 1997.

China can thus come to an accommodation with Taiwan in which it recognizes Taiwan and established diplomatic ties with the island, just like the United States and Canada live peacefully next to eachother: who nowadays remembers the War of 1812 or the fact that in 1776 thousands in the American Colonies didn't want Independence and fled to the British-held territories in the North ?

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