Taking Down Goliath

The way things are going for Taiwan’s Kuomingtang (KMT) or Nationalist Party, which once reigned uncontested on the island, it seems political obsolescence may be just around the corner. The party, whose main platform is reunification with China, suffered a humiliating defeat in the Dec. 1 parliamentary election, losing its majority for the first time in history. Its rival, the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), led by President Chen Shui-bian, walked away with 87 of the 225 parliamentary seats, making it the largest party in parliament.

DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh told the Taipei Central News Agency (Dec. 1), “[T]he nation has taken another stride toward becoming a mature democracy.”

There are numerous reasons for the KMT’s fall from grace, according to Taiwan political observers. Since its defeat in last year’s presidential election, the KMT has been blamed for spitefully obstructing the legislature and trying to impeach the president, all of which exacerbated Taiwan’s already flailing economy. The party is also accused of “black-gold” corruption—politics involving organized crime.

Across the strait, Beijing, which still considers Taiwan a renegade province, reacted to the election with a mixture of denial and ire. In its first official response, China dismissed the election results, saying that most people in Taiwan still favor closer ties with the mainland. Wen Wei Po wrote on Dec. 2, “If the DPP concludes from this election that it can resist mainland China and win public confidence..., [it would be] misjudging future cross-strait developments.”

But Beijing may have no reason for alarm: Although Taiwan’s political allegiance may not lie with China, its economic future does. It is estimated that Taiwanese investments in China have already reached US$60 billion. But pro-independence commentators fear that the policy of aggressive investment in China is endangering Taiwan’s domestic economy. Liberty Times (Dec. 13) opined, “Taiwan’s level of dependence on China’s economy has already crossed a dangerous line.”