Editor’s note: one thing we try to do here at The Taiwan Times (TTT) is to give the next generation a voice – those for whom what happens in Taiwan today, matters most.
To that end, this is the latest in a series of Q & As our younger writers – Carol Chen this time out – are conducting with people in all spheres; Taiwanese and foreign, as they start out on their own path as writers, or whatever they eventually end up doing.
As a young student, I had a chance to interview Mr. Ho Chih-Yung, (HCY) the Kuomintang’s (KMT) spokesman.
Throughout our conversation, it wasn’t hard to notice Mr. Ho’s passion and concern for Taiwanese politics.
He emphasized the importance of peacebuilding with China and the United States, and advocated for the younger generation to participate in political affairs.
TTT: From a historical perspective, how do you think the KMT’s role has changed on Taiwan’s political stage?
HCY: Unlike the DPP (the Democratic Progressive Party), the Kuomintang has a rather complicated historical background, since it is not a political party rooted in Taiwan.
The Kuomintang carried its origins and history (over) from the Mainland to the Island, and later lead Taiwan into modern statehood.
It is impossible to ignore the historical facts that the Kuomintang, in many historical incidents, was cruel to the Taiwanese people.
At the same time, it is fair enough to say, without the KMT, Taiwan wouldn’t have become a state of prosperity.
TTT: Former President Lee Teng-hui passed away a few months ago. What do you think about his influence on Taiwanese society?
HCY: The Kuomintang, as a political party, very much appreciates president Lee’s contribution to the party and nation.
Former President Lee was a figure who pushed Taiwan to achieve the democracy (it enjoys today), and somehow forced the KMT party to reform.
However, there is no denying that under Lee’s administration, corruption in Taiwan was severe, and his failure in foreign politics almost triggered a war with China, (a time in which Taiwan) sacrificed many intelligence officers.
Some may judge his dramatic shift in politics after stepping down from his role as president, however, I think his unpleasant experiences with China later reminded him of nostalgic feelings (from the) Japanese colonialist period, which explains his dramatic shift in politics.
TTT: Since I was born and raised in Kaohsiung, I am particularly interested in understanding how the KMT views Taiwan’s southern regions.
Did former presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu influence Kaohsiung with his mayoral victory and policies? Would you consider Han’s short period in the spotlight in Kaohsiung as having a positive impact on the KMT? Or, ultimately, was it chaos?
HCY: I believe that Han’s victory (in Kaohsiung) could be categorized as populist politics.
From the rise of his popularity to removing his seat, ‘‘media’’ played the most critical role.
Taiwanese people, no matter their age, collect information from the media, and the reports we saw can strongly influence people’s decisions and how they vote.
In my opinion, Han’s victory made the KMT realize it is possible to gain support from the people who used to support the opposition party.
However, perhaps, the influence of a politician should last for a long enough time to satisfy the voters’ expectations.
TTT: As the KMT has long been perceived as an ‘‘elite party’’, we can see the party itself trying to be more down-to-earth in recent years. Do you think the KMT can change the stereotype it has long carried amongst the Taiwanese public?
HCY: We are trying to be more down-to-earth in recent years.
As a young KMT member, I believe that a political party’s value should not just be limited to political affairs, but (it is) also (about) building connections with local communities.
The KMT is now trying to gather more young, ambitious students to help raise social welfare in different cities in Taiwan, hoping to change the stereotype of the KMT.
TTT: The KMT is currently the biggest opposition party in Taiwan. What do you think of KMT’s role as an opposition party? What is the main goal now for the KMT nowadays on the political stage?
HCY: The main goal of an opposition party, of course, is to supervise the current government, and make sure the present administration does not abuse the power given by the people.
However, the ultimate goal for the KMT right now is to win the next presidential election, and achieve party rotation.
TTT: Economic and national independence have long been the two ends of a rope, pulling in different directions in Taiwan’s political decision-making. I have noticed that the KMT emphasizes more the economic benefits regards to China, and the importance of maintaining regional peace.
However, President Tsai (DPP) seems to be going in another direction. Do you agree with President Tsai’s approach to China, and can Taiwan benefit from President Tsai’s China policy?
HCY: I believe that it is never a good idea to be too dependent on China or the United States.
What Taiwan should do is to maintain the balance between these two superpowers sophistically.
What President Tsai is doing right now, in my opinion, is a bit risky.
She allowed the clenbuterol American pork to enter Taiwan even before America gave Taiwan any specific trade, military, or economic benefits.
Her action was like showing all your cards (in a poker game) even before the bargaining begins. It was not a wise step.
TTT: President Donald Trump’s conservative policies with regards to China have severely changed the political order in the region.
Do you think his approach is benefiting Taiwan? Or is it putting Taiwan in a dangerous situation?
HCY: The KMT does not support any of the (U.S.) parties specifically. No matter which candidate wins the election, eventually, Taiwan needs to maintain a good relationship with the States.
We need the United States’ support to balance the regional power to prevent a war from happening.
TTT: As we learn from history, there can be various reasons for starting a war. As President Xi in China is frequently showing off the Red Army’s military-muscle to neighboring countries, his methods also put on show his weaknesses and fears vis-a-vis China’s domestic politics. Do you think there will be a war between Taiwan and China?
HCY: It is an interesting question. We will never know when or where war will happen.
However, what we should do is to prevent the possibility of a conflict. Xi is very aggressive, and responding to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) recent military actions is essential.
However, our government should be more euphemistic and cautious when communicating with the Mainland since any irritating comments can trigger a war.
TTT: As a small country, Taiwan is an essential part of the geopolitics of East Asia. How can we survive a balancing act between the two powers of the USA and China?
HCY: I think maintaining a connection with China in trade isn’t a bad idea.
It is a way to show our goodwill to the Mainland and maintain a peaceful relationship.
At the same time, it is also essential to keep up communication with the United States, as the cross-strait tension is political gambling between the two external powers.
TTT: What do you want to tell young people in Taiwan about the KMT? Are you optimistic about the next presidential election?
HCY: Younger generations often criticize the KMT for its brutal suppression of the people during its early years in Taiwan.
However, the KMT has reflected and apologized, and the party has paid the price in losing elections, accelerating the democratization process.
The party now is entirely different.
With younger members and younger thought patterns, we want to lead Taiwan to a better and brighter future.
Most important of all, we want Taiwan to be a safe place to live. We invite all of you to join our discussions and give us more opportunities to serve the country.