President Ma is not
the only problem
By Michael Danielsen
Taiwan’s democratic development and its self-determination are challenged not
only by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), but also by the policies of the Chinese
Nationalist Party (KMT). Unfortunately, there seems to be a strong focus on Ma’s
low popularity and his competence as a president, rather than on the KMT as a
The KMT deserves more attention. Just because the KMT has been on the wrong side
of democracy in the past and has enforced a Chinese mentality on the Taiwanese
while dreaming of unification, it does not mean that the party is now handling
these issues better. Indeed, it now seems to be finding new ways to achieve old
A reality check is advisable in this respect. Despite the fact that the KMT has
a vast parliamentary majority, Taiwan’s democratic development has been held
back over the past five years. Taiwan’s press freedom has deteriorated, as
documented by the US-based Freedom House, and questionable legal cases have been
filed against former government officials. Moreover, Ma’s involvement in
attempts to unseat Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) constitutes a
fundamental breach of the basic principles of the separation of power and checks
and balances in a democracy.
The country even went as far as unjustly refusing entry to a German citizen in
March — a decision which appears to have been politically motivated. His ban has
been lifted. Given the background of this case and the fact that more Europeans
are being banned from Taiwan, it is worrying that the KMT is reluctant to
implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that
Ma has signed and which protects foreigners’ political activities in Taiwan.
Moreover, during the past five years, the KMT parliamentary majority has led to
a lowering of Taiwan’s international status. This has threatened Taiwan’s
The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement agreement has still not been
submitted to the WTO and the nation’s symbolic participation in the WHO is
dependent on China’s annual approval. Both of these factors have lowered
Taiwan’s international status.
Additionally, the KMT has not reacted when Ma has said that China is not a
foreign country and that cross-strait relations are not international relations.
Chinese culture is undeniable a part of Taiwan, but the KMT government
overemphasizes it. By doing this, Europe’s Taipei Representative Offices miss
the opportunity to brand Taiwan’s culture as unique and to portray Taiwan as a
This is not only hurting Taiwan’s self-determination by diminishing Taiwan
uniqueness; it may also harm Taiwanese industries.
Also, in Taiwan Chinese culture is increasingly promoted in the educational
system, which may serve the old goal of unification.
The most dangerous people for the KMT are those who point out how the party’s
policies damage Taiwan’s democratic development and challenge its myth of
unification. These people are directly undermining the party’s belief in what
the right path for the nation is. It is encouraging to observe that the number
of Taiwanese concerned about the nation’s current development is growing.
It continues to be a mystery why unification and Chinese national identity are
so highly valued among KMT politicians, when it should be obvious that related
policies hurt Taiwan’s future and international status — and go against the
general public trend which sees the population increasingly disassociating
themselves from China.
Why is the KMT walking along these similar avenues, and where is the KMT taking
Taiwan? Ma is obviously not the only problem.
Michael Danielsen is chairman of Taiwan Corner, an online Danish publication.