Traitor? Turncoat? Feudal Thinking in the Modern Era
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 10, 2012
Summary: Former Kaohsiung County Chief Yang Chiu-hsing has been appointed Ma administration cabinet minister without portfolio, His former DPP comrades have excoriated him as a "turncoat." One could say the Green Camp "has a bee in its bonnet" about anyone becoming a "turncoat," and about anyone "not one of us," who therefore must be "one of them." By contrast, the Blue Camp has a more subtle issue with "traitors." This is a feudal conception of loyalty. As long as these two attitudes persist, politics on Taiwan cannot be rational.
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Former Kaohsiung County Chief Yang Chiu-hsing has been appointed Ma administration cabinet minister without portfolio, His former DPP comrades have excoriated him as a "turncoat." One could say the Green Camp "has a bee in its bonnet" about anyone becoming a "turncoat," and about anyone "not one of us," who therefore must be "one of them." By contrast, the Blue Camp has a more subtle issue with "traitors." This is a feudal conception of loyalty. As long as these two attitudes persist, politics on Taiwan cannot be rational.
As Yang Chiu-hsing noted, for politicians to switch political parties is nothing new. In other countries Britain's Winston Churchill and Japan's Ichiro Ozawa changed parties. On Taiwan, former President Lee Teng-hui, Huang Kun-hui, Chen Ming-wen, and Chang Hua-kuan changed parties. The political arena is filled with people who have changed political parties. The fact is, in modern democracies the nation trumps any party, Political parties are voluntary associations. If one remains in agreement, one stays. If one finds oneself in disagreement, one leaves. This ought to be the norm. Conversely, when one puts political party and ideology ahead of all else, and carelessly hurls feudalistic accusations of "turncoat" or "traitor," one is does more harm than good to one's party and one's nation. One merely demonstrates one's indifference to one's nation.
The general election has just concluded. DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen made a commitment during her presidential campaign, one that still rings in our ears. If the Democratic Progressive Party wins office, she vowed, the campaign committee will not be the ruling administration. Not will her administration transcend partisanship, she vowed, it will even form a grand coalition. What does it mean to "transcend partisanship?" What does it mean to "form a coalition?" Doesn't it mean co-operating and communicating with different political parties? Doesn't it mean recruiting the most talented individuals, regardless of party affiliation? When the DPP recruits people from other parties, the DPP praises them as "individuals of talent." But when the KMT recruits people from the DPP, the DPP swiftly denounces them as "turncoats."
The DPP once lacked governing experience. Its ruling administration had a serious shortage of individuals with talent. It desperately needed to transcend partisanship, Only then would these talented individuals be able to contribute at the crucial moment. The most obvious example was Tang Fei. During the 2000 change in ruling parties, the first in the Repubic of China's history, he served as Premier, even though he was ill at the time. The ruling DPP refused to agree to KMT demands for party to party consultations as a precondition of his recruitment. As a result Tang Fei found himself alone in the DPP cabinet for 140 days, after which he was denounced as a "stumbling block" and rushed off the stage. But during this first change in ruling parties, Tang Fei played an crucial role. He reassured the public. He even bolstered the morale of the armed forces. History will remember this.
Another example was Vice President Vincent Siew. When the Democratic Progressive Party was in office, Siew was not part of the government. Yet he was willing to act as economic advisor to the Chen Shui-bian adminstration. The pressing concern was the overall economy. When the DPP government was in office, it appointed New Party official Hau Lung-bin as EPA Chief. Hau defied the local political bosses and cleaned up the Erhjen Creek. As a result, public support for the administration soared. This was the most successful example of DPP transcending partisanship while recruiting talent.
The DPP must seek talent from outside the party. So why not the KMT? The Republic of China during election season may be a nation divided down the middle. But the Ma administration cannot be a government for half the people. The new government and the new cabinet must recruit the most qualified individuals for the job. If it can recruit from other parties, that will surely help it govern the nation. Even though the KMT is a century old political party, the new cabinet is not really a dyed in the wool Kuomintang cabinet. Yang Chiu-hsing was recruited from the DPP. Minister of the Interior Hong-Yuan Lee and MAC Vice Chairman Chen Chang Hsien-yao were recruited from the People First Party. Interior Minister Jiang Yi Hua and the majority of academics in the cabinet are independents.
Of course President Ma Ying-jeou's non-partisan staff have encountered obstacles within the party. In 2008, shortly after Ma took office. he nominated Green Camp leader Shen Fu-hsiung and Chen Hui-chang to the Control Yuan. Ma nominations were sharply rejected by Kuomintang legislators. Tang Fei helped stabilize the political situation. Yet KMT elders were still critical of his decision to serve the DPP. This preoccupation with "traitors" is completely out of touch with modern politics. In ancient times a minister would not serve two masters. But in modern democracies, political parties alternate, Individuals of talent do not belong to any one party, because they served the people.
By comparison, the DPP's preoccupation with "turncoats" is more serious. Party politics is about open competition between different political beliefs. But communications and consultation are also priorities for political parties. Alas, many Green Camp people see competition among political parties as battles between good and evil, between "them" and "us," Therefore they see no middle ground. To them, the KMT is the enemy, Anyone who suggests cooperation and communication with the KMT therefore, is a "traitor" and a "turncoat." Sad to say, political parties may use ideology to evaluate their opponents. But they also use it to persecute their own comrades. When political parties go down such a partisan road, they move farther and farther away from the people.
When Yang Chiu-hsing served as Kaohsiung County Chief, his governance was highly praised. He was referred to as the "five-star county chief," The Ma administration has recruited this individual of talent. The DPP ought to give him its blessing. More importantly, if one day the Democratic Progressive Party returns to power, it will need to draw on talent from the KMT, This should give them pause. When such feudal concepts as "turncoats" and "traitors" persist with the DPP, it is going to have a hard time forming a competent ruling cabinet.