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The Strait Scoop: Farewell, Mr. Democracy
Column by Bevin Chu of Antiwar.com
Written by: Fung Hu-hsiang, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy at National Central University
Member of the Legislature of the Republic of China, New Party
Translated by: Bevin Chu
Farewell, Mr. Democracy
MR. DEMOCRACY VS. THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
Lee Teng-hui, lame duck president of the Republic of China, is no champion
of democracy. Lee’s ludicrous "Mr. Democracy" label was the result of
wishful thinking by embarrassingly naive reporters for Newsweek magazine
with almost zero understanding of what they were writing about.
China-haters and Taiwan "independence" fellow travelers, usually one and the
same, suffer from selective amnesia. They conveniently forget just how Lee
Teng-hui became president of the ROC
Lee did not rise through the ROC political hierarchy "democratically," the
way Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan rose through America’s. Lee’s presidency
was conferred upon him. The late Chiang Ching-kuo conferred the ROC
presidency on Lee, the same way Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek conferred the
ROC presidency on Chiang Ching-kuo, the same way Deng Xiaoping conferred the
PRC presidency on Jiang Zemin.
Lee became president of the ROC not by means of democracy, but by imperial
succession. The only difference is Lee put a democratic face on his
ascension to the throne by holding a direct election, after the fact.
Exploiting advantages conferred upon him by an imperial presidency,
including a state-controlled media and an inexperienced, gullible
electorate, Lee ensured his own "democratic" victory.
Unfortunately for Lee, this was a gambit he could use only once. Had "Mr.
Democracy" been eligible for another term, and chose to run, he would have
been trounced, but good, by James Soong.
MR. DEMOCRACY VS. TERM LIMITS
Lee could not legally run for another term, not without yet another
constitutional amendment. Mr. Democracy has had the ROC Constitution amended
five times in nine years for two reasons. One, to increase his personal
power and two, to pave the way for Taiwan independence.
Previous amendments systematically raised the threshold for impeachment so
high Lee is now virtually an elective monarch. Another amendment would mean
six amendments in ten years.
It is widely rumored the only reason Lee has not demanded another amendment
and another term, is our own US State Department secretly confronted "Mr.
Democracy" with an ultimatum, "Step down, or else."
MR. DEMOCRACY VS. CHIANG CHING-KUO
Chiang Ching-kuo earnestly believed Lee would carry on Chiang’s program of
political liberalization, of glasnost and perestroika. Chiang was wrong. New
Party legislator and vice-presidential candidate Fung Hu-hsiang, who once
served as Chiang’s executive secretary recalls how Chiang did so many things
right. He lifted martial law. He abolished media censorship. He legalized
opposition political parties. He promoted "native" Taiwan political talent
to higher office. If anybody deserves the title "Mr. Democracy," it’s Chiang
Ching-kuo, not Lee Teng-hui.
Unfortunately the one thing Chiang messed up, he messed up royally, his
choice of successor. He inflicted the despotic Quisling Lee Teng-hui on the
people of the ROC, for twelve long years. Such is the downside of
"benevolent despotism." One never knows if the next guy in line is another
MR. DEMOCRACY, MEET MR. MANN
In an article entitled "Taiwan President Taking a Bad Rap" (Wednesday, March
22, 2000 Los Angeles Times) columnist Jim Mann wrote:
"Taiwan’s president [Lee Teng-hui] is being charged with secretly wanting
the opposition DPP to win the election. Lee, so this argument goes, is an
ardent Taiwanese nationalist who sympathizes with the DPP’s past support for
the cause of independence for Taiwan... Are these accusations against Lee
valid? ... did Lee actually work behind the scenes against Lien and the KMT
, his own party? There’s little evidence to support such a charge... "
LITTLE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT SUCH A CHARGE?
In August 1994, Liu Tai-ying, Chairman, Business Affairs Committee,
Kuomintang, met with then Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Shih
Ming-teh, and offered to pay the cost of the DPP’s new headquarters
building. Liu Tai-ying freely admits this event took place but claims that
President and KMT Party Chairman Lee Teng-hui knew nothing of the offer.
Skeptics consider this even less believable than Hillary Clinton not knowing
about the White House Travel Office firings. Liu Tai-ying also offered to
underwrite the DPP’s entire annual budget, to the tune of $4.3 million U.S.
Mann must be kidding.
MR. DEMOCRACY VS. MA YING-JEOU
"The argument that Taiwan’s president wanted his own party to lose ignores
what he said and did during this campaign and previous campaigns. Two years
ago, when the DPP’s Chen was running for reelection as mayor of Taipei,
there were similar charges that the president secretly wanted him to win
because Chen was Taiwanese and his opponent, Ma Ying-jeou, was from mainland
China. Instead, Lee campaigned vigorously for Ma, who proceeded to win."
Text-only printable version of this article
Bevin Chu is an American architect of Chinese descent registered to practice
in Texas. Currently living and working in Taiwan, Chu is the son of a
retired high-ranking diplomat with the ROC (Taiwan) government. His column,
"The Strait Scoop," now appears Fridays at Antiwar.com.
Farewell, Mr. Democracy
Taiwan’s Fraudulent Election
Taiwan’s Day of Decision
One China, Two Systems
Taiwan Independence and the 2-28 Incident
The Least of Three Evils
A New Millennium, Really
Taiwan Independence Beats a Retreat
Hollywood's Tibet: Tinseltown's Sacred Cow
International Trade and National Security: Back to Basics
Tibetan-Chinese Are Not American Indians
American China Policy versus Common Sense
Letter to an American Patriot
The Myth of Casualty Aversion
Gary Bauer's Un-American Values
The Dalai Lama's Politics of Race
A Republic, Not an Empire: The Conventional Wisdom is Wrong, Dead Wrong
All Politicians are Essentially Actors: Al Pacino, Ronald Reagan and Lee
Playing Politics with Taiwan's Quake Victims
Taiwan's Great Earthquake and the Mandate of Heaven
Taiwan's Little Emperors
Globocops With Guillotines
Taiwan Independence and the Stockholm Syndrome
Taiwan Independence and Free Lunches (8/31/99)
Inside the Taiwan Political Scene (8/19/99)
American Values in Dire Straits (8/10/99)
AS JOHN McLAUGHLIN SAYS: "WRONG!"
For starters Lee discouraged Ma’s nomination. When Ma was nominated by the
KMT hierarchy in spite of Lee’s wishes, because nominees John Chang and
Jason Hu lacked the charisma to beat Chen, Lee refused to attend Ma’s
rallies. Finally, a week or so before election day Lee relented.
Ma did not win because Lee campaigned "vigorously" for Ma, because Lee did
NOT campaign "vigorously" for Ma. Lee campaigned grudgingly, half-heartedly
for Ma. Getting Lee to campaign for Ma was like pulling teeth. Ask KMT
"non-mainstream faction" members who drafted Ma to be their party’s nominee.
MR. DEMOCRACY VS. THE NEW PARTY
Ma won because New Party members sacrificed their own better qualified
candidate Wang Chien-hsuan, in order to block the separatist Chen’s path to
the ROC presidency. What they did was referred to as "qi Wang, bao Ma" or
"dump Wang, save Ma." Ask DPP members registered to vote in Taipei. You’ll
be subjected to an earful of angry profanity directed at "mainland pigs."
Two years later they still resent Chen’s loss, and place the blame squarely
on the pro-reunification New Party.
MR. DEMOCRACY VS. LIEN CHAN
"In recent months, Lee publicly denounced Chen as unreliable. And he
declared that, if the DPP came to power, there would be instability between
Taiwan and China. These don’t seem like the actions of a DPP cheerleader.
They look more like the actions of a leader who hoped his own KMT would win
so that he would retain a degree of power after he was no longer president."
Wrong! Recent months? Try recent DAYS. Again Lee reluctantly went through
the motions of supporting his own party’s candidate for appearance’s sake.
But he did so only after he was reasonably confident his strategy of "qi
Lien, bao Bian" had taken effect.
MR. DEMOCRACY AND THE ORDER OF LENIN
Jim Mann just doesn’t get it.
The KMT, like the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is a Leninist political
party. For that matter, so is the "opposition" DPP. KMT tradition mandates
that whoever is president is also automatically party chairman, and
vice-versa. That’s right. Just like the "Communists" in Beijing.
If Lien Chan were elected, Lee would be forced to step down as party
chairman. Besides, by Lee’s lights Lien is not sufficiently committed to
Taiwan independence. That’s why many pro-reunification KMT members supported
Lien against Chen. Rightly or wrongly, they believe Lien to be a closet
advocate of reunification.
If on the other hand, Chen were elected, Lee could argue he needed to retain
the chairmanship in order "to rescue the party in its hour of need."
No. Lee did NOT hope his own KMT would win so that he would retain a degree
of power after he was no longer president. Instead Lee hoped Chen Shui-bian,
whom Lee compared to Joshua and himself to Moses, would win. Lee hoped after
he conferred the ROC presidency on Chen Shui-bian, that Lee would at least
be able to retain his own party’s chairmanship.
MR. DEMOCRACY VS. JAMES SOONG
During the election Lee Teng-hui marshaled the entire resources of the KMT
party machine to smear James Soong with false accusations of embezzlement. A
subsequent Control Yuan investigation cleared Soong of any and all
wrongdoing. The damage however had already been done. Soong never fully
recovered in the polls. See "The Least of Three Evils."
MR. DEMOCRACY TO A-BIAN’S RESCUE
On the other hand, Lee Teng-hui ordered evidence that Chen Shui-bian
defrauded a wealthy Chinese-Malaysian tycoon out of a fortune in a phony
lottery scheme suppressed until after election day. Prosecutors have since
announced that the handwriting on a sheaf of incriminating documents match
Chen’s handwriting samples. Too late. Chen is already president-elect, soon
to be president, with full executive immunity. Chen meanwhile, has openly
declared his intention to cover for benefactor Lee Teng-hui. Who says
there’s no honor among thieves?
The Academy Award winning film LA Confidential painted a riveting portrait
of Los Angeles during the 1950s, on two levels. On the surface, the mythical
Los Angeles of Jack Webb’s police drama Dragnet, viewed through Eisenhower
era rose-colored glasses. Beneath the surface, beneath the Tinseltown glitz,
a Dark City of Rodney King police brutality and Heidi Fleiss sex scandals
which persists even today.
JUST THE FACTS, MANN, JUST THE FACTS
"The conspiracy theory of Taiwan’s election is too simplistic to bear
scrutiny. Chen didn’t win because the Taiwan president secretly supported
him... Lee Teng-hui looks above all like King Lear, an elderly ruler in
decline... His downfall is the stuff not of conspiracy but of tragedy and
What is too simplistic to bear scrutiny is Mann’s glib but irrelevant King
Lear analogy. Misleading literary allusions are a sorry substitute for hard
facts. Newsweek in 1996, and the Los Angeles Times in 2000 have presented us
with a Pleasantville version of Taiwan’s "democracy" akin to the sanitized
Los Angeles Jack Webb depicted in Dragnet.
MR. DEMOCRACY, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
The iconoclastic Li Ao recently suggested that Chen Shui-bian will sell out
Taiwan independence for personal political advantage. According to Li AO,
Chen Shui-bian is actually an unprincipled opportunist wolf in Taiwan
independence sheep's’ clothing.
If Li AO is right, and Li AO ought to know, having known Chen for twenty
years, then Lee Teng-hui may have outsmarted himself by turning the reigns
of the ROC government over to someone who will wind up making a deal with
Beijing and relegate Taiwan independence to the dustbin of history.
If Li AO’s prediction proves correct, Chen Shui-bian’s election will prove
an ironic and unexpected benefit to both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The
fact is Deng Xiaoping’s, and now Jiang Zemin’s intention, was never to
overrun Taiwan in order to impose doctrinaire "communism" on the island, but
merely to prevent the loss of sovereign Chinese territory.
Beijing is perfectly happy to permit Taiwan an extraordinarily high degree
of local autonomy, even to keep its own armed forces, as long as Taiwan
remains part of China. A pragmatic deal struck between the Chen regime in
Taipei and the Jiang regime in Beijing would be a win/win proposition for
America, for mainland China, and for Taiwan.
The only losers would be Robert Kagan and William Kristol of the Weekly
Standard. These Armchair Warriors, these Profiles in Courage would be
instantly deprived of their newest and most likely candidate for Son of Evil
Empire. Better luck next time, fellas.
Taiwan’s Newest Export: KMT Corruption
An Abbreviated Chronology of Liu Tai-ying’s Influence Peddling
Liu Tai-ying’s official title is "Chairman, Business Affairs Committee,
Kuomintang" (or KMT), the ruling party of the Republic of China (Taiwan). He
is the man President Lee Teng-hui has entrusted with Taiwan’s most notorious
overseas export: political influence peddling. He is the prime suspect
behind the 15 million dollar bribe to Clinton and the Democratic National
Committee. In short, he is Lee Teng-hui’s Ambassador of "Checkbook
The Kuomintang is reputed to be the world’s wealthiest political party.
Americans may be surprised to learn that unlike their own political parties
which are required by US law and custom to avoid even the appearance of
impropriety, the KMT openly owns and operates a wide range of highly
lucrative business enterprises, from which it competes unfairly by
exploiting its status as ruling party of the R.O.C.
What follows is a paper trail, thoroughly documented and a matter of public
record, of Liu Tai-ying’s long and sordid history of illegal and unethical
influence peddling at home and abroad.
Liu Tai-ying’s Paper Trail
1. In August 1994, Liu Tai-ying met with then Democratic Progressive Party
Chairman Shih Ming-teh face to face, and offered to pay the cost of the new
DPP Headquarters building. Liu Tai-ying freely admits this event took place
but insists that President and KMT Party Chairman Lee Teng-hui knew nothing
of the offer. Skeptics consider this even less believable than Hillary
Clinton not knowing about the White House Travel Office firings.
2. On the same occasion Liu Tai-ying offered to underwrite the DPP’s entire
annual budget, to the tune of $4.3 million US Both building and budget
offers were turned down, but considering that the DPP is the largest
pro-independence party in Taiwan, they cast more than a little doubt on Lee
Teng-hui’s public expressions of support for reunification with the
3. Liu Tai-ying’s boss, KMT Party Chairman Lee Teng-hui not long ago
declared his intention to offer the United Nations $1 billion US for a seat
in the General Assembly. This brazen attempt to bribe the world body was
ignored, but reveals the "anything is for sale" world view of the KMT
4. On behalf of Lee Teng-hui, Liu Tai-ying engaged the high-powered public
relations firm of Cassidy and Associates for the astronomical sum of $4.5
million US in order to smooth the way for his politically-motivated
"private" 1995 Cornell University trip.
5. Cornell University admits that they received a $2.5 million US donation
from a "friend" of Lee Teng-hui after Lee’s trip.
6. In February 1994, Liu Tai-ying paved the way for Lee Teng-hui’s
Indonesian state visit by making a $100 million US contribution to
Indonesian president Suharto.
7. In April 1995, Liu Tai-ying prepared the way for Lee Teng-hui’s Mideast
trip with generous contributions to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
8. In April 1995, Liu Tai-ying attempted to bribe Israel with an offer
ranging between $250 and $400 million US to allow a state visit by Lee
Teng-hui. Israel turned him down.
9. In 1994 Liu Tai-ying arranged for the sale of the Hong Kong Times office
building at the bargain basement price of $190 million H.K. The building was
resold only three months later for the sum of $580 million H.K. Why was the
spread so great? Who pocketed the profit? These and other troubling
questions remain unanswered.
10. Liu Tai-ying arranged for the purchase of an office building in Japan at
the exorbitant price of 13.9 billion Yen. The building has been appraised as
having a market value of only 6.5 billion Yen. Who pocketed the 100% profit?
Did it pay for Lee’s Japan visit? These are reasonable questions.
11. Liu Tai-ying’s annual salary of $700,000 US exceeds that of R.O.C.
President Lee Teng-hui, which in turn exceeds that of US President Bill
Clinton. Liu’s bar-hopping lifestyle compares with that of Clinton advisor
Dick Morris, as does his ego. He boasts of having single-handedly raised
$800 million US for the KMT over a period of three short years, without
apology for the unethical means by which he did so.
12. Liu is well connected with the heads of Taiwan’s "Four Big Enterprises,"
namely Evergreen, China Trust, the Cathay Group and Formosa Plastics. It was
Liu who introduced Mark Middleton, President Clinton’s Special Assistant to
the "Four Big Enterprises." That Evergreen was subsequently fined by the
State of California for making an illegal $890,000 US campaign contribution
does little to dispel suspicion about Liu’s involvement in the latest
Clinton bribery scandal.
Liu Tai-ying and his boss Lee Teng-hui are of course responsible for their
misdeeds and must answer for them. Nevertheless our overview is not intended
as an indictment of Liu and Lee as individuals, but rather of endemic,
systemic corruption. Lee Teng-hui’s "corruption as a way of life" must be
rooted out before the Republic of China can become a democracy in more than
name only. It is only when clean government has been reestablished at home
that the R.O.C. will cease to be an exporter of corruption abroad.
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