Taiwan 2020: One Election, Two Attitudes of Nationalism

Taiwan 2020: One Election, Two Attitudes of Nationalism
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

KMT supporters wave their ROC flags and dress in ROC items at rallies, while DPP supporters express their anti-China sentiments with equal passion.

With days until Taiwan’s 2020 election, both the majority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) are coming up with creative ways to express their party platforms. 

One of the major differences between the two camps is their attitudes toward China. This year, KMT supporters started to wear the Republic of China flag in a fashion never seen before.

KMT attitude

In Tainan’s sixth legislative district, also one of KMT’s “hardship districts," former party Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) is challenging DPP incumbent Wang Ting-yu (王定宇). Tainan has voted for DPP candidates consistently in the past, and Wang runs a popular Facebook page with more than a quarter-million followers.

When Hung gave a speech on December 29 at the city councilor’s office, supporters not only waved the ROC flags but wore clothing items with the pattern of the flag. The office is located in the south of Tainan City, where voter demographics actually favor the KMT.

ROC_Outfit
Photo Credit: Milo Hsieh 
A KMT supporter wears her "Republic of China" outfit to a rally in Tainan.

“I also have ROC pants and shoes, but decide to not wear them today.” said a KMT supporter who was wearing a sparkling ROC hat and an ROC-themed sweatshirt. 

Hung’s speech is marked by anxiety surrounding ROC’s status. She told her crowd to “not trust the United States” given the U.S. refusal to recognize the Republic of China. She accused the DPP of marginalizing the ROC, pointing out that seven countries have ceased to recognize Taiwan since the inauguration of incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen.

Hung spoke as the presidential debate was being televised, and mostly mirrored the position of KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜). She spoke in opposition to the DPP-proposed anti-infiltration bill, an effort to combat Chinese influence over Taiwan’s elections and democracy. 

“This law would make me the number-one war criminal just because I’ve spoken to Xi Jinping before!” Hung exclaimed. 

DPP attitude

DPP supporters expressed a different attitude on China at a Taipei rally the same day. The rally, titled “Deshelve Wu Sze-huai” (下架吳斯懷), gathered approximately 2,000 attendees. Wu is a retired general on KMT’s party list whose nomination drew controversy due to his Beijing visits. William Lai, DPP's vice presidential candidate, claimed Wu is disloyal to Taiwan and he might be prone to leaking national security secrets. 

Large signs saying “No China” were passed around the rally and blended among flags of incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen’s face. A campaign worker for legislative candidate Hsieh Pei-fen (謝佩芬) said that these signs were supplied by the pro-Taiwan nationhood Taiwan New Constitution Foundation (制憲基金會). 

護國保台下架吳斯懷之夜 賴清德出席
Photo Credit: CNA
William Lai at the “Deshelve Wu Sze-huai” rally

The foundation was founded in January 2019 by Koo Kuan-min (辜寬敏) in part to pressure the moderate Tsai administration over her policy on the ROC constitution. Though the DPP “deen Greens” were at odds with Tsai at the beginning of the year, the two factions have since reconciled after Tsai won over Lai in the June primary.

At the rally, Pingtung County Magistrate Pan Men-an (潘孟安) of the DPP said the party does not see China as an enemy, but some supporters held signs expressing strong anti-China sentiments. He was the only DPP 

A divided society

Going into the 2020 election, nationalism is being channeled by the two establishment parties for political support.

The term “China” in Taiwan is an ambiguous term, whose definition often is based on one’s political preference. Some exclusively use it to refer to the PRC, while others believe that Taiwan under the ROC constitution is the sole legitimate representative of “China.”

Under President Tsai, the DPP has become more moderate on attitudes on the ROC constitution, which many DPP supporters see as a remnant of authoritarian rule. In contrast, The KMT, since nominating Han Kuo-yu as its presidential candidate, has recently become a much stronger supporter of the ROC constitution and flag.

Neither party has differentiated the difference between the Chinese government, the Communist Party, and what “China” means. Though Tsai has in the past attempted to use more precise language to refer to Beijing, DPP party members have often directed attack towards an unspecified “China.”

Though several parties unaffiliated with the traditional “pan-Blue” and “pan-Green” camps have emerged over the years, the two largest political parties still lock head around Taiwanese and Chinese nationalism.


READ NEXT: A Recap of Taiwan 2020 Presidential Debate

TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more story updates in your news feed, please be sure to follow our Facebook.