The KMT’s Emblem Becomes an Issue Again

The KMT’s Emblem Becomes an Issue Again
Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images

What you need to know

The longstanding controversy over the KMT and ROC emblems exemplifies the complexity of Taiwanese politics.

Last week, two lawmakers from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) proposed an amendment to a law that would force the Kuomintang (KMT), the main opposition party in the parliament, to change its emblem design. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the KMT's party emblem does not resemble the national emblem of the Republic of China (ROC), the official name for Taiwan.

In both color and design, the symbols for the KMT and the ROC are almost identical, misleading those who are not familiar with Taiwanese politics into believing that the country is still a single-party state, legislators say, when it has been a democracy for almost 30 years.

The only difference between the two emblems, in a design called “Blue Sky with a White Sun,” is that the rays of the sun in the KMT version are longer than those in the ROC version. The national emblem appears on the flag and passport of Taiwan.

Photo Credit: Sekisama, Zscout370
National emblem of ROC (left) and KMT emblem (right)

The proposal has garnered multi-partisan support, co-sponsored by 17 MPs from the DPP, the New Power Party (NPP), and the Taiwan People’s Party.

Longstanding controversy

The DPP’s move comes a month after the NPP, which has three seats in the parliament, proposed an amendment to another law, the National Emblem and National Flag Act, to “replace the current national emblem with one with imagery of Taiwan,” the party said. “We find it unacceptable that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs kept the national emblem, which closely resembles the KMT’s emblem.”

Miao Po-ya, Taipei city councilor representing the Social Democratic Party, pointed out that the Act is a product of Taiwan’s 38-year period of martial law. It is difficult for people to identify with a national symbol imposed by the military government, she said.

On the purpose of the reform efforts, Miao said, “Changing the national flag and emblem is inevitable for Taiwan to build solidarity as a community.” While the former involves constitutional change, the latter is less of a tall order, as it can be done by amending the Act.

In 2004, then-President Chen Shui-bian had demanded that the KMT change its emblem, threatening to alter the Act to force the party into doing so once the DPP won a majority in the parliament in that year’s election. Although Chen won reelection by a thin margin, the attempt failed because the DPP remained in the minority in the next parliament.

陳水扁 呂秀蓮
Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images
Chen Shui-bian, left, and his running mate Annette Lu greet supporters in a shower of confetti during a victory celebration in Taipei, Taiwan Saturday, March 18, 2000.

The KMT’s response

In response to the DPP’s action, Chen I-hsin, a KMT lawmaker, accused the party of “talking black into white,” saying that this proposal denies the history of the ROC. “It is not that the KMT emblem is based on the ROC emblem, but the other way around,” he added. The KMT founded the ROC in 1912 after a revolution.

The KMT’s emblem was created in 1895 in the late Qing Dynasty as the flag for the “Revive China Society” founded by Sun Yat-sen, years before the ROC came into existence. In 1928, a law made it the national emblem of the ROC, and the National Emblem and National Flag Act was established in Taiwan in 1954 to specify the size, measure, and design of the symbol.

Chen challenged the DPP-led government to change the national emblem, instead of asking the KMT to replace its party emblem.

However, even if the government takes such action, it is unlikely that the KMT, a party that cherishes its connections with the ROC, will back the proposal in the parliament.

Johnny Chiang, KMT chairman and legislator, said as a member of the KMT, he feels most proud that his 126-year-old party founded the ROC, a 109-year-old nation and the first democratic republic in Asia.

黨徽爭議 江啟臣:中國國民黨早於中華民國
Photo Credit: CNA
KMT chairman and lawmaker Johnny Chiang.

In a speech on the Retrocession Day, Chiang also said he hopes that the day will allow people to discuss and review the relationship between the ROC and Taiwan, adding that the continued existence of the ROC is the only way to curb Taiwanese independence.

Retrocession Day, on October 23, marks the end of Taiwan’s colonial period in 1945 and as the KMT believes, the beginning of the ROC rule in Taiwan. The KMT-led ROC government fled to Taiwan in 1949, after it lost the civil war with the Communist Party of China.

The party’s sensitivity on the ROC symbols was present in an incident in September, when the KMT released a statement accusing the DPP of “playing ideological games, minimizing, and nearly erasing the country’s official name, the Republic of China, in English,” as the government unveiled a new passport design, where the words “Republic of China” are shrunk and placed around the national emblem.

Currently, the DPP has the parliamentary majority, making it difficult for the KMT to block the proposal. It is expected to be forwarded to the Procedure Committee for review this week.

READ NEXT: OPINION: The KMT Wants to Revise the 1992 Consensus. It Misses the Point.

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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