Farewell, Mr. Democracy
March 30, 2000
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 embarassingly naive reporters for Newsweek magazine with almost zero understanding of what they were writing about.
China-haters and Taiwan “independence” fellow travellers, 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.”
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.”
As John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group likes to say, “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 marshalled 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.
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 “L.A. 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 rosed-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 pathos.”
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 sheeps’ 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 Diplomacy.”
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 U.S. 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 inisists 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 U.S. 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 mainland.
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 U.S. 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 leadership.
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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. contribution to Indonesian president Suharto.
7. In April 1995, Liu Tai-ying prepared the way for Lee Teng-hui’s mid-East 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 U.S. 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 U.S. exceeds that of R.O.C. President Lee Teng-hui, which in turn exceeds that of U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
Written by Fung Hu-hsiang, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy at National Central University
Member of the Legislature of the Republic of China
Translated by Bevin Chu