Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and Wang Mei-hui (王美惠) on Tuesday proposed a legal amendment that would require the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to change its emblem to something that does not resemble the national emblem.
As expected, the KMT took offense, saying that its emblem was designed first and that the resemblance between the two was because it had established the republic.
The lawmakers said that they were concerned that confusion would arise over the separation of party and state, and that a party emblem resembling the nation’s was not appropriate in modern Taiwan, which has undergone decades of democratization.
They might have a valid point, but for the KMT to accept changes to either the national or its own emblem would require it to redefine itself and relinquish ideas about being the sole heir to the legacy of the 1911 Hsinhai Revolution.
The KMT’s identity rests on the foundation of being a “Chinese” party. Its inability to separate itself from that foundation is why it cannot subscribe to the abandonment of the territorial claims of the Republic of China (ROC), the so-called “1992 consensus” and transitional justice reforms — such as the removal of symbols of the authoritarian era or the return of ill-gotten assets to the state.
Surveys show that most Taiwanese identify as “Taiwanese,” not “Chinese,” meaning that the KMT’s support base is likely to shrink unless it can provide meaningful alternatives to DPP policies. The KMT could, in theory, reinvent itself as a localized party, but doing so would immediately alienate most of its supporters and there is no guarantee that it would attract votes from the supporters of other localized parties.
The KMT and the DPP have been the two largest parties in Taiwan, in terms of support base and representation, since popular elections to the legislature were first held in 1992. The DPP holds 61 seats at the national level and the KMT 38. The next-largest party, the Taiwan People’s Party, has only five seats. The KMT and DPP offer two vastly different alternatives in terms of identity politics, and if the KMT were to no longer represent a pro-unification or “Chinese” identity alternative, it is improbable that it would remain as influential as it is now.
As the KMT is unlikely to redefine itself, and it is unlikely that its emblem would cause anyone to assume that the ROC is not a multi-party state, there is little reason for the DPP to press the issue further.Doing so would likely only inflame tensions between the two parties. It would be better for the DPP to focus on more meaningful issues, such as incremental steps toward achieving international recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign state.
The DPP could amend laws and the Constitution to remove references to “the mainland,” “cross-strait” or any other terms that give special status to relations between the areas governed separately by the ROC and the People’s Republic of China. The next step would be to either change the nation’s title to just “Taiwan,” or to seek foreign relations based on a “two Chinas” policy.
The DPP’s main concern should not be the perception of Taiwan based on emblems, but rather its perception in the face of incessant rhetoric and pressure from China.
As the KMT is in the opposition, it will do anything to paint the DPP as corrupt and not acting in accordance with the will of the people, so while the DPP must do what is in the best interests of the nation, it should not act in a manner that could be perceived as targeting any particular party.
The road toward recognition of Taiwan’s sovereignty is long, and the DPP’s energy would be best spent on starting that trek.
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