Wu’s Faction Prevails in KMT Central Committee Elections
The Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) members went to the polls to elect the party’s 20th Central Committee on September 9. From a total of 365 candidates vying for a spot, 210 were elected onto the Central Committee—all 10 current party lawmakers who participated in the election were elected onto the central committee. Widely billed as a competition between two major factions within the party, supporters of the new chairman, Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), prevailed over those of his predecessor, Hung Shiu-chu (洪秀柱).
Since the KMT’s crushing defeat in the 2016 presidential and legislative elections, the party has undergone a divisive internal debate as senior leaders publicly wrestled for control over the future direction of a party seemingly in disarray. The tides ostensibly began to turn with the election of a new chair in May to replace the controversial Hung Shiu-chu. Yet clear fissures remain.
Voting by members in the 20th Central Committee election was reportedly the highest in the party’s history. According to a KMT press release, the percentage of vote casted was 97.12, which is higher than the previous central committee election that reached 93.38. Perhaps more importantly, 39 young people were elected onto the committee, which accounts for 18.57 percent, compared to the previous committee’s 26.
As evidence of the new chair’s growing considerable political clout, 24 of the 31 candidates who the new chair had reportedly endorsed were elected onto the Central Committee. Wu’s handpicked candidates, Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), the grandson of former president Chiang Ching-kuo, and Chen Hsueh-sheng (陳雪生) both received a high number of votes in the election.
In contrast, only eight of the 23 candidates endorsed by the former chairperson managed to be elected onto the Central Committee—and received significantly fewer votes. While Sean Lien (連勝文), the son of former chairman Lien Chan and flag bearer of the Lien faction, reportedly received notably more votes for central committee member, many of the faction’s allies reportedly failed to be elected onto the committee.
All of the current 19th Central Standing Committee members were elected onto the 20th Central Committee. These members include current legislators Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚), Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), Lo, Ming-tsai (羅明才), Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀), Fai Hrong-tai (費鴻泰), Chen Hsueh-sheng (陳雪生), and Chen Yi-Ming (陳宜民). Former legislators elected to the committee include: Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟), Shen Chin-hwei (沈智慧), Kao Su-po (高思博), Ho Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳), Lin, Tsang-min (林滄敏), Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田), Cheng Ru-fen (鄭汝芬), Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), Tsao Erh-chang (曹爾忠), Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉), Chiu Yi (邱毅), Chen Jie (陳杰), and Wang Ting-son (王廷升).
The KMT’s Central Standing Committee—the real locus of decision making—will be appointed next month on October 1. Members are elected to serve two-year terms. According to the Party Constitution, the Central Standing Committee consists of 39 members, 32 of whom are elected by party representatives. Five members will be designated by the party chair, and the remaining two positions are filled by the heads of the party’s Youth League and its Department of Youth Affairs. While the clout of the new chairman appears to be growing and will increase his chances of having allies appointed to the central standing committee, there are still chances for coalitions to form to challenge and check his faction from controlling the Standing Committee.
The main point: The new chair of the Nationalist party appears to be consolidating power with the election of the 20th Central Committee, but whether Wu will be able to implement his policies will depend on whether his factional allies gain a majority on the Central Standing Committee.
Political Warfare Alert: Former Head of Taiwan Military’s “Political Warfare Bureau” No Longer Opposes the Communists
A retired general who formerly served as director of the Taiwan military’s Political Warfare Bureau (政治作戰局) from 1983-87 recently issued a public letter explaining why he no longer opposes the communists (不再反共). Hsu Li-nong (許歷農; b. 1918) was the director of the military unit responsible for countering communist ideology and psychological warfare, but turned into a vocal advocate for unification with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after his retirement.
In the lead-up to Armed Forces Day (軍人節)—celebrated on September 3 in Taiwan—the 99 years old retired general declared that he no longer opposes the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) because China is no longer a poor and backward communist country; rather, it has emerged as a major economic power. Hsu argued that the political, social and economic conditions that made him oppose the CCP are no longer present, and because of late patriarch Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up,” the CCP had in effect abandoned communism and is on the pathway of developing “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The retired general urged the two sides to issue a communique stating that there is only “One China in the world, Taiwan and ‘mainland’ are a part of China, China’s territory and sovereignty brook no division” (世界上祇有一個中國，台灣和大陸都是中國的一部分，中國的領土、主權不容分割), and on that premise, Hsu said that the two sides should support each other economically and militarily, as well as jointly participate in political and diplomatic activities.
A former Central Standing Committee member of the Nationalist Party, Hsu split from the KMT in 1993 to help form the far-right New Party (新黨) and established the explicitly pro-unification New Revolutionary Alliance (新同盟會)—a non-governmental organization named after Sun Yat-sen’s underground movement—that advocates for cross-Strait unification. Hsu returned to the KMT in 2005 where he remains a party member.
While Hsu’s pro-unification positions are widely known, his comments threw a spotlight on the role of the military unit that he once headed. The Political Warfare Bureau is the country’s premier military unit designed to counter communist influence operations directed primarily against Taiwan’s military. The Ministry of National Defense’s (MND) Political Warfare Bureau had its genesis in the early days of the Whampoa Military Academy (黃埔軍校), which was established in 1924.
In 1950, the name of the unit was changed from the Political Work Bureau (政工局) to Political Department (政治部) under the Ministry of National Defense, and a year later elevated to the General Political Department (總政治部). In August 1963—at the height of cross-Strait military tensions—the name of the unit was modified to the General Political Warfare Department (總政治作戰部). In 2013, during a significant period of thaw in overt political tension under the Ma administration, the organization underwent substantial reorganization and was seemingly downgraded from a department-level unit to a bureau-level unit within the MND. The position of director, which was previously held by a general, was replaced by a lieutenant general who would previously serve as the unit’s deputy director.
According to the Bureau’s website:
The Bureau is a level 1 organization of the MND. It is commanded by the Minister and is the highest commanding organization over political warfare of the national armed forces. It plans and supervises the political warfare operation of the military. In the future, the focus of political warfare operation to the outside world will be “advertisement promotion”, “psychological warfare”, and “serve the public”. Internally, the department tries to enhance “psychological counseling”, “psychological warfare training”, “military news handling” and “development of psychological combat ability of soldiers” to achieve the goals of “making stringer selves and conquer the enemies”.
The current head of the Bureau is Navy Vice Admiral Wen Zhen-guo (聞振國; b. 1959), who only became director in late 2015. The new director is the first sailor to serve in the position since the rank of the military officer holding the position was lowered in 2013. The deputy director, who was appointed only as recently as September 1, is Air Force Major General Yu Qin-wen (于親文).
According to observers, the decision to have an airman serve as deputy director is part of a broader ongoing effort under the new administration to rebalance the representation of the three services ostensibly for countering Chinese political warfare activities. Since the unit’s reorganization in 1963 to when it was renamed as the Political Warfare Bureau, the unit did not have an air force officer in a senior leadership position. Whether these efforts will yield tangible results remains to be seen.
The main point: Against the backdrop of an uptick in PRC political warfare activities, efforts appear to be underway to counter Chinese influence operations and political warfare activities by the MND’s Political Warfare Bureau.