Clean Government Is Not A Core Value For Democracy

(Liberty Times)  Weekly Column by Cao Changqing.  November 19, 2006.

[in translation]

After the indictments were issued in the case of the state special fund, former President Lee Teng-hui said in a speech at a charity dinner for Taiwan churches: "Clean government is a core value of democracy."  Later, Mr. Lee Yuan-tseh published an open letter: "Clean government is a core value of democracy."  It is astonishing that these two influential figures in Taiwan politics both came up with the same erroneous idea.  I am sorry that I have not seen any dissenting views.  It is essential to clear up this matter of principle, especially in the very unstable political situation of the moment.

Any expert or popular textbooks (no matter if it is a Chinese- or English- dictionary or encyclopedia) will have nothing to say about "clean government" or "clean governance" with respect to their explanations about democracy, democratic rule, democratic system, core democracy, democratic values and so on.  The reason is simple.  Not being corrupt is the most basic moral standard for a human being, whereas the core value for democracy is about the right of the people to choose (the minority should obey the majority while the rights of the minority are respected).

Clean governance (or anti-corruption) is not only not a core value of democracy, it is not even an issue that is the subject of political debate in any democratic country.  This is because opposing corruption is not an issue about ideology.  Every political party will raise the banner to say that they oppose corruption, but whether they will actually do so is another matter.  Even in the world's biggest and most rotten corrupt government of the Chinese Communists, they are always shouting about opposing corruption and executing corrupt officials.  Nobody is against stopping corruption.  This is a consensus in totalitarian and democratic countries.  You cannot possibly use a consensus to classify people.  In Taiwan, can you say that the blue camp opposes corruption but the green camp does not?  Obviously, anti-corruption is just an excuse and a tool that any political force will forcefully use to serve its own ideology.

Back then, the Chinese Communists denounced the corruption of the Kuomintang and won the support of many intellectuals who embraced the anti-corruption Chinese Communists.  What was the result?  The Communist Party became the most corrupt and rotten political party in the world.  This may not have been its original intent, but it was the inevitable result of a totalitarian system.  Corruption is not the biggest problem with the Chinese Communists today.  Totalitarianism is.

Some people say that the Democratic Progressive Party was able to win the hearts and minds of many people because they also held up the banner of opposing the corruption of the Kuomintang.  But the corruption today is disheartening.  Some people even say that the corruption of the Democratic Progressive Party exceeds that of the Kuomintang.  What do you say about this problem?

First of all, the people of Taiwan know that the principal demand of the Democratic Progressive Party was Taiwan independence back then.  But under the totalitarian rule of the Kuomintang, they cannot raise the banner of Taiwan independence and they cannot shout slogans about Taiwan independence.  They can only be bold and assured if they opposed corruption.  Who is going to say that it is wrong to oppose corruption?  The Kuomintang also denounced corruption.  The same people who had their hands into the national treasury also denounced corruption.  Chiang Ching-kuo might have hated corruption even more than Lian Chen, Ma Ying-jeou and James Soong today.   If the Democratic Progressive Party's only demand was anti-corruption, would they have been so brutally oppressed by the Kuomintang for so many decades?  Without doubt, corruption was not the most fundamental reason why the people of Taiwan opposed the Kuomintang.  It was about totalitarianism and the denial of the right of the people of Taiwan to choose.

Next, any political party can be corrupt.  Very few people would believe that the Democratic Progressive Party is more corrupt than the Kuomintang.  There is no need to worry.  Under a democratic system, there is no way to be as corrupt as the Kuomintang.  Just NT$10 million plus in the state special funds is enough to turn Taiwan topsy-turvy.  Therefore, corruption is not the main problem in a democratic system.  The three key systems in a democracy (election, freedom of speech and press, the rule of law) will offer continuous restraint on the eternally existing problems of corruption.  In Taiwan, corruption is not the biggest problem for the Democratic Progressive Party nor the Kuomintang (even though they transferred the national treasury into their party treasury).

Back then, the Communist Party raised the banner of anti-corruption high for the purpose of building a Communist paradise in which everybody is equally poor.  The Democratic Progressive Party shouted anti-corruption slogans in order to overthrow the dictatorship and move towards building an independent nation.  Today, the Kuomintang has taken over this anti-corruption banner but their objective is the same as during their time of dictatorship -- they want to prevent Taiwan from becoming a normal country.  Without doubt, no matter whether it is the Kuomintang era before or the DPP era today, the fundamental issues that are disrupting the political state of Taiwan and tearing apart the social groups were never about corruption.  It is always about unification versus independence.

In other words, the blue-green clash is rooted in the national identity.  Behind the national identity issue is the right of the people to choose.  That would be the core value of democracy.

Today, most anti-Communist Chinese people inside and outside of China are opposed to Taiwan independence (forget about those who are not anti-Communist).  Some even regard Taiwan independence as worse than Communist dictatorship.  Why?  Because they only know how to oppose to Communist oppression and demand democracy, but they have no idea that the greatest evil of the Communist Party and all totalitarian regimes is to deprive the people of the right to choose.  The core value of democracy is the respect for the right of the people to choose.  Taiwan independence is one option for the people of Taiwan.  As long as the majority of people choose it, it ought to be respected.  Today, the reason why the Kuomintang is able to transform themselves from the traditional enemy of the Communists to their special guests is that they are "uniting with the Communists to stop Taiwan independence."  They are more interested in opposing Taiwan independence than opposing Communism.  Although they were forced to enter into the democratic system, they still don't understand that the core value of democracy is to respect the right of the people to choose.  They still have the dictatorial mindset and they still want to decide on behalf of the people of Taiwan.

In a lot of Chinese media, the voices against Taiwan independence is louder than those against terrorism.  At the same time, in United Daily News and China Times in Taiwan, the denunciations of the Democratic Progressive Party as the party for Taiwan independence make it sound as if Taiwan independence is a synonym for evil.  The root of everything is the confusion about the core value of democracy.  In Taiwan today, the most fundamental problem is not corruption.  It is about the right of the people to choose.  Only when there is a heartfelt understanding and acceptance of "the respect of the right of the people to choose" will Taiwan become a normal democratic nation.