Rising KMT star Chiang Wan-an says party in bad need of reform

By Alan Fong, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — With a UPenn education, experience practicing law in Silicon Valley while working with both startups and tech giants, plus good looks and youth, 38-year-old freshman legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) seems to be the complete package. That’s without even mentioning his family background.

Yet the man often seen as the future of his Kuomintang (KMT) — the party his great-grandfather, former President Chiang Kai-shek, helped found and ruled for decades — is certainly not a conventional KMT politician. In his interview with The China Post, Chiang spent as much time pointing out the shortcomings of his own party as he did describing what its main rival, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), had done right. The KMT’s defeat in the 2014 and 2016 elections “showed that the public have lost confidence in the KMT and are disappointed by the way the KMT has ruled in the past eight years (from 2008 to 2016). These are the facts,” Chiang said. “What the KMT has to do first is to win back the people’s trust. The KMT as a whole must become younger. The party must nurture more young talent. This cannot be just a slogan,” he said. “A lot of people have pointed out that the KMT is too conservative and that it is the place of ‘old people’s politics’ where younger people find it hard to prosper.”

He highlighted the strength of the DPP’s bottom-up approach to promoting young talents. “They start with the assistance of local councilors, giving them exposure to public service. After a few years, the party supports them in running for public office. Elected local representatives with experience will then be encouraged to run for legislative seats, then for local government chiefs and so on. They have a carefully planned and well-organized training system for their young members. The KMT, on the other hand, does not have such a system at all.” The KMT prefers a top-down approach. “The KMT’s method is to hold events for young people hosted by people with influence, hoping to draw them in. The DPP, on the other hand, sends their young people out to participate in local activities and to learn. The two parties have an opposite mentality,” the lawmaker said.

Chiang said that people in his party often tended to keep young people from making important decisions and participating in affairs because of their inexperience. “We should not only give them more chances we also need to give them more responsibilities, tasking them to do more so that they can learn,” he said. More Openness Needed The current KMT leadership election also shows how conservative and traditional the party still is, Chiang said. This election, in which there are six candidates vying for the chairmanship, could have been a good chance for the party to hold open debates among the candidates, Chiang said.

“In the past, there was usually only one candidate running for the chairmanship at which point everything had already been arranged. This year we have not only two but six candidates, it is a good chance for us to have an open debate,” he said, adding that such debates should be formatted to allow questioning by voters so that they can see how the candidates react to impromptu situations. “A lot of people say that debates with cross-examinations can take too long with six participants, but why is that not a problem for primary debates in the U.S. with over 10 candidates? This is only an excuse,” Chiang said.