New KMT chair sworn in, vows to promote ‘collective leadership’

Chiang Chi-chen 江啟臣 (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The opposition Koumintang (KMT) saw 48-year-old Legislator Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣) sworn in as its youngest chairman in several decades Monday, who pledged to promote a “collective leadership” to initiate interior reforms.

The inauguration ceremony was held in the presence of several former chairmen, including Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) and Wu Den-yih (吳敦義).

“The KMT shall not wait for a certain wise leader to make policies any longer,” said Chiang in an address at the event, but shall act to put together different people’s wisdom and collect opinions from all parties involved.

What the party needs now is dialogue and collaboration rather than conflict, he elaborated, and he will play the role of a chairman who is able to promote understanding and cooperation between different generations within the veteran party.

With this in mind, he therefore has decided to push for a “collective leadership” to seek policies that cover as many possible aspects as possible.

Chiang further stated that his role as party chairman is to “listen, collect (different opinions) and turn people’s expectations into visions.”

For the so-called “collective leadership,” Chiang did not give any details in his speech. However, before he registered in early February to run in the March 7 chairman by-election, he proposed the creation of an 11-member “decision-making platform” to decide major issues, if elected.

Members would include the newly elected chairman, the party’s legislative caucus whip, the KMT secretary-general, local mayors and magistrates, as well as other party members and think tank researchers, Chiang said early this year.

The platform should be able to react quickly to changes in public opinion and solve problems efficiently, he said, adding that its creation would ensure that more opinions are taken into account when making key decisions.

A U.S.-educated politician, Chiang entered politics in 2010 when he was appointed minister of the now-defunct Government Information Office under the Executive Yuan.

He won in Taichung in the national legislative elections in January, his third consecutive victory of its kind since 2012, receiving more votes than any other KMT legislative candidate in the 2020 elections.

Chiang defeated former Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), 69, by more than 46,000 votes in the chairman by-election to become the youngest chairman of the KMT since Chiang Kai-shek (蔡中正) assumed the office as head of the party in 1926 when he was 39 years old.

At that time, the position of the KMT leader was titled “president,” instead of “chairman.”

Former Chairman Wu Den-yih stepped down four days after the party’s crushing defeat in the Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections. Critics have blamed the loss on the party’s aging leadership and membership structures and outdated cross-Taiwan Strait policy.

At a post-presidential election workshop held Jan. 13 in Taipei, Kharis Templeman, adviser to the Project on Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said the KMT needs younger candidates who can speak the language of people under 40 and its new party chairman needs to focus on a youth strategy.

The KMT also needs to adjust its position on key issues related to relations with China, such as the so-called “1992 consensus,” due to its seeming detachment from reality, Templeman further said at that time.

The consensus is a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then-KMT government and the Chinese government. It has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging that there is only “one China” with each side free to interpret what “China” means.

However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT interpretation.

Since Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office as president in May 2016, her rejection of the 1992 consensus has led to China suspending official cross-strait dialogue and stopping independent Chinese travelers from visiting Taiwan.

Despite these drops in cross-strait interactions, Tsai won her second term in an overwhelming victory in the 2020 election, while her pro-independence DPP took the majority 61 seats in the 113-seat Legislature.