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

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.

 

He suggested that the parties should hold more than one live debate and should open it to the public for questions.

 

He also found trouble with the "astronomical" NT$2 million administrative fee and petition of at least 3 percent of KMT members' signatures required from prospective candidates. "Who has this kind of money? This obviously puts a restriction on young people interested in running," he said.

 

'We warned about the controversial labor laws'

 

While the lawmaker sees strength in the DPP's talent grooming system, he does not have the same opinion for how it runs the country.

 

As a member of the Legislative Yuan's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, Chiang witnessed first hand how the controversial amendments to the Labor Standards Act, in particular the "one fixed, one flexible" day off (一例一休) policy, were pushed through with what he described as the DPP's mindless push.

 

"The amendments aim mainly to address Taiwan's long-term overworking problem. The government had faced pressure from both the laborers and the employers," he pointed out. "The most important job for the government is to properly communicate and move things in the direction that they believe to be right. This government, however, had foolishly tried to appease both sides and created this concept of a'rest day' in their 'one fixed, one flexible' day off system."

 

Chiang said he had warned the government about the controversies and problems the bill in its current form would generated.

 

"We (KMT lawmakers) have pointed out these issues during interpellations," he said. "At the time, officials from the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said that it's alright and that they have studied all the issues (we mentioned). The fact is that we pointed out to the government all the problems in the bill that ultimately resulted in the current "lose-lose-lose" situation — in which some laborers wishing to work overtime are not able to do so; employers face increased manpower costs and the general public have to pick up the bill for some of those costs. But, the MOL failed to actively tackle these issues. The bill was hurried through by the government. The way the government blindly forced through the amendments resulted in the problems we are seeing now."

 

Chiang further criticized the government for having failed to address these issues three months after the enactment of the new labor laws. "Now we are approaching the end of March but we have yet to see any positive or proactive measures from the government," he said. "Now that the bill has been passed and problems have been found, the government has still not given any explanation or guidance to help the public with compliance issues and to solve the problems.

 

"For example, local governments including the Taipei City Government, have written to the central government asking for written directives on the standards they can follow when enforcing the new laws. The MOL, however, has not issued a single directive. The MOL is aware of the problems but it is either unable or too passive to deal with them. I believe this is the biggest issue."

 

He also criticized the ruling party for its handling last month of the 70th anniversary of the 228 Incident, the crackdown on unrest in Taiwan in 1947 carried out by the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek that resulted in the deaths of 18,000 to 28,000 people.

 

The government closed Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei on Feb. 28, citing what it said was the need to prevent social confrontation. It also pulled Chiang Kai-shek merchandise off the shelves at the venue as part of its "transitional justice" policies.

 

Chiang said that the DPP had been focused only on the negative aspects of former President Chiang in its 228 Memorial Day message this year. He called for the government to instead publicize all the historical documents concerning the incident in order to give people a comprehensive and objective picture.

 

"We live in an open society in which people are allow to have diverse voices and opinions. The government should try to represent history to its full extent so that the people can come to their own conclusions."

 

From Lawyer to Lawmaker

Openness and diversity are two of the main themes that consistently arise during the interview. The lawmaker described them as the values he learned from his experience in the U.S.

 

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Chiang headed west and joined the Palo Alto-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR), one of the top law firms in California, specializing in business, securities, and intellectual property law. In his time there, Chiang worked with clients from all over Silicon Valley, including Google, Apple and Tesla, in some cases guiding would-be entrepreneurs as they started their companies or raising venture capital.

 

The multiculturalist and open environment in the Bay Area as well as the directness of people in the Silicon Valley have made an impression on Chiang.

 

"I learned from the entrepreneurial spirit in the Silicon Valley. Be bold and don't be afraid of failure. Entrepreneurs there see failure as a chance for them to review their process." Chiang explained.

 

Chiang and his wife gave up a relatively good career for him (at WSGR and later his own law firm) and her (eBay) to return to Taiwan in 2013.

 

"Some people get the wrong idea that I came back to Taiwan to join politics, but that is not true," he said.

 

"In 2013, when my son was around 2 years old and we were getting ready to enroll him in kindergarten, I had a long discussion with my wife about the education of our child. We formed a consensus that our son should have Mandarin Chinese as his native language," Chiang said. "That's the most important reason behind my decision moving back to Taiwan."

 

Meanwhile, business was also sending him back to Asia. "I founded a law firm with my colleagues and our business took me to Asia — Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, etc. — more and more frequently."

 

"When I moved back to Taiwan in 2013, the idea of running for public office had never crossed my mind," he said. "I came back and continued my work as an attorney, bringing my expertise and experience to my job helping startups and entrepreneurs in Taiwan."

 

Chiang said it was first-hand experience working with the government that finally persuaded him to join the family business. "Due to my experience in practicing law in Silicon Valley, the Ministry of Economic Affairs invited me to share my experience of the cases I worked on and my insight on the latest regulations and statutes in the U.S.. Yet after attending a number of those meetings, I realized that they seldom came to a conclusion and more often went nowhere. So I decided that rather than crying in vain for reform from the outside, I should try to affect change from within as a lawmaker."

 

Future

Now that he is in the system, Chiang plans to proceed step by step. People have been asking whether he will join the Taipei mayoral race in 2018 but he told The China Post that he planned to learn and gain experience as a freshman lawmaker.

 

Nevertheless, he also stressed that the race would be important for the KMT. Some are suggesting that the KMT would let this one go but after its defeat in 2014 and 2016 the party needs to do well in 2018, he said.

 

"This race is a good chance for the party to change out of its old thinking," he said. He suggested that the party should employ new techniques such as data analysis and precise polling to find out the candidates and issues Taipei citizens care about. The party should run a modern campaign with the question "what do people in Taipei really want?" at its center.

 

As for elected KMT politicians such as him, he stressed that instead of focusing on political fights, they need to have a better grasp of important issues such as same sex-marriage, environmental protection, labor rights, housing, and food safety.

 

報導連結 http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national-news/2017/03/28/494424/p1/Rising-KMT.htm

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