Should the KMT change Its Name?
January 29, 2007
The Chinese Nationalist Party's Official Website
Comment: The following editorial in the Pale Blue China Post arrives at a surprising conclusion -- a surprisingly correct conclusion. Their conclusion is that the Chinese Nationalist Party should not change its name. It should not change the word "Chinese" in front of "Nationalist Party" to "Taiwanese." It should not drop the "Chinese" in front of "Chinese Nationalist Party" in order to make it read "Nationalist Party."
I say "surprising" because as a Deep Blue political commentator, China Post editorials consistently strike me as half-hearted in their defense of Pan Blue values and positions.
Needless to say, I am only too happy to be surprised. As the editorial states in its surprisingly astute concluding paragraph:
"Dropping the word Zhongguo from the party's denomination may win for the party the support of a sprinkling of politically independent people. It would, however, disappoint and alienate a huge number of the party's supporters because the move would make the party little different from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party."
The China Post is exactly right.
Management consultants know that one of the most important factors in business success is product differentiation. This is as true for political parties as it is for industrial firms.
As Wikipedia explains, product differentiation makes a product attractive to its target market by differentiating it from its rivals. The object of product differentiation is to position one's product so that customers will see it as unique. Successful product differentiation moves one's product from competing primarily on price to competing on non-price factors such as product characteristics. Differentiation positively impacts business performance, both theoretically and empirically.
If the KMT attempts to sell itself as a ben tu political party, it will be committing a strategic error, and committing political suicide.
It will be forsaking its own long-established brand in a panicky, ill-advised, and myopic attempt to market an unappealing knock-off of its competitor.
It will find itself competing on unfavorable terms against its competitor's brand, peddling a harmful product that it knows shouldn't even be on the market.
It will not only be "Doing the Wrong Thing," it will go bankrupt doing it.
No one is going to want to buy anything from a KMT that has hastily slapped a Pale Blue label on the same defective product marketed by Pan Green snake oil salesmen.
If Pan Blue customers wanted Pan Green snake oil, they would have found their way to Pan Green snake oil peddlers. They wouldn't have found their way to the Pan Blue store entrance, demanding something different.
Product differentiation means that in order for the KMT led Pan Blue camp to succeed in the political marketplace, it must offer a product different from what the Pan Green camp is offering, not the same product, and certainly not a watered down version of the product.
Should the KMT change its name from the "Chinese Nationalist Party" to the self-demeaning, localized "Taiwanese Nationalist Party," or even to the cowardly and evasive "Nationalist Party," in deference to ben tu mob sentiment?
If anything, it should underscore its proud, century old heritage as the political party that founded the first modern republic in Asia, the Republic of China. It should spell out the word "Chinese" in capital letters, maybe even a larger font size.
Should KMT change its name?
The China Post
At a meeting he had on Sunday with Kuomintang (KMT) members at the grassroots level, Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the party, reportedly agreed with a party member who said the party should modify its name, a development that aroused a great deal of controversy.
According to reports, the KMT member who offered the suggestion remarked that a name change that makes the party sound more native would serve to make it more popular.
The next day, Ma declared that it is inappropriate to make such a change at the moment. Tsai Chin-lung, the KMT's whip in the Legislative Yuan, revealed that Ma did say a change to the name of the party could be considered. However, Tsai also said that such a revision is improper at this time. Tsai pointed out that since the name of Chiang Kai-shek International Airport was changed to Taoyuan International Airport, the amount of shipping at the airport has decreased rather than increase, which goes to prove that a name change would not meet the people's expectations.
The party, Tsai concluded, cannot win more support from the public by altering its denomination. To remove doubts, Ma also said on Monday that the KMT does not need to change its change.
"We are proud of the name of our party," he observed. "The KMT has a reform issue, but not a name change problem."
"Party members can of course talk about whether the name of the party should be changed, but I personally disapprove of such a change," Ma added.
Referred to in English as the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party, the party that ruled Taiwan for more than 50 years after the island was retrocession from Japanese occupation is formally named the "Chinese People's Party," (Zhongguo Guomin Dang).
In recent years, calls for dropping the word Zhongguo ("China" or "Chinese") from the name of the party have come frequently from within the party. There are two motives behind the appeal.
One is theory that the word Zhongguo makes the party unable to win the support of those who are averse to China. The other is the belief that the KMT should indigenize and that the presence of the word Zhongguo in the party's name is an indication it is unwilling to embrace Taiwan.
There are people, including those who are sympathetic toward or friendly with the KMT, who contend that the party lost power in 2000 because it had failed to Taiwanize.
Wang Jin-pyng, speaker of the Legislature and a KMT heavyweight, said in the wake of Monday's controversy that he is also against a change to the KMT's name.
"This (a name change) can only be decided at a meeting of party delegates," Wang said. "I declared I did not support any change to the name of the Chinese Nationalist Party when I was running for party chairman." That position is fitting and proper because altering the name of the Kuomintang would do more harm than good.
The KMT will gain more support if its leaders work aggressively to make the party more dynamic, united and corruption-free.
Dropping the word Zhongguo from the party's denomination may win for the party the support of a sprinkling of politically independent people. It would, however, disappoint and alienate a huge number of the party's supporters because the move would make the party little different from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.