After imposing 38 years of martial law and brutally repressing political activists who later became the core of the now-ruling DPP, the KMT introduced democratic reforms in the 1990s. But Taiwanese used their new freedoms to demand bentuhua, which translates as “localization.” Bentuhua means politicians bear Taiwanese lineage, speak the Taiwanese dialect, emphasize Taiwan’s history in schools and promote Taiwanese culture. For many, bentuhua also means independence, or at least permanent separation from China. The KMT, which still draws heavily on support from mainlanders, can’t please everybody. Says KMT adviser Wu Tung-yeh: “The old-line faction and the bentuhua faction are sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams.”
I wonder, years from now after the last of the mainlanders retire from Taiwanese politics, what will be left of the KMT. Will it transition from the dominant totalitarian regime it once was to just an insignificant splinter faction? Judging from the KMT bankrolls, it probably won’t fade away any time soon. But it does seem to be swiftly and steadily shrinking in both size and relative importance as it morphs itself into just a shadow of what Chiank Kai-Shek first brought over from the mainland and imposed on Taiwan fifty-five years ago.