Traditional left-right dichotomy in Taiwanese politics


Firstly, please forgive me if anything I say comes across as ignorant. I will hold up my hands and admit that I didn’t make nearly as much effort as I should have learning about Taiwanese politics while I lived in Taiwan, and this is something I’m trying to rectify before I return.

From what I can gather, Taiwan doesn’t seem to abide by the traditional left-right political dichotmy we have in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in America. I should point out that by a “traditional” left-right dichotomy, I don’t mean things like the “identity” issues that have come to dominate much of the discourse in recent times but, rather, a more pro-worker party on the one side (public ownership of businesses and services, high taxes on the rich, etc.) and a pro-business party on the other (privatisation, “trickle-down economics”, etc.). As far as I can tell, both parties in Taiwan are effectively on the “pro-business” end of the scale, and the dichotomy rests on the extent to which they want to do business with China.

Does Taiwan actually have this “traditional” left-right divide after all? Does it manifest itself in different ways to how it does in Europe and America? Does, for example, the KMT (who I feel like many uninformed foreigners, like myself, tend to associate as being the more “right wing” of the two major parties - but I don’t really know if there is any logic to this association) have some kind of ideological opposition to Taiwan’s socialised healthcare service, or do both parties consider it the same way?

I should say that I’m aware that the main dividing line, in theory, is meant to be reunification with China and independence, but I’m interested in how the “left vs. right” manifests within all of that if, indeed, it does at all.


If you really want to get traditional about it… :grandpa:


Taiwan’s democracy is just little 20 years old. There was no other parties allowed during KMTs rule and during martial law times and political dissidents were silenced in ways fitting of that. The other major political party was only formed after martial law lifted in 1987. So the political nature of Taiwan has mostly been about Taiwan’s identity as a nation, and pro independence or hopes of unification. So you’re not going to see many politicians go after what you call “traditional” leftist or right wing topics to garner votes.

But it’s crazy to think Taiwan has really transitioned into a functioning democracy after martial law so quickly. Most people would probably be shocked to know that we had put first democratic election in 1996.


The closest thing to right-left dichotomy is: KMT aka the Blues as the traditionalists (culturally Chinese) party and DPP aka the Greens as the liberals (want to be culturally Taiwanese).
Think it like Republicans and Democrats in the US. Look alike, but slightly different.


I think you are right. While the DPP has inherited some traditional left-leaning stances from when it was in opposition (labor, environmentalism, maybe gay rights), it has long ago become more or less the same sort of patronage network that the KMT always was. Politicians of all stripes face pressure not only from relatively conservative constituents, but especially from business interests.


Exactly… “right” has been associated with “order” hence KMT.
“Left” has been associated with “equality” and “liberty” hence DPP in Taiwan case.
I am pretty sure LGBT marriage legalization and acknowledgement of Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster as a religion will not be possible during KMT rule.
DPP will think out of the box by cooperating with southern sea nations, while KMT likely to stay focus on the traditional paths.


It’s rather strange as neither side I wouldnt consider really “liberal” or “progressive” in political ideologies in the West. Taiwan for the most part is “conservative” in our own ways on social issues. You don’t see either side push for social issues like feministsm in the West and still we have a female president, and it was never made a big deal that she was a women here. So I guess Taiwan is pretty progressive as in we don’t even need to make a big deal for feminism to elect a female president in our 6th presidential election. Both dpp and kmt could also be consider right winged nationalistic but in different ways because of the whole ROC Taiwan and China identity issue. We’ve also allowed gay marriage and I don’t even think it was a hard push. I don’t think either party was really putting same sex marriage as one of their main issues and still just pushed enough for legalization. Both parties backed it to some extent.

Taiwan to me is a country that has a great deal of liberty. There’s no strong push in politics on pushing each other’s moral stances on each other. Im


The fact that Tsai (or Hung Hsiu-chu for the KMT) is female is of only mild relevance to the general situation of women’s welfare here. Think of salary disparities, for example. As for gay marriage, it was not only a “hard push,” it is only now on the verge of becoming law thanks to court intervention (which admittedly could not have happened if justices of a certain stripe were not in charge of the case), and probably could not have happened for decades if it were dependent on a legislative vote (or God help us, a referendum).


Is there any statistical backing on a wage gap between men and women in Taiwan? I’m certain that men on average have a higher income, but given how women see themselves in Taiwanese societies on average. I think it’s less of discrimination but with women choosing lower paying jobs and still on average wanting to have a more transitional role as a house wife and get married.


We are talking about the “traditional” dichotomy, right? I mean maybe not 18th century traditional, but if Taiwanese politicians aren’t jumping on to certain hashtagwagons that have only existed for a few years or even a few months, that doesn’t mean they’re not polarized in a way that westerners can recognize.

I think what confuses OP is that the KMT is more statist than a North American would expect a conservative party to be. This is Asia, the land of Confucius, so of course there’s more statism. The conservative (status quo) vs. liberal (reformist) tendencies are still there. (The 台湾问题 means “status quo” needs some clarification, of course.)

And it should not be forgotten that the big two are not the only parties.


No, but can you say one party clearly leans left or right?


Could someone bring up a platform comparison from 2016? @hansioux?


Stalin would be a more direct ancestor.


Are Japan, South Korea and Singapore different enough that we can confidently cite Stalin to explain the difference?


Stalinist party organization and ideology was a very real influence on the early KMT, which had close ties with the USSR. I wouldn’t think any of the main Japanese political parties are like this, although they do have flag-waving socialists running around.

There is very little of Confucius in East Asia’s various authoritarian regimes, which behave similarly to authoritarian regimes in non-Confucian Asian countries like Malaysia or (formerly) Indonesia. Singapore’s most direct ancestor is the British system, though I’m not familiar with the specific Chinese cultural background of the People’s Action Party. (The early KMT was associated with Shanghai- and Guangdong-based triads.)


Taiwan has a very interesting political spectrum.

KMT has always stressed the Republic of China’s, and by extension theirs, legitimacy to represent China, thus justifying their occupation of Taiwan. Therefore they harp on upholding their version of “Chinese traditions”, which include oppressing any local languages and cultures other than Mandarin Chinese.

Also, Chiang baldie was a converted Christian, that’s the promise he made in order to marry his youngest wife. He became pretty hardcore about being a devoted Christian, especially after losing China to Mao. So in addition to traditional Chinese values, he also advocated for Christian values. Plenty of high ranking KMT people also converted to suck up to Chiang. Also, KMT has a long tradition of corruption and oppressing labor. Chiang’s inner circle, including his young wife’s family members have abused their ties with Chiang to extort money. When CJK wanted to investigate the corruption charges, Chiang Baldie slapped his hand and put an end to the investigation. It’s a major reason why China’s economy failed post war, and contributed to KMT losing China.

That created a pretty strong base for conservatism within the KMT. If we are talking about the US left and right, where the right is conservative, thus pro-corporation, anti-marriage-equality, anti-ethnic-equality and so on. Actually, for a long time KMT was also anti-democracy.

That’s where DPP came in. DPP was actually just a collection of people who are against KMT’s values. Before they dared to name themselves, they were ust referred as “Outside of KMT party” (黨外). So, it’s not all just people who are for Taiwanese independence. Plenty of people joined simply because they were against KMT’s authoritarianism. Plenty joined because they wanted to fight for labourers and farmers. A bunch of people with different ideologies were forced to band together to face their common foe. Therefore, DPP is more fractured than it appears.

However, generally DPP is at least for self-determination of Taiwan’s future. It is also for democracy. Every time DPP is in power, it tries to promote cultural and linguistic diversity and development, giving Holo, Hakka, and Aboriginals more resources and equality, which ironically doesn’t earn DPP more Hakka or Aboriginal votes.

What’s arguable is DPP’s real stance on supporting labour and LGBT rights. When DPP was first formed, they certainly organized many protests for labour and farmer rights. Back then labourers and farmers were their most significant supporters. As Taiwan’s economy shifted more to service and trade, subsequently DPP has been trying to make itself more appealing to business owners, as business owners don’t care too much about national identity or equality, they care about who will make it easier to make money.

A large portion of die-hard DPP supporters, especially in the South, are also Christian. The Presbyterian church has been championing local cultures and all native languages since the time of Macay and Maxwell. Although many in the church are ok with equal rights for all, some aren’t as liberal about LGBT issues.

What we are seeing in the past few years is DPP’s internal struggle between staying true to its original convictions and appealing to business owners. So even though there have been pushes for more labour and LGBT friendly reforms, there were immediate push backs even from within the DPP.

In a normal society where politics isn’t hijacked by national identity, we can have DPP fracture and have the more liberal part of DPP team up with NPP. Sadly, in Taiwan, if the DPP or the pan-green becomes fractured, it’s an open invitation for the KMT to retake power and placate to their Chinese overlords.


I don`t think Taiwan is all that different. Both the KMT and DPP have left wing and right wing elements – just like the Dems and Repubs do. The DPP is arguably more free trade/free enterprise. The KMT, prior to democratization, had the highest percentage of state-owned enterprises outside of the Warsaw Pact.





Since democracy, it’s a stretch to say that the KMT occupy Taiwan. They need to come up with a new justification for their existence.

I suppose they can serve as an opposition party when the DPP screw up. But they’d have to drop a lot of pretensions.

And the left-right spectrum is simplistic anyway. Horseshoe theory is a much, much better approximation of the truth.


I don’t have as much depth in the understanding of party support in Taiwan. I understand some of the history, but I don’t watch the news much or follow individual politicians outside of the president and maybe the mayor of the major cities. And I didn’t grow up in Taiwan. But my family are anti-KMT. Our family has been here since Qing times for over 200 years. I know my grandfather was spoke japanese and went to a japanese built school here. He had mixed feelings as he remembers some of the negatives like not being able to speak Taiwanese and having to give them gold, but also some of the positives. And he fought very hard for democracy in Taiwan. It seems like most people that have a longer history in Taiwan before the KMT arrived are not supporters of KMT.

And some of the KMT supporters i’ve met, usually rich, have family that came around the time of the KMT’s retreat and occupation of the island.

It seems the 2 major parties ideology has to do with how they see the history of the island.