The KMT’s Recent Campaign Ad and the Minguo Fifties Generation

by Tumin

Photo Credit: 中國國民黨 KMT

CAMPAIGN ADS have always been part of a necessity for political campaigning. The DPP has released many videos recently in the final league of its campaign, and at present the KMT itself is not losing out to the DPP in terms of number of video ads released.

But a recent video uploaded by the KMT on Facebook which sparked much controversy centers on a man born in the 60s and focuses on the idea of intergenerational conflict. Recent events that have occurred in Taiwan, mostly issues that rose out of the Sunflower Movement led by students, are framed in the ad as an attack against those of the older generation who do not share the same beliefs. This man, supposedly a middle-class manager, is depicted as working hard to make a living and support a family, yet, his belief that the ROC is a country and in liberalizing trade with China leads to him attacked by the so-called “others”, namely the younger generation. It is interesting to note why the KMT chose to depict a manager in his 60s, also known in the Minguo calendar as one born in the “Fifties Generation”.

The campaign ad in question

It is important then to bring us to the topic of the so called “Fifties Generation” baby boomers (五年級生).  What exactly is so special about this specific age group that the KMT has to actually make a campaign video for it? Let us first understand the identity of “Fifties Generation”. The Minguo (民國) calendar, or Republic of China calendar, counts the number of years since the founding of the Republic of China (ROC). The calendar is no longer used in China after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. 2016 would be the year Minguo 105 in the Minguo calendar.  “Fifties Generation,” (五年級) then, refers to individuals born in the 50s of the Minguo calendar.

One would generally assume that the “Fifties Generation” was chosen because it would be the one age group that seem to have the largest support for the KMT, so the KMT is seeking out to them for their votes. Hence, let us take a look at some of the possible reasons for this phenomenon. In general, it will be that I will point out to two possible aspects of such phenomenon, namely, the capital flight in the 1970s which involved crony capitalism and interests, and the education system which indoctrinated the masses to believe in the ROC, as well as the white terror era that left many unwilling to become politically active to resist the KMT.

The Influence of the Video

NOTABLY IN the video, two sentences comes to strike us as especially divisive. First, the video started with a man calling himself one born in the “Fifties Generation”, then, the video ended by stating, “those who stir up hatred are the real villains in society”. A commentator at UDN in an article responding to the video, discussed how the video failed to serve its own purpose, pointing out two contradictory features of the videos. First, most Taiwanese men born in the 60s do not speak with such an accent, hence, the video is incorrect about identification. Second, KMT should logically be targeting people of the government/ military sector, instead, they picked the role of a middle-class manager, such that it will create confusion among the social group the KMT is specifically targeting in this ad. Hence, to a certain degree, the video undercuts itself from the beginning.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 3.42.23 PMThe protagonist of the video, who is mostly presented in the ad through voiceover and shots of his back. Photo credit: 中國國民黨 KMT

Yet responses to the video has been extreme. Some netizens suggest that the video is indeed speaking for them, while others criticize the KMT for being hypocritical, calling for unity on one hand, and causing division on the other. Indeed, the video was sponsored by the Council for Industrial and Commercial Development (CDIC), so its content is indeed targeted at those matured in the workforce. Not to forget mentioning, the generation born in the 60s witnessed the industrialization of Taiwan.

The Generation That Grew Up During the ‘Taiwan Miracle’: Brainwashed by the KMT?

THOSE WHO grew up in the 60s faced serious economic problems and poverty. During this era, America broke diplomatic ties with the ROC, the UN ousted the ROC out, both incidents of which left Taiwan economically and politically vulnerable. Hence, fearing for poverty, people were more concerned about livelihood than the actual political injustice they were facing under the oppressive KMT government. But the ROC was lucky in some sense that the United States, for its own imperialistic concern to contain communist China, still came to the ROC’s aid by providing the necessary capital for the industrialization of Taiwan.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 3.42.48 PMStill from the video. Photo credit: 中國國民黨 KMT

It was also during the 1970s where the Big Ten Infrastructure Projects were undertaken and the time when most of the 1960s baby boomers entered the workforce. During the 1970s, there were plenty of job and money-making opportunities, given the rapid transitions into a capitalistic system. Hence, given that people were only concerned about livelihood instilled with a faith in meritocracy, there was a lack of empathy towards social injustice. What many people cared about was their own pocket and practical concerns, a significant difference between the current era and today.

Mainly, the lack of job opportunities in the present have made the younger generation significantly aware that their predicament is the result of the social injustice cause by the actions of the KMT. In the history since the ROC government occupied Taiwan, the KMT did a great job factionalizing their own party and the citizens of ROC. Government jobs were granted to people of “waisheng” descent, and dialects were suppressed, forcing Taiwanese to speak Mandarin by making it illegal to speak in dialects. The “Speak Han Chinese Movement”, which began in 1958 justified language bans by claiming how the lack of a united language will hurt racial harmony.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 3.42.42 PMStill from the video. Photo credit: 中國國民黨 KMT

It is of course ironic that for a foreign government to occupy Taiwan, they would expect that Taiwanese speak a foreign language rather than Taiwanese. But, signficantly, the colonial dimensions of the KMT government is not recognized by much of the “Fifties Generation” because of the education reform that happened in 1968.

Namely, KMT’s use of education to ideologically educate the baby boomers of the “Fifties Generation” was highly successful. In order to keep up with Chiang Ching-kuo’s Big Ten Infrastructure, human capital was necessary. To educate the masses, compulsory education of six years extended to nine years, equipping people with the necessary skills to incorporate themselves into the industrialization of Taiwan.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 3.42.55 PMStill from the video. Photo credit: 中國國民黨 KMT

However,  such compulsory education gave the KMT the opportunity to indoctrinate the masses into believing that they are the rightful government for the people. In addition, baby boomers grew up in the era of the White Terror, during which their parents were obligated to refrain from talking about political oppression, fearing that their children would be implicated as well. Under such circumstances, the “Fifties Generation” baby boomers had no alternative but to accept the KMT indoctrination. Therefore, it may be ironic to note that with the campaign video, it would be that the “Fifties Generation” baby boomers who were in fact the ones brainwashed.

Conclusion: Why Stir Up Intergenerational Conflict?

THE MAN IN the video says, “They say we have been brainwashed since youth, they say our country does not exist.” He also states that “The court of law is theirs, ’resident justice’ is theirs, economic justice is theirs. My justice is nowhere.” In the end, he states, “Who stirs up hatred, he is the real bad guy.” One cannot help but laugh at how ridiculous it is the KMT talks about justice.

In the past few years, in the case of the Ting Hsin oil scandal, corporate officials got off scot-free, the Dapu incident led to several suicides, and cross-straits pact were forced through by the KMT delivered in spite of public approval. But in accusing others, specifically young people, for injustice in the video, is the KMT really doing itself a favour? Rather the KMT seems to be stirring up intergenerational conflict.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 3.42.59 PM 1Still from the video. Photo credit: 中國國民黨 KMT

Appealing to only “Fifties Generation” the born during the baby boomer era, the KMT is, it seems, at its wit ends. This seems to suggest the obsolescence of the KMT, as obviously they have completely lost faith and hope in the young of Taiwan.

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