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James Soong

James Soong Chu-yu (宋楚瑜 Wade-Giles: Sung⁴ Ch'u-y; Pinyin: Sng Chǔy) is a politician in the Republic of China on Taiwan, active late 20th century to early 21th century; he founded and chairs the People First Party, which favors Chinese reunification.

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Early Life Soong was born in Hunan province in mainland China, the son of a career military man loyal to the Chiang family. He earned his bachelor's degree in Diplomacy from National Chengchi University[?]. He earned master's degrees from both the University of California, Berkeley (1967) and the Catholic University of America[?] (1971). He earned a doctorate in Political Science from Georgetown University. In 1974 Soong was invited back to Taiwan to become the then-Premier Chiang Ching-kuo's personal secretary.

His eldest son, Soong Chen-yan (宋鎮遠), is a United States-born businessman and a U.S. citizen and resident who never had the year-long soldier training virtually all ROC male youths need to. This Americaness later caused great criticisms.

Political Life Although James Soong is of Mainlander background, he proved to be a popular politician among all ethnic groups on Taiwan, in part because he was one of the first Kuomintang (KMT) politicians to attempt to use the Taiwanese language in political and formal occasions, despite speaking it rather badly.

Early Political Career

Soong was given the job of addressing the nation following the Carter administration's decision to switch diplomatic ties to the PRC on December 16, 1978 in which he gave a patriotic condemnation of the American position.

As director-general of the Government Information Office, he was accused by his critics of aggressive censorship, including excessive use of libel laws and prison sentences to silence critics, and involvement in the supression of the Kaohsiung Incident. Soong received widespread disapproval for revoking the press licence of Tina Chou of the Associated Press for her violation of the GIO's orders to refrain from publishing autopsy results of a professor killed on the National Taiwan University Campus. However, Soong's supporters point out that it was under Soong (later as governor) that censorship was greatly relaxed as were limits on the use of Taiwanese in the electronic media.

Soong was KMT Secretary-General from 1989 to 1993. Despite his Mainland origins, Soong was widely seen as a loyal supporter of Lee Teng-hui and opponent of the New Kuomintang Alliance and the New Party. Tn support of Soong, Lee coined the term "New Taiwanese" to describe a person born in mainland China, raised in Taiwan, who calls Taiwan home.

Governorship

He was the first and only directly elected governor of Taiwan province in 1993. He was widely preceived to be a excellent campaigner and his excellent showing in the governorship ended hopes by the DPP of a Yeltsin effect[?], by which an elected governor would have more legitimacy than the national government.

His position was eliminated in 1998 following a National Development Council meeting in 1996, when it suggested the federal structure of the Republic of China government to be streamlined and the Taiwan Provincial Government be abolished. Some believe that this was a political move done by then-president Lee Teng-hui to cut off Soong's power base, but some call it a pragmatic move to eliminate contradictory administrative territory. One common belief on Taiwan is that Lee Tenghui favored the unpopular Vice President Lien Chan over the highly popular Soong in a deliberate effort to sabotage the Kuomintang. Others believe Lee feared Soong would help expose the corruption in his regime, and undermine his legacy.

2000 Presidential Elections

In 2000, after losing the KMT presidential nomination to then-vice president Lien Chan, Soong ran as an independent. Despite his lack of a party nomination and KMT accusations of embezzelment after large amounts of cash were located in bank accounts belonging to Soong's relatives in America, Soong narrowly lost the election with 36% of the vote to Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with 39%. Lien came in a distant third with only 23%. It is widely believed that Lee Teng-hui secretly supported Chen.

After losing the election, Soong and his supporters formed the People First Party (PFP), considered a spin-off from the KMT. The loss of PFP votes was a major factor in causing the KMT to swing toward Chinese reunification thereby causing the subsequent expulsion of Lee Teng-Hui.

Political Ideology In his campaign, Soong advocated a gradual union between Taiwan and the mainland by first signing a non-aggression pact followed by the formation of a cross-strait union similar to the European Union. His platform called for the characterization of relations between the Mainland and Taiwan as neither foreign nor domestic. Although widely seen as the candidate most friendly to Mainland China, Soong took particular effort to counter the perception that he would "sell out" Taiwan. Soong has vowed to re-enter the Republic of China (i.e., Taiwan) into the World Health Organization in two years.

His base of support included strong supporters of Chinese reunification, rural voters who were grateful for the selective economic development undertaken while he was governor, and urban middle class voters who saw him as a cleaner alternative to the KMT. Soong is rumored to have close ties to organized crime as exemplified by his cordial friendship with convicted racketeer and local heavy, Yen Ching-piao.

Soong has been a staunch opponent of Taiwan independence and publicly crticized President Chen for proposing a referendum.

Recent Developments Despite the personal rivalries between Lien, the KMT chairman after 2000, and Soong, the PFP chairman, the KMT and PFP have pledged to cooperate in future elections to prevent splitting the vote, as they basically share the same electorate. The KMT-PFP alliance (which is also known as the pan-blue coalition has been rocky, but has been marginally successful thus far. Though losses in the 2001 legislative elections made the DPP the largest single party in the legislature, the pan-blue coalition holds a narrow majority over the pan-green coalition. Some believe that the PFP's lack of experienced candidates in the December 2002 mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung (the PFP supported the KMT's candidates), and the PFP's poor performance the city council elections in those cities at the same time were major setbacks to Soong's chances of being the KMT-PFP candidate for president.

In April 2003, after major discussions between KMT and PFP, Soong announced that he would run as a Vice Presidental candidate under Lien Chan. There have been widespread rumors that Soong agreed to take the Vice-Presidental post in exchange for a pledge by Lien to give him significant power including the Premiership. Many KMT members are opposed the linkage as they consider Soong an opportunist and traitor. Soong's supporters cite that he is more popular than Lien, as consistently demonstrated by polls and the results of the last presidential elections.

As the 2004 election nears its official start, Soong has offered to debate Chen and as Chairman of the People First Party and is Chen Shui-bian's chief critic.

See also: Politics of Taiwan



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