The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has claimed its biggest election victory in the party’s 30 year history, winning both the presidency and a majority of seats in Taiwan’s congress, the Legislative Yuan. As the DPP’s power in government reaches a historical peak, will it lead to a return to raucous factional infighting, or a newfound party unity under Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)?

In part one of this article series, we looked at the role of factions in the DPP’s history, and how party infighting has negatively affected the public’s image towards the party. During the Chen Shui-bian administration, the DPP’s factional disputes often made headline news. Although a resolution was eventually passed during a party congress to disband the party’s factions, there was no immediate halt to faction activities, and the DPP continued to struggle with controlling disputes from spilling out to the press.

During Tsai’s second tenure as party chair, she worked assiduously in stamping out perceptions of a party riven with inner conflict. She appointed DPP members to party and campaign positions across factional lines, and selected her vice-president and legislative party list based on their professional qualities. In addition, Tsai’s calm and collected leadership-style has had the added effect of making over the party’s image. The DPP appeared as “the ruling party-in-waiting” during the election campaign, while the rival Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) busied itself with it’s own factional infighting.

In part two, we will explore the factional connections of the DPP’s local mayors and newly elected legislators. Sweeping election victories for the DPP in 2014 and 2016 has meant an unprecedented control over the levers of power for the party; it has also seen an equivalent rise in factionally-aligned DPP members rising in the party ranks. Although Tsai has introduced a number of non-faction-orientated, professional-types to Taiwan’s congress, the sheer size of the DPP caucus has also meant an inevitable growth in faction strength. More than 30 of the current crop of DPP legislators have factional connections that are well-publicized, and another 20 more who share friendly relations with factions, or party elders.

For extended reading about the DPP factions, please see appendix 1.



The Knotty Problems of Reporting on DPP Factions

There is a general consensus among most reports about which factions hold the most sway within the DPP, but the size and membership of each faction is less clear. Since the party’s decisive victory in last January’s presidential and legislative elections, Taiwanese netizens and media pundits have speculated about the factional allegiances of each DPP legislator.

There are a number of reasons why compiling an authoritative DPP faction list is challenging. First, a DPP member may not view themselves as part of a faction, but are grouped with a faction by the media all the same. Taiwan’s media environment has a pesky habit of borrowing sources from the internet, or other news services without verifying their accuracy.

Second, the current understanding of factions may be outdated and static. We tend to think of factional political relationships as low-level proxies slavishly obeying a faction leader at the top of the pecking order. However, the rise and fall of various DPP factions and party leaders has likely created dynamic interactions among members, which makes it difficult to slot politicians into perfect factional columns. It seems possible that some DPP legislators are on friendly terms with a number of party elders and factions.

But let’s throw caution to the wind and assume all the above factors are not an issue. Let’s assume the DPP’s factions see their 2014 and 2016 election wins as business as usual, and that the factions and party elders still have their secret meetings, secret handshakes, and secret agendas every weekend. After all, Taiwan’s PTT web-message board and TV talk shows like “54 New Idea” (54新觀點) have both assumed the same, when discussion about factional power plays heated up during the DPP caucus’ selection of a new speaker for the Legislative Yuan.

With the above caveats in mind, let’s explore the current roster of factions with the most party influence.

Which Side Are You On?

There are usually six to seven DPP factions mentioned in local media reports: The Hsieh faction, the Su faction, the Yu faction, the New Tide faction, the Chen Chu faction, and Tsai Ing-wen’s “special circle”.

I’ve listed a legislator as being part of a particular faction if I can find at least two internet resources describing him or her as belonging to the faction in question. Some legislators have well-established connections to specific factions, and are relatively safe to be grouped with said faction (i.e. – Tuan Yi-kang’s (段宜康) connection to New Tide), while others required a bit of sleuth work to make factional connections (i.e. – Tsai Shi-ying’s (蔡適應) connection to the Yu faction). For more information on my sources, please see appendix 2.

Three of these factions are concentrated around the DPP’s powerful party elders, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), and Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃). All three party elders have served as both DPP party chairman and premier on at least one occasion during the Chen Shui-bian era. In addition, all three have acted as city mayor or county magistrate at the local level, and have developed extensive political networks during their terms.

Hsieh appears to have the most “soldiers” inside the Legislative Yuan among the DPP’s party elders. He has a number of proteges in Northern Taiwan, and connections in Southern Taiwan made during his two-terms as Kaohsiung mayor. Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang have been reported to have an ongoing fued. Hsieh is well-liked on Taiwan’s PTT web board, where he is nicknamed “Xiao-fu” (小夫), a cartoon character from Doraemon that bears his likeness.

Hsieh faction: Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), Yao Wen-chih (姚文智), Chiang Yung-chang (江永昌), Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄), Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), and Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬). Other notable Hsieh faction members: DPP Central Executive Committee (CEC) member and Taipei councilor Wang Hsiao-wei (王孝維), CEC member and Tainan councilor Chiu Lili (邱莉莉).

Su built a strong network of subordinates in the greater Taipei City area during his two-terms as county magistrate of Taipei County (now New Taipei City). Su also shares a close relationship with the northern chapter of New Tide, and the Pingtung “Big Su” faction. He is nicknamed “Guangtou” (光頭) by PTT netizens, which means “baldy”.

Su Faction: Lu Sun-ling (呂孫綾), Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡), Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧), Chang Hung-lu (張宏陸), and Chen Lai Su-mei (陳賴素美). Other notable Su faction members: DPP Secretary General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), and Central Executive Committee member Tsai Hsien-hao (蔡憲浩).

Yu sustained a network of young proteges during his long-term as premier from 2002-05, and his short tenure as county magistrate of Yilan. When President Chen stepped down in 2008, Yu picked up many of his former proteges. According to some reports, Yu does not have a strong grip over his faction “soldiers”, and many share a loose affiliation with Yu.

Yu Faction: Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), Wu Chi-ming (吳琪銘), Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪), Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀), and Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應). Other notable Yu faction members: Former New Taipei City legislator and your mother-in-law’s favourite singer Yu Tien (余天).

The New Tide faction is the DPP’s largest, and oldest surviving faction. New Tide’s initial membership was composed of the editorial staff of the radical magazine “The Movement”; the faction takes it’s name from the magazine’s Chinese title, “New Tide” (新潮流). New Tide were originally known for their strict ideological resolve, and commitment to empowering social movements to bring political change. They’ve also proven to be the most pragmatic and flexible over the years, changing their political ideas as public opinion shifts. New Tide was known in the past for strictly forbidding its members from cooperating with other factions, and members facing penalties if they make personal decisions outside group meetings. The faction counts three of six “special municipality” mayors as members: Tainan mayor William Lai (賴清德), Taoyuan mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), and Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu (陳菊). Mayor Chen Chu has been successful at developing her own power base in Southern Taiwan, and has her own group of subordinates. Chen Chu shares a close relationship with Tsai, as do many of Chen’s subordinates.

New Tide faction: Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), Wu Szu-yao (吳思瑤), Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅), Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書), Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬), and Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱). New Tide leaning: Hung Tsung-yi (洪宗熠), Huang Hsiu-fang (黃秀芳), Chen Su-yueh (陳素月), Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純), and Ye Yi-jin (葉宜津). Speculative New Tide connections: Wellington Koo (顧立雄), and Frida Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧). Notable New Tide elders: Prominent writer and thinker Lin Cho-shui (林濁水), former vice premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), and former DPP secretary-general Wu Nai-ren (吳乃仁). Other notable New Tide members: Former DPP secretary-general Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀),

Chen Chu faction: Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉), Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳), Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤), Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆), Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩), Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺), Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑), and Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤).

Tsai Ing-wen has also cultivated a strong “circle” of confidantes and subordinates. Tsai appears to dislike the idea of her closest allies being labelled as faction members, but the Taiwanese media has reported them as such nonetheless. Over Tsai’s two non-consecutive terms as party chairperson, she has borrowed a number of faction politicians to fill key posts during election campaigns, and within the party’s administrative body. Tsai has also swatted off accusations during the presidential election that her concept of an “Ing Clique” is actually a faction in disguise; she clarified by saying that the “Ing clique” is a group of reformers looking to change society and politics, and that the party’s biggest faction is now “the people”. For the sake of clarity for this article, I will refer to Tsai’s “circle” as the Tsai faction.

Tsai Faction: Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君), Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), and Chen Ming-wen (陳明文), and Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲). Speculative Tsai connections: Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀), Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬), Chen Ying (陳瑩), and Su Chen-ching (蘇震清). Other notable Tsai faction members: Lin Chuan (林全), former minister of finance, and the presumptive choice for premier.

In addition, there are a number of “grassroots” factions that hold sway within the DPP at the local level. For example, Chiayi County’s Lin family faction has enormous influence in selecting election candidates of their choosing, with newly elected Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) and Chen Wen-ming (陳文明) both hailing from the Lin faction.

Professional-type, local faction-type, or no known factional allegiances: Wu Kun-yuh (吳焜裕), Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴), Mary Chen Man-li (陳曼麗), Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋), Kolas Yotaka, Karen Yu Wan-ju (余宛如), Chou Chun-mi (周春米), Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清), Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國), Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋), Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘), Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲), Yang Yao (楊曜), and Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).


2014 DPP-Elected City Mayors and County Magistrates

The DPP swept 13 of the 22 municipalities and counties in 2014’s “9-in-1” local elections, and featured a strong representation from the DPP’s factions at the local level. The DPP’s New Tide was seen as the big winner, with the faction winning 7 seats in 2014’s local elections. For more information on my sources, please see appendix 3.

New Tide faction: Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德), Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢), Changhua County Magistrate Wei Ming-gu (魏明谷), Yunlin County Magistrate Lee Hsin-yung (李進勇), and Pingtung County Magistrate Pan Meng-an (潘孟安).
Yu faction: Taichung City Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), and Keelung City Mayor Lin Shih-chang (林右昌).

Tsai faction: Chiayi County Magistrate Chang Hua-kuan (張花冠).

Affiliated to local faction, or non-affiliated mayors: Penghu County Magistrate Chen Kuang-hua (陳光復), Chiayi City Mayor Twu Hsing-cher (塗醒哲), and Hsinchu City Mayor Lin Chi-chien (林智堅).

Let the Games Begin!

We can view this rise in factional strength not as a failure of Tsai’s leadership to unite the party, but as a compromise among the DPP’s factions to consolidate their strength behind Tsai in an attempt to regain both local and national control of government. Tsai’s strong advocacy for reform and high favourability ratings throughout the election campaign were a benefit to the party’s reputation. Tsai also projects an image of professionalism and calm rationality that has rubbed off on the DPP. In addition, the DPP’s strong approval ratings for its local leaders has been a windfall for the party, casting an image of a party that is adept at good governance, and suited for the role of a ruling party.

But factional infighting within the DPP has potential to intensify during the DPP’s internal elections, in the 2018 local elections and 2020 general elections, and as a number of serving DPP mayors begin to look for successors.

The party meets every two years to select the 30-member Central Executive Committee and 10-member Central Standing Committee. The last time the DPP met in 2014, Tsai was able to move five of her allies onto the executive committee. When the party meets again in 2016, the factions might scoff if Tsai moves more of her allies into positions of power.

The 2018 and 2020 election cycles will offer the factions valuable opportunities to push their subordinates into city councillor, mayoral, and legislator positions. However, the magnitude of New Tide strength at both the local and national level will make it difficult for other factions to compete in the future. New Tide members currently govern 7 of the 22 municipal administrations, three of those cities being “special municipalities”. These local leaders will likely bring in other New Tide affiliated DPP members to their localities, and potentially aggravating tensions with other factions. New Tide may once again face accusations of “New Tide-ification” from members within the party.

In fact, tensions between New Tide and the other DPP factions were on prominent display during the 2016 election cycle. Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung publicly clashed with New Tide after it kiboshed his attempt to install Dongwu University professor Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) as the legislative candidate for Taichung district 8. The factions clashed again in Kaohsiung when New Tide’s Chen Chu outmaneuvered Frank Hsieh during the legislative primaries, with Chu successfully placing Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆) in a position to win the nomination.

Chen Chu’s retirement in 2018 will also present an opportunity for the popular Kaohsiung mayor to put forward a replacement of her choice. Chen will likely back her close ally, Liu Shi-fang. However, Kuan Bi-ling of the Hsieh faction has expressed interest in the position as well. In addition, Tainan mayor William Lai and New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) finish their second terms in The second half of 2018, with factional candidates likely gunning for both spots.

In addition, the DPP’s New Tide faction has done remarkably well in both the 2014 local elections, and 2016 legislative elections. In the past, fears that the DPP is undergoing “New Tide-ification” put party members at each other’s throats, willing to do anything to stop the complete monopolization of the party by New Tide. With more than seven seats held by New Tide members at the local level, and up to 20 seats held by New Tide members in the Legislative Yuan, many DPP members within competing factions may the feel heat to compete.

Tsai’s recent decision to concurrently host the positions of party chairperson and president could be seen as a strategy to pivot the party away from factional infighting, and continue the party reform process.

In our next article in this series, we’ll look at how the DPP has changed from an age, gender and geographic perspective, and how these factors may affect the faction’s organizational structures.

(Feature photo of DPP legislators, by Lee Kun Han)


Aaron Wytze Wilson

Aaron Wytze Wilson is a Canadian freelance journalist based in Taipei, Taiwan. He tweets at @aaronwytze.

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