chapter  13
13 Pages

Clientelism and sport policy in Taiwan

ByPing-Chao Lee, Ren-Shiang Jiang

Political clientelism and its related concepts (patron-clientage, political patronage, relations of patronage) have long gained considerable attention in political studies. Political and social analysts have regularly commented on the existence of political clientelism, which in Taiwan has prevailed for several decades (Chen, 2009; Chien, 2008; Chu and Lin, 2001; Hood, 1996; Hsu, 2009, 2010; Kau, 1996; Kuo, 2000; Roy, 2003; Solinger, 2006; Tsai, 2009; Wang and Kurzman, 2007; Wu, 2003). In relation to the approach of the political literature on clientelism, it argues that the clientelistic network/relation is an important factor affecting strategy choice, because of its influence both on the legitimacy of the government and on the nature of the goods that it is optimal for a government to provide (Kurer, 1996). Additionally, ‘clientelism cannot be meaningfully considered apart from the setting in which it exists. The forms which it takes depend to a considerable extent on the structure of the society and on the political system in which it operates’ (Lemarchand and Legg, 1972, p. 156). Reflecting on this point, the authors consider the political development of Taiwan, where strong clientelistic relations have existed since the Kuomintang (KMT) regime retreated to Taiwan after its defeat by the Communists in 1949. Because of the immigrant KMT elite’s lack of roots in Taiwan, the KMT secured its rule through a comprehensive patronage system reaching out and co-opting the local elite. Effectively, clientelism became one of the major principles of KMT rule to control national politics (Chen, 2009; Chien, 2008; Tsai, 2009). At the grass-roots level, existing patron-client networks were incorporated into the party structure (Chu and Lin, 2001). Without challenging either the KMT’s political legitimacy or its domination of the political scene, local factions have monopolized local political and economic privileges through a patronage system (Wu, 2003). The patron-client system of sharing economic and political interests between the KMT and local factions provided a foundation for the island’s political stability and the legitimacy of the regime (Matsumoto, 2002; Tang, 2003). Recently, the political context has changed as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ended half a century of KMT control of central government in 2000 (Sullivan, 2010; Zhu and Chung, 2010). Although democracy has provided opportunities for political representation and accountability, it has also created incentives for maintaining and nurturing clientelistic bonds (Szwarcberg, 2009). Consequently, the DPP itself, even though in the past it had denounced

the patron-client relations between the KMT and its supporters, as a new regime, began to adopt similar behaviour to turn meritocratic/bureaucratic administration into patronage positions in order to consolidate and defend its power (Hsu, 2009; 2010). In 2008, by failing to deal with economic and political problems, also caused by the suspicion of political corruption, the DPP government had to accept a huge loss of confidence which provided a political opportunity for the KMT’s candidate Ma Ying-jeou to become the new president of Taiwan after the Presidential election (Ferstl, 2010). ‘Ma made his political reputation in large measure as a clean candidate who adamantly opposed corruption. The KMT won the election because of Chen administration sleaze’ (Copper, 2009, p. 478). Within this context, by taking one particular set of ideas and examining the way clientelism has been applied in the study of Taiwan’s specific political and social context, our intention here is to undertake an analysis of how its dynamics have been experienced in relation to sporting politics. We focus on the strategic relations at play in Taiwan’s professional baseball system in politically ‘turbulent’ periods, and specifically on the phenomenon of clientelism in sporting politics, since it indicates the nature of the clientelistic network that has developed, in the Taiwanese context, with its own specific cultural characteristics. During a period of political change (1997-2003), Taiwan’s government sought to deal with the development of a merger between two professional baseball leagues and the aftermath of a major corruption scandal concerning gambling and the fixing of matches in 1997. Moreover, the success of staging the Baseball World Cup in 2001 re-established the game as the country’s major sporting obsession. The merger of the two leagues in 2003 illustrates specifically the interconnection of professional sporting business with political parties. More precisely, it provides us with the opportunity to evaluate how sociopolitical actors (including state agencies and individuals) and business elites (owners of clubs in two leagues) behaved in order to achieve strategic goals.