President Lee Teng-hui strengthened his position as Taiwan's leader Thursday, replacing more than a third of the ruling party's powerful, 31-member Central Standing Committee with younger, more reform-oriented appointees.
Lee's action was formally approved at the first meeting of the Nationalist Party's new, 180-member Central Committee, which was elected by delegates to a weeklong party congress that ended Wednesday.
The congress appeared to have weakened two other key leaders associated with the party's more conservative wing: Premier Yu Kuo-hua, 74, and Gen. Chiang Wei-kuo, 71, younger brother of the late President Chiang Ching-kuo, who died last January.
The premier was politically damaged by receiving a relatively low number of votes when the delegates elected the Central Committee. The 180 people elected to that committee were ranked according to the number of votes received. Yu, whose prospects of continuing as premier were already considered uncertain, placed an embarrassingly low 35th, and Taipei's newspapers were filled with speculation Thursday that he might soon resign.
Before the congress, there had been talk among some party members of creating a new position of party vice chairman, designed to be filled by Chiang Wei-kuo.
Nothing came of this, however. President Lee, who was elected party chairman by the congress, did not nominate Chiang as a Central Committee candidate, and the general chose not to seek nomination by the delegates. Thus, he did not rise to any higher party position.
Retains Sizable Influence
Chiang retains considerable influence by virtue of his prestige and his position as head of the National Security Council.
Although no one from the Chiang family was named to the more powerful Central Standing Committee, which is the equivalent of a Politburo, three sons of Chiang Ching-kuo won election to the Central Committee: businessman Chiang Hsiao-yung, Vice Foreign Minister Chang Hsiao-yen and Chang Hsiao-tzu, dean of the Soochow University Law School.
Chiang Hsiao-yung is Chiang Ching-kuo's son by his Russian-born wife, whom he married while in the Soviet Union from 1925 to 1937. Chang Hsiao-yung and Chang Hsiao-tzu, long rumored to be Chiang's illegitimate twin sons, publicly acknowledged earlier this year that the late president was their father. They use their mother's surname.
A party deputy secretary general, Ma Ying-chiu, at a Thursday evening news conference described the 12 new Central Standing Committee members as younger, better-educated and more representative of a variety of walks of life than the people they replaced. He said the new committee strengthens Lee's position.
"I think with this (committee) the president . . . could exercise very effective leadership," Ma said.