November 28, 2022
TAIPEI – Whenever Mr Chiang Wan-an did his rounds on the campaign trail, young women clamoured to take selfies with him.
His good looks and charisma are why many people have said they voted for him in the Taipei mayoral race on Saturday.
At 43, he is set to become the city’s youngest mayor, in an election that observers say could help restore the popularity of his opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT).
With just 3 per cent of its members under the age of 40, the KMT is deemed to be facing increased political irrelevance.
The once-dominant party, whose charter calls for unification with China, has also seen support wither amid Beijing’s increased military aggression towards the island. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunited, by force if necessary.
But it is not just his youthful vigour that is behind his popularity. Mr Chiang has been very much in the spotlight also because of his family background.
He is the son of Mr John Chiang (formerly surnamed Chang), a former foreign minister and vice-premier who claims to be the illegitimate son of the late president Chiang Ching-kuo.
This would make the mayor-elect a great-grandson of the late Chiang Kai-shek, the head of the KMT government of the Republic of China who led the retreat to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the civil war on the mainland to the Communist Party of China, and ruled the island until his death in 1975.
Still, the family name was seen as a potential liability during Mr Chiang Wan-an’s election campaign, and he had been careful about brandishing it. Chiang Kai-shek is remembered by many Taiwanese as a dictator.
Instead, the former legislator, who resigned from his position just two weeks before Saturday’s polls, made repeated promises to revitalise Taipei and raise the city’s international profile.
They include pledges to bring innovation to the capital and make it a high-tech place for residents to live in.
Before entering politics, Mr Chiang, who has two children and another one on the way, worked as a corporate lawyer in the United States.