Does Xi Jinping really want to scuttle Taiwan’s KMT?
Turning our attention to political developments in Taiwan – a state that bears the brunt of Chinese aggression on a daily basis – the opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) recently elected Eric Chu as its president. It won’t be the first time that Chu has been elected party chairman and he faces many challenges as he seeks to revitalize the KMT. But from the start, he seems to have dug in a hole. Chinese President Xi Jinping actually sent Chu a congratulatory letter on his election as party chairman, seeking a common cause to restore peace in the Taiwan Strait, resist Taiwanese independence, and work towards reunification. peaceful. Now any politician worth his salt should have sensed a trap given the current tensions between China and Taiwan. Therefore, Chu should have simply ignored Xi’s letter.
Instead, Chu not only recognized the letter he actually replied to. He dismissed responsibility for the tensions between the Taiwan Strait at the gate of the ruling Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) and declared his stance against Taiwan independence. He further said that the KMT and China could find common ground and respect their differences with the 1992 Consensus as a foundation.
This is not only downright absurd, but it is also political suicide. First, he should know that receiving and acknowledging a congratulatory letter from a Chinese leader in the current political and security climate where Beijing militarily threatens Taipei on a regular basis will be interpreted as collusion with the enemy. In fact, it is absurd that the leader of a political party in a democracy receives congratulations from the head of an enemy state. Second, by saying that he opposes Taiwan independence in his response to Xi, Chu has already painted himself in favor of unification in the public imagination. He can cut his hair in four that he is in favor of the 1992 Consensus – that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are part of the same China with each side free to interpret it differently – but that doesn’t really doesn’t matter. When the vast majority of Taiwanese youth want nothing to do with China and appreciate Taiwan’s open and democratic system – they are also the reason the DPP has been in power since 2016 – for Chu does not clearly reject reunification at all. opposing independence is a huge goal of itself.
Moreover, the 1992 Consensus itself is not without controversy with the concept, admittedly, developed by the former head of the Taiwan Mainland Council, Su Chi. In any case, the Sunflower movement of 2014 in Taiwan showed the political limits to the application of the concept under the previous KMT regime. Moreover, the main reason why the 1992 Consensus failed is that China and Taiwan do not have the same definition of this concept. After all, China uses it to only underline “One China,” while Taiwan under KMT underlined the alternative interpretation part. And with the current regime in China taking an ultra-nationalist turn, Beijing will leave no room for the KMT’s different interpretation of the 1992 Consensus.
In fact, we will recall that Xi in 2019 articulated a “One country, two systems” offer for Taiwan as well as Hong Kong. Not only was this widely rejected by the Taiwanese, but it – along with the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong – actually torpedoed the KMT’s chances in the 2020 presidential elections. So why would Chu have committed such a political blunder ?
The only explanation is that Chu was elected president of the KMT with the help of the party’s old guard who want some form of reunification with China, and therefore his response to Xi was out of deference for that fact. But it is still a mistake, because the Taiwanese youth and the future of Taiwan want to preserve the democracy and the independence of Taiwan. Which brings me to the question: why would Xi send a congratulatory letter to Chu knowing full well its repercussions in Taiwan for the KMT? He must know that he has already clipped Chu’s wings politically with this act. This leads me to believe that Xi may not really care about the KMT or his political fortunes. And having the DPP in power in Taiwan actually suits Xi’s internal policies within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This allows him to stir up nationalism on the Taiwan question and to qualify his opponents who think the opposite as anti-national and therefore open to appropriate purges. After all, even Xi knows that the majority of Taiwanese are against reunification. That is why he must send fighter jets and battleships to threaten Taiwan periodically.
And over time, more and more Taiwanese will move away from China. On the other hand, a Chinese military invasion of Taiwan will come at huge costs for Xi. At this point, such a course of action may well see the United States abandoning its strategic ambiguity towards the defense of Taiwan and using the AUKUS and Quad platforms for the defense of Taiwan.
Overall, it is quite possible that the Taiwan issue has become a convenient political tool for Xi to further consolidate his power within the CCP and advance his centralization project. This still leaves KMT with a huge problem. But for reasons of Taiwan’s political and security relevance, it may be time for the party to abandon the 1992 Consensus – the younger members of the KMT want it anyway. While Beijing itself corrupted the 1992 Consensus, why hang on to this old relic? KMT must change over time.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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