Furthermore, one does not need the CCP to facilitate cross-strait trade, as the KMT has clearly demonstrated.
Were it allowed to proceed, this experiment would have the added advantage of forcing the KMT to further distance itself from the CCP, especially if it sought to attract votes from the DPP, the only party that stands to benefit from a split vote engendered by the participation of the CCP in the election.
While the KMT is often accused of being pro-China, the campaign would inevitably highlight the wide ideological chasm that exists between the indigenized KMT and the CCP.
In the end, the CCP opposes universal suffrage and refuses to participate in provincial, territorial (Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet, Xinjiang) or nationwide elections because it knows the outcome would not play in its favor. In that respect, it is already more aware than its Soviet counterpart after World War II. That it has not had to use force — the Soviets’ ultimate move in Eastern Europe — is a function of its ability to preempt the emergence of political pluralism and democratic elections in the territories that it currently controls (Hong Kong, though “liberal,” was never a democracy).
There is no turning back the clock with Taiwan. The nation’s democratic way of life, which is much more consolidated than that of the East European countries the Soviets first tried to woo then overran, is here to stay.
It is also resilient enough and aware of its identity that its 23 million people could allow a CCP candidate to run in 2016, and do so without fear. Above all, that is why, despite closer ties across the Taiwan Strait since President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election in 2008, the People’s Liberation Army has continued its military buildup across the Strait.
That is why Beijing never took the military option off the table. And that is why united front activities are intensifying. Like the Soviets after their series of electoral failures in Eastern Europe, Beijing is realizing that after several attempts at winning the “hearts” and “minds” of its coveted subjects, or at buying them outright, all this work is bound to fail.
In the end, Beijing does not believe its own rhetoric that “reunification” is being held up by a handful of “anti-China separatists.” Such falsehoods can only exist in the realms of propaganda and would not stand the test of reality as experienced at the voting booth.
Reality is the last thing Beijing wants to be made public. It does not want the world to know that, given the choice, an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese would not check the box next to a CCP candidate.
That is why this experiment will never take place.
J. Michael Cole is a deputy news editor at the Taipei Times.