With less than a year left until next year’s presidential election — which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) might well win — the Chinese government is wasting no time making its presence felt in the run-up, intending to keep the nation’s political parties and politicians on a short leash.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) recent emphasis on the unquestionability of the so-called “1992 consensus” as “the basis and condition for [Beijing’s] interaction with any of Taiwan’s political parties,” and Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong’s (楊雄) emphasis on it as the basis of the twin-city forum between Taipei and Shanghai — seemingly directed at political maverick Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) — are indications of Beijing’s concerns over Taiwan’s transformed political scene.
Xi’s mention of the purported consensus has been interpreted as a step back — in light of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) electoral drubbing in November last year — from the unequivocal “one China” framework that Xi fashioned in September last year by identifying the “one country, two systems” principle as its projected model for unification with Taiwan.
However, some commentators have called it an early warning targeted at the DPP, which has so far been opposed to the “consensus,” and a reminder to the KMT, which holds a different view on the content of the consensus and whose newly elected chairman is said to be planning to visit China for the first time.
The different takes on Xi’s remarks are actually complementary. While China is struggling or still at a loss as to how to curry favor with Taiwanese and might not be willing to make ostentatiously forceful advances, Beijing knows well where a possible breakthrough point lies: the political elites.
A meeting between KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Xi is reportedly to take place alongside a cross-strait forum in several months. A year after the Sunflower movement, which denounced the opaque dealings between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and months after the KMT’s electoral drubbing, one must wonder what merits the meeting, dubbed a “KMT-CCP forum,” has for the KMT.
No sooner did the news of the meeting surface than a poll emerged claiming to show that a majority of people believe that a meeting between Chu and Xi would be conducive to maintaining cross-strait peace.
Meanwhile, news also emerged that DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has allegedly been urged by the US to propose a cross-strait policy based on the “one China” discourse that is aimed at maintaining a “stable” cross-strait relationship — which the party said is a KMT ruse.
No one would want to be labeled a peace breaker or a troublemaker, and for the CCP, it takes much less effort to try to pressure political parties into submission by blackmail and then use them as vehicles to exert pressure on Taiwanese than to win over the people of a democratic country.
However, the voice of the people, which might not be of much concern to the CCP in China, is the source of political power in Taiwan.
Many Taiwanese have been “awakened” by the Sunflower movement. Civil networks now facilitate the quick transmission of information and stimulating discussions of social and political issues — necessary to guard against a political agenda monopolized by political elites.
On the anniversary of the debut of the Sunflower movement, it should be noted that it was never a “peaceful Taiwan Strait” (a straw man erected by the CCP), but only deceitful, under-the-table negotiations which the nation’s young people have been railing against, and political elites risk their political legitimacy if they fail to answer the real needs and calls of the public.
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During my twenty-two years in the US Senate, I became a student of Taiwan and its history. I was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy, and have made at least 25 trips to Taiwan and have been invited as an observer to two of the nation’s presidential elections. Taiwan’s continuous economic miracle has seen the nation transition from a mixed agricultural-industrial society at the end of Japan’s 50 years of jurisdiction to today’s economic powerhouse, unmatched by most nations of the world. Just as outstanding has been Taiwan’s decades of resistance and