The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) newly appointed presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) is ready for battle and he began his campaign by attacking what he and others believe to be the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Achilles’ heel — the cross-strait relationship.
Chu questioned DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) over whether her pledge to “maintain the ‘status quo’” encompasses a “two-state theory” and the DPP’s “Taiwanese independence platform.”
“[China] believes that there would be no ‘status quo’ without the [so-called] ‘1992 consensus,’ how would Tsai be able to maintain it [without recognizing the ‘consensus’]?” he asked.
It is not surprising that Chu chooses, or is left to choose, cross-strait relations as his first and main battlefield. A slumping economy, soaring housing prices, stagnating wages and abysmal prospects for young people — issues that former KMT candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) raised, which made one question if she understood which party is in power — are topics the KMT administration wants to avoid, or have carefully crafted responses to.
It would be politically insensitive of Chu if he were to forget that last year’s Sunflower movement was not just about the public’s concerns over closer ties with China, but also an expression of the angst young people have about how closer economic integration with China — which under the current administration is based on the “1992 consensus” — has failed to deliver, if not hurt, the economic outlook of the general public, let alone the younger generation.
Chu might be able to appeal to an abstract call for stability, but for the public, life struggles and hardships are no less palpably felt.
This might be the reason Chu is trying to stoke debate — not exactly about how the “improved” cross-strait relationship has benefited Taiwan, but rather about Tsai’s ideas over Taiwan’s fundamental political status, which could stir up fears about a war, regardless of how remote the possibility is.
Would this be a good campaign strategy?
According to a Taiwan Indicators Survey Research poll, with more than one answer allowed to a multiple-choice question on understanding of the state of cross-strait affairs and expectations over their development, “one side, one nation” — literally, two states — garnered 69.3 percent support, the most-popular option, while a “Republic of China (ROC) constitutional institution” had 69 percent support. Curiously, “one China, different interpretations” and “the 1992 consensus” only gained 36.2 percent and 27.4 percent respectively.
What the survey revealed is a repudiation of what the KMT and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have been advocating: that if you recognizes the ROC Constitution framework, you have to accept the “1992 consensus” of “one China, different interpretations.”
The electorate obviously thinks otherwise.
The survey also casts doubt on the effectiveness of a campaign strategy aimed at forcing the DPP to denounce its independence party platform.
With Tsai’s middle-of-the-road recognition of the ROC, Chu’s hard-hitting question pressing the DPP on the nation’s official status could boomerang to hurt the KMT.
What is the KMT’s official stance on Taiwan’s status? If Hung’s “ultimate unification” is considered unacceptable, does that mean the KMT has renounced its goal of the re-unification of China? If Chu believes the DPP with its party platform could not be a steward of the “status quo,” could the KMT resist the temptation to further integrate with China, which would likewise constitute an alteration of the “status quo?”
Chu might be putting on a show, using “cross-strait stability” and “1992 consensus” rhetoric for the benefit of China and the US, but at the end of the day, he will need to win over the Taiwanese electorate if he wants to lead the nation.
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