Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Sleepwalking into China’s embrace

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) on Sunday said that the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) huge election gains demonstrated that Taiwanese wish to enjoy the benefits that peaceful cross-strait development can bring.

He might just have a point. While it could be said the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) drubbing was more a bloody nose given it by a frustrated and angry electorate than a resounding endorsement for the KMT, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has now been handed a potent political weapon, and another avenue with which to win the hearts, minds and stomachs of Taiwanese voters.

The KMT won the leadership of 15 out of the 22 cities and counties, flipping Taichung and taking Kaohsiung for the first time in two decades.

The redrawing of Taiwan’s political map has serious repercussions for the nation’s national security, and leaves the DPP facing a serious challenge to make sure its 2020 re-election bid is not imperiled.

Cross-Strait Policy Association secretary-general Wang Zhin-sheng (王智盛) on Monday told a forum that as the KMT has control over local governments representing 80 percent of the population, the CCP is likely to use economic exchanges to pursue a policy of rapidly infiltrating local governments and create a CCP-KMT nexus to besiege the central government.

The tactic of fostering political change through economic inducements via exchanges with city and county-level governments has been integral to the CCP’s “united front” approach to securing eventual unification.

In 2016, it invited a delegation of eight KMT and independent mayors and councilors to Beijing to discuss collaboration and exchanges with the cities and counties represented by the delegation, including the purchase of Taiwanese agricultural products and the promotion of tourism.

Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng (俞正聲) and TAO Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) used the event to stress that those meetings were only possible through the delegation’s acceptance of the so-called “1992 consensus” and Beijing’s “one China” principle.

Now the CCP is better placed to use this leverage than ever before.

Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) made increased economic exchanges, investments and tourist numbers a key part of his vision for regenerating the city. One of his campaign slogans was “people will flood in, goods will flow out, Kaohsiung will reap the benefits.”

The new promise that the CCP wants to capitalize on, and the KMT heads of local government are willing to reap, are what Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen (董立文) has called the “three communications” of people (tourists), goods and money.

The problem for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is that these economic benefits will actually improve the lives of people struggling to make ends meet in the short term and she cannot argue with people wanting to see real improvements to their lives.

In a letter of apology posted yesterday on Facebook, Tsai acknowledged her government’s preoccupation with reform and economic development without being mindful enough of how this path was affecting the poor and disenfranchised, who were not seeing any real benefits.

She also acknowledged her failure to adequately communicate the need for such reforms.

Her task has now been made more difficult. She not only has to improve her reform priorities, leadership conviction and communication, she also has to find a way to offer substantial, immediate benefits to people, otherwise they might well prefer the illusory gifts that the CCP, with the KMT’s assistance, will be placing before them.

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