The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is preparing to choose a new chairperson. As this takes place, younger members are also calling for party reform and, shall we say, party rebranding.
One candidate, representing the younger generation, is KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣). Chiang, 42, is pushing for reform and a greater voice for younger members, stressing the need to return to basic values, such as democracy, justice and innovation.
Another candidate, former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), 67, has also mentioned reform, but in a more half-hearted and half-baked way, common to that found in the KMT old guard.
He initially broached the issue by saying that the KMT should consider changes and it could start by getting tougher with China. He raised the long overdue point that if China does not treat the KMT with respect or as an equal partner, why should the KMT continue to attempt to negotiate with it?
Hau has sensed the growing awareness among the young that the KMT should admit to its surrounding political reality, but the problem is that China has never treated the KMT with respect.
It has only and temporarily dealt with the KMT out of political expediency.
Hau correctly criticized KMT members, who like dogs with their tails between their legs, have flocked across the Taiwan Strait to accept free dinners, etc, from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Such members are not promoting democracy; they are courting the growing wealth of the CCP.
China has never returned any good will from the KMT, because it has never had to.
The KMT lost the war. China knows that. The world knows that, but somehow, the KMT cannot bring itself to acknowledge that reality. It remains like the “storied emperor” trying to convince the world it has “territorial clothes.”
Clinging to its past and lost fantasies, the KMT twists, bows and scrapes to promote this narrative. Why does it bother?
The CCP does agree that there is “one China,” but its agreement is limited only to its version of what that one China means. China has not and will not admit that there can be any other interpretation of what “one China” means.
CCP thinking proceeds like this: “You [the KMT] lost the war. We followed you to Hainan and destroyed you there. We would eventually have done the same to you in Taiwan. Unfortunately in overreach, we gambled, took sides and participated in the Korean War. That caused the US to intervene in the Taiwan Strait and delay our plans.”
China knows that. The US knows that — but somehow, the KMT will not face it even if it realizes it in its heart.
At first of course, the KMT had promoted its fantasy of retaking China. When did it know that such a dream was beyond hope? It surely must have sensed this long before the KMT’s staunchest ally, the US, moved its embassy from Taipei to Beijing.
Ironically, it is here that Hau falters and tries to blame the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for destroying the KMT myth, when the DPP spells out that China only seeks “one country, two systems.” Beijing had never admitted to “one country, two interpretations.”
The KMT’s ludicrous position relies solely on maintaining the bogus “1992 consensus,” which former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) invented eight years later.
How then to expose this ludicrous KMT scandal?
The answer is quite simple. Presume hypothetically that the unthinkable would happen: that the CCP would capitulate to the KMT and let it take over and shape “one China” to its fashion. What would be the KMT’s first steps in this fantasy world?
Would it be to jettison the CCP’s 1949 constitution and replace it with the KMT’s 1947 version? Or would the KMT first restore the name “Republic of China” and ditch the “People’s Republic of China?”
How would the KMT treat Tibet and Xinjiang? Would it release all CCP political prisoners?
How would the KMT handle Hong Kong? Would it be a special administrative region? What form of government would the KMT want Hong Kong to have? Or would it just meld Hong Kong into the democratic whole of China?
Where would the KMT place the capital of its “one China”? Would it be in Beijing, Nanjing, or even remote Taipei?
Would the KMT quickly declare that all of China is a democracy? It would have to remember that in Taiwan’s democracy, it has regularly been voted out of office by the DPP. That would certainly make it wince.
If the KMT would make China a democracy, how many parties would it allow? Would it allow the CCP to continue to exist despite its obvious, distinct numerical advantage and ability to vote the KMT into oblivion?
Or would the KMT choose to have a “temporary” one-party state, followed by a period of democratic tutelage like it did in China’s 1930s?
What about internal reforms? Would the KMT have a timeline for reforms? Would it still face up to giving back its stolen state assets in Taiwan? Would it continue Taiwan’s transitional justice? Or would all that be swept under the rug of unnecessary “past history?”
What would be the place of Taiwan in the KMT’s vision of “one China?” Would it simply be relegated to being one of China’s many provinces?
Add to these questions the fact that in the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan surrendered Taiwan, but it never stated a recipient. The treaty allows democratic Taiwan to claim its own post colonial right to self-determination by the UN’s rules.
Would the KMT allow that?
Finally, there are deeper paradigmatic roots and imagined communities in all of this. The absurdity of these questions exposes how all along the KMT has been a diaspora, a government in exile.
Further, this indicates that the 1911 Xinhai revolution was more about Han people smarting under the centuries of Manchu rule. It was not about democracy, but simply to take territorial power and privilege from the Manchus.
Why were Tibet and Xinjiang never granted their own right to democratic choice to break free as Mongolia eventually did?
This is the reality, which stands in opposition to the falsely professed Han ideals. It is a more correct way by which the past century needs to be viewed.
The KMT old guard, like the CCP, has always allowed power, wealth and privilege to trump any of its beliefs in democracy.
Su coined the term “1992 consensus” in 2000, when the KMT lost Taiwan’s presidency for the first time in a free democratic vote; it is a term that allows the KMT to kowtow and return to China.
The above questions are key to demonstrating the absurdity of the KMT old guard’s claim of “one China with different interpretations.”
These questions should be put to any candidate for KMT chairperson, especially if they espouse the fiction of the “1992 consensus.” In the end, this might be the wake-up call that the KMT needs.
Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.
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