After former deputy legislative speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) won the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) chairperson by-election with a record-low number of votes on Saturday last week, speculation arose that the party might see a new wave of defections, particularly by pro-localization members.
This speculation might become a reality following Hung’s swearing-in as the KMT’s first female chairperson on Wednesday and would cast a long shadow over the party that has fallen from grace.
Nicknamed the “Little Red Pepper (小辣椒),” Hung stands out with her outspokenness and peppery personality, as well as her radical pro-unification ideas. In May last year, during her campaign for the KMT presidential primary, she proposed a “one China, same interpretation” formula, which defines cross-strait relations as “two constitutional governments in a whole China.”
Given a lack of competition, the KMT’s party congress approved Hung’s nomination as the party’s presidential candidate in July last year. Everything seemed to be going well until a wave of defections by party members who were opposed to Hung’s cross-strait policy prompted the KMT leadership to replace Hung with New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫).
Although Chu failed to become the savior whom the KMT desperately needed, his defeat in the Jan. 16 presidential election, along with the party’s failure to maintain a legislative majority, gave rise to calls for party reform and a re-evaluation of its oft-criticized China policy.
The calls sparked hope that the KMT might eventually abandon the delusion that Beijing supports the idea of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” and follow a more Taiwan-centric political path.
However, the hope was dashed after Hung was elected KMT chairwoman, which is largely the result of the continuing dominant role of the pro-China Huang Fu-hsing military veterans’ branch within the party.
Hung taking the party’s reins bodes ill for the KMT’s future. Her China policy would not only put the party on a fast track to self-destruction, but also steer it even farther from mainstream public opinion.
According to a survey released on Tuesday by the pro-unification New Party, a KMT splinter group, about 63 percent of respondents defined cross-strait ties as “state-to-state” relations. Only 18.3 percent said that both sides of the Taiwan Strait were “split since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and have yet to be reunited.”
In addition, 40.3 percent said they disagree with Beijing’s and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) assertion that the so-called “1992 consensus” is indispensable to maintaining the “status quo.”
Another survey released on March 14 by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research showed a growing awareness of Taiwanese identity. A majority of respondents reject the idea of “one China,” whether it refers to the People’s Republic of China (81.6 percent) or the Republic of China (60 percent).
The Chinese-language United Daily News also published a poll on the same day showing a record-high 73 percent who identified themselves as Taiwanese, while those who identified themselves as Chinese hit a record low of 11 percent.
While Hung’s term as chairperson is set to expire in July next year, she could still do enough damage during this 17-month period, which is particularly crucial for a party that is engaging in soul-searching and seeking to make a comeback in the 2018 local elections.
It remains to be seen in which direction Hung plans to steer the party. However, a KMT that leans further toward China and continues to turn a blind eye to the nation’s growing Taiwanese identity is doomed to be rejected by voters.
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