At an event organized by Taiwanese expatriates in the US, former vice president Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) mentioned, of his own accord, the meeting in Singapore between former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jin-ping (習近平). At the meeting, in front the media, Ma talked about the idea of “one China,” but left out the phrase “with each side having its own interpretation.”
According to Wu, by leaving out the last part of his cross-strait principle, Ma should have “had points deducted.”
The subtle comment has received support from the likes of former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村). The fact that Wu, one of the leading figures of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), publicly commented on the meeting at this point in time is significant — not only for the KMT, a party in serious decline, but also for its rival, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and indeed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is still struggling to work with the DPP.
Despite Wu’s deliberate obtuseness, his message carries a significance worth celebrating. It is the first criticism from within the KMT over Ma’s simplification of the “1992 consensus.”
Considering that the KMT under Chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) has adopted new policy platforms advocating the signing of a peace pact with China, Wu’s comment made clear that certain members of the party do not want to be associated with such a stance — and not necessarily out of a desire to compete with Hung.
The KMT rarely states its stance on cross-strait issues in direct terms, but this time, Wu and others are suggesting that there is a definitive difference between “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” and only “one China.” Traditionally, the KMT has interpreted “one China” as the Republic of China (ROC).
While many Taiwanese find that to be slightly out of touch with reality, it is nonetheless a different stance from that of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which considers itself to be the only China. The KMT still openly defies the “one China” principle as formulated and held to by the PRC.
If Ma, near the end of his presidency, was steering the country toward eventual unification with China, Hung has pushed for the same goal with even more vigor.
However, with another KMT chairperson election scheduled for next year, many members are trying to redirect the party to its original goal of safeguarding the ROC as the one and only China, believing such a change is essential for its survival.
Recent changes within the KMT show politicians need to follow public opinion and evolve so that they are in touch with the electorate, or they are voted out. Smart politicians are always aware of this.
Whether one can garner public support depends on the kind of platforms one decides to embrace, which should be a choice made based on reason and rationality.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Taiwan cannot participate in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) because it is not a nation. Its failure to recognize several recent developments in Taiwan could eventually result in the two nations going their separate ways.
First, in order to mislead Taiwanese into believing that the DPP should be held responsible for the nation’s exclusion from the ICAO Assembly, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) organized a meeting with eight city and county leaders from Taiwan who support the so-called “1992 consensus.” Such a tactic, designed to divide Taiwanese opinion, has failed, as the KMT ceased to cooperate.
By denying Taiwan, or the ROC, the status of an independent and sovereign nation, Beijing has conversely helped to unite the pan-blue and pan-green camps, with key KMT figures now shifting to a middle-of-the-road approach on cross-strait issues.
Second, Beijing is obsessed with warning Taiwan that it is misreading the situation. However, the reality is quite different: Taiwanese know exactly what they are doing. When they cast their ballots on Jan. 16, they made their choices knowing full well the consequences.
The CCP’s attitude toward Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration on May 20 has only confirmed that friendly gestures from Taiwan can never win respect from China. If respect is given based on friendly feelings, it can certainly be taken back whenever feelings change.
Beijing has repeatedly misread the situation in Taiwan, as it is seemingly quite out of touch with public opinion. According to a recent poll more than 70 percent of Taiwanese find the CCP’s approach on cross-strait issues overbearing. Apparently, Beijing’s failure to understand the Taiwanese’ collective will has placed it back to square one after eight years of hard work aimed at improving cross-strait ties.
Third, China has always been concerned with intervention from the international community, especially that from the US, which it fears might conspire to work with Taiwan against it should the circumstances arise. Despite this, China has deliberately and continually inflicted pain and suffering on Taiwanese, only spurring Taiwanese to cooperate with the US and Japan.
While this is clearly a strategic mistake, Beijing has nonetheless been doing so for years, regardless of the ruling party in Taiwan, albeit to varying degrees. In the long term, it has caused more harm to China than to Taiwan. Ironically, all this has been occurring at a time when China is rising according to many metrics.
That China should create such a self-destructive situation by motivating cooperation between Taiwan and other countries shows that despite its economic success, in civil affairs it still has a long way to go to catch up with other nations.
Beijing thought it only needed the KMT to replace the DPP, but in reality, after Taiwan’s ICAO setback — another ploy to put pressure on the DPP — members of the KMT seem to have adjusted their cross-strait approach and have started leaning closer to the DPP.
The result has been a new political balance offsetting pressure from Beijing. The force behind this new balance is democracy.
Indeed, it is precisely because Beijing does not understand democracy that it will never be able to truly understand Taiwan.
Translated by Tu Yu-an
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