Since the era of heated warfare and the view that “gentlemen do not stand together with thieves” under Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), to the Cold War and the verbal attacks of late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and saber rattling under former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been consumed by the conflict between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has resulted in China being unable to achieve its goal of annexing Taiwan.
When the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party took over from the KMT, the view that the CCP, the KMT, Taiwan and China were one and the same was shattered. It was also the beginning of a new class of professionals: the Taiwanese representatives of China.
First out of the starting blocks was former vice president Lien Chan (連戰).
At 39, Lien was appointed representative to El Salvador and went on to become a minister, Taiwan provincial governor and premier, all thanks to his political correctness and without ever having won a single election.
In 1993, he became vice president, although the public most likely voted for presidential candidate Lee.
In 2000, Lien represented a confident KMT in what was supposed to see him march straight into the presidential office. In addition to being badly defeated, he also fell far behind James Soong (宋楚瑜), who had left the KMT to run as an independent.
Lien tried again in 2004, together with his erstwhile enemy, Soong, in an attempt to defeat their common enemy, Chen. On the eve of the election, Lien and his wife prostrated themselves and kissed the ground to win public support, but Taiwan’s voters once again rejected him at the ballot box.
Incredibly, the inept Lien, who is not popular in Taiwan, has been invited to Beijing as a VIP, because it thinks he can still build a bridge between China and Taiwan.
On Nov. 7 last year, then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) traveled to Singapore to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in support of the so-called “1992 consensus.” However, China was probably not too happy about the meeting: When someone like Ma, China’s highest-ever representative in Taiwan who was ready to throw himself in the arms of China finally appeared, he managed to throw the KMT into disarray, diminish China’s standing in Taiwan and push Taiwanese public opinion further away from China.
It is not so strange, then, that Ma was very happy in front of the cameras, while Xi’s smile was shallow and stiff.
KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and Xi on Tuesday met in Beijing, throwing the KMT into chaos. Hung could not even hold onto her position as the party’s presidential candidate, so what was she really trying to do by meeting with Xi?
The welcome she was accorded included neither a banquet nor a private meeting, which implies that Xi has a good understanding of the cruel realities of his spokespeople in Taiwan. No matter how politically insensitive Xi might be, he must know that even if he were to reach some kind of agreement with Hung, the CCP and the KMT might chime in, but Taiwanese are unlikely to pay it much attention.
Given that only 3 percent of Taiwanese identify as Chinese and that China is unwilling to abandon its position and only listens to the views of its spokespeople while refusing to accept that Taiwan has the right to sit at the negotiating table as an equal, Beijing only meets with politicians who are past their prime and representatives of a party that is drawing its last breath.
If Beijing wants to establish a dialogue with representatives of Taiwan’s mainstream opinion, it is in for a tough challenge.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors and a retired professor of National Hsinchu University of Education.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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