The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Sept. 6 finished its annual national congress. However, if Taiwan wants to have a viable opposition party in its democracy, the results were far from satisfying.
The KMT again seems to be caught in a time loop, like that one in the 1993 film Groundhog Day.
Yet, unlike the protagonist in that film, the KMT seems unable to learn from past experience and change for the better. Instead, it remains locked in its never-ending cycle of repeating the past.
To borrow from a different artistic genre, the KMT echoes Pete Seeger’s song Where Have All the Flowers Gone? that includes the lines: “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”
This is not to say that there was not any good and a little progress in the congress, but the final conclusions remained lacking.
First, look at the good. The theme was admirable: “Protect Taiwan, safeguard democracy and fight for the future.” What Taiwanese could argue with that? Who would not sign up under those words?
Next, it was proposed that no fewer than 15 percent of KMT Central Committee members be under the age of 40. Again, that was good news for a party dominated by too many “old members with old thinking.”
While many of those old members had fled to Taiwan with their families between 1945 and 1949, their hearts have remained in the China of 1947.
The requirement to include younger members would benefit those born in Taiwan after the pro-democracy Kaohsiung Incident. It was only a proposal, but still a good one.
However, the devil soon came out in the details, and that is where everything went south.
The KMT has always lacked someone to not just ask the tough questions, but also to answer them, someone who can put Taiwan first.
Start with the thematic issue of democracy. The KMT has now pledged to defend Taiwan’s democracy. That is good.
However, how far would the KMT really be willing to go?
The KMT has frequently given lip service to democracy.
At the end of the KMT one-party state, it had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the nation’s present democracy.
The reasons the KMT finally accepted democracy were not idealistic, but pragmatic: First, they, the waishengren (外省人, Mainlanders) were outnumbered by the benshengren (本省人, those who came to Taiwan before World War II) by at least a three-to-one ratio.
Second, as the followers of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), they were the ones kicked out of the UN in 1971, not the Taiwanese.
Finally, the US, their previous main supporter, had moved its embassy from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 and began to use “Taiwan” in place of the “Republic of China” (ROC).
It was democracy or collapse.
If the KMT is now committed to democracy as stated in its congress, why does it ignore what is happening in Hong Kong? Hong Kong had been promised democracy by 2017. China broke its promise and never delivered.
Why has the KMT been silent on this? Does the KMT view it as a slight character flaw in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?
How can the KMT be blithely sending a 100-strong delegation to China to talk about trade and even support potential future reunification when it ignores both Hong Kong and the reasons why the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement was stymied in Taiwan in 2014? Does the KMT not see this evident disconnect? [Editor’s note: The KMT on Monday decided to boycott the Straits Forum.]
Why has the KMT remained silent on the treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, or the cultural genocide that is going on in Tibet and Inner Mongolia?
These are items that any nation dedicated to democracy would question.
The CCP is a one-party state and has continuously denied democracy. The KMT, which ran its own one-party state for four decades, has never challenged this ideology. Why? Is it envy?
Next, of course, is the nefarious “1992 consensus.”
The CCP has never agreed to or “consented to” the KMT’s interpretation of what “one China” is. It has only agreed that Taiwan belongs to one China and it rules it. Why does the KMT still try to perpetuate this dream? What is their payoff? Are they Quislings in disguise?
The KMT was the “beggars who took over the temple” of Taiwan in 1945 and exploited it to fund its losing war effort in China.
Now, after the Taiwanese retook the temple through democracy, do these same “beggars” believe that they can go back across the Taiwan Strait, convince the CCP to let them join its forces and gain a privileged spot in its temple?
Even if China was to allow such a technical democracy, does the KMT not see that it would certainly be outvoted as a minority within the vastness of China?
Who is it trying to convince? Is it blind to the inevitable, ideological culture clash? Does it somehow believe that it will be above this fray?
The KMT primarily seems determined to preserve the name of the ROC, yet that name represents the “losers” of the war.
In the 1930s, the KMT operated under the ruse that there would be a period of instruction, a period of understanding and then finally a democracy. Why did it give way to corruption instead?
The 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty has never granted sovereignty over Taiwan to the ROC or the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The KMT has for decades been a government in exile and a carpetbagger in Taiwan. What is its plan in claiming the “1992 consensus?”
After insisting on this “consensus,” the KMT further insists on preserving the 1947 Constitution, which it calls its “core” and “rock” belief. In reality, it seems that it only wants to preserve the name “ROC.”
This “constitutional rock” has already been amended seven times and adopted 12 new articles.
Does it still believe that under the Constitution, it can eventually and miraculously restore its rule over “all China,” including the territories of Mongolia, Inner Mongolia and Tibet?
More importantly, does it not see that Taiwan must eventually return to being a simple “province” of the CCP’s China? Or is that the goal?
The PRC no longer masks its intentions. The CCP has never even said that it would consider adopting democracy or give up its one-party state. Does the KMT think that the CCP does not see through its ruse and go along with it?
The beggars wish to return, but they do not come with any power to negotiate in this game. Perhaps they are instead seeking privilege, a way to ingratiate themselves. On the surface, it appears that it is too humiliating for the KMT to consider itself as Taiwanese.
One would have hoped that the recall vote of former Kaohsiung mayor and KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) would have been a wake-up call, but the KMT remains in a state of denial.
Even in this KMT alternative universe, it does not seem to sense the above and that “winter is coming.”
These are the hard questions that the KMT must not just ask, but answer. Taiwan needs a viable opposition party in its democracy. The KMT congress certainly did not help in that regard.
Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.
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