The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which launched a signature drive in support of a referendum on US pork imports, has delivered the first-stage signatures to the Central Election Commission.
The KMT is entitled to oppose the government’s policy decisions, but a Reuters report published on Sept. 6 described its response as follows: “Taiwan’s main opposition party, the KMT, began a push on Sunday for a referendum to block the easing of restrictions on US pork imports, which if passed could threaten a long-mooted free-trade deal with Taipei’s key ally Washington.”
The worrying thing about this is that the KMT’s longstanding role and image in Taiwan are gradually undergoing a qualitative change that is deeply affecting the way that Washington views it.
In Taiwan’s democratization process over the past few decades, former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), both KMT members, maintained pretty good relations with the US. Even during the intervening period, when Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was president, the KMT’s relations with the US were just as good as those of the DPP.
As a result, the US and Taiwanese viewed the KMT as being relatively capable of handling Taiwan-US relations and issues.
However, since the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) became president, the KMT’s actions have strengthened the impression that it is anti-American. The party’s strategic thinking has gone woefully wrong if it regards the US as an enemy just because it is a friend of its own political enemy, the DPP.
From the public’s point of view, the key strategic point is not whether “seeking peace with China” is controversial, but that it is absolutely wrong to adopt a clear anti-US stance.
Think about China: Even amid deteriorating China-US relations, it is trying various ways to resume its economic and trade cooperation with the US.
The KMT should strive to maintain its role and image as a rational party open to dialogue. That would be the best way for it to have a chance of getting voted back into power.
As everyone knows, the DPP started out as a maverick party, but it has since moved toward the political center, so the US views it as a party that it can talk to. This can be seen from Taiwan-US political, economic and trade exchanges in recent years.
Does the KMT want to take a turn at being the maverick party? Does it really think that this is the way to win back the support of a majority of voters? Such a predictable cycle does not exist in the real world.
At the start of last month, senior KMT legislators turned down an invitation from the American Institute in Taiwan to discuss issues over dinner, but party members happily attended this year’s Straits Forum in Xiamen, China, even though Beijing openly said that the KMT’s chief delegate, former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), was “coming to the mainland to sue for peace.”
This highlights how out of touch many so-called senior KMT members are. China’s attitude came as a big slap in the face for a party that thinks it can play the role of an effective go-between in cross-strait relations.
In recent years, the KMT has gotten poor results from its handling of most of the issues the party has tackled. It should more thoroughly reform the makeup of its internal think tanks and make major changes to its policy orientations.
Hopefully, the above suggestions will help insure that Taiwan can have a two-party system in which the two main parties are more or less evenly matched.
Tsao Yao-chun is a researcher with the Chinese Association of Public Affairs Management.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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