Political bubbles burst when reality reveals that the situation is unsustainable. Willing European politicians, journalists and academics have lived in the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) bubble describing Taiwan as Chinese, and have promoted closer ties between Taiwan and China.
This contributed to a perception that Taiwan was divided about its future international status and confused the European public.
This damaging export of division has almost stopped. Taiwan can now stand more united, but it needs to reach out to the European public to win over China.
The KMT’s political bubble burst due to political developments in Taiwan, including victories by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the KMT’s election failures and the appearance of new parties, such as the Taiwan’s People’s Party, that might take voters from the KMT.
Today, the vast majority of the political parties in Taiwan and the general public consider Taiwan as a nation with its current borders. Consequently, divisions over Taiwan’s international status is diminishing and people can observe a stronger export of political unity.
Realities can be hard to swallow for the KMT, which appears to be awakening slowly from a kind of denial. Even this year, the KMT continues to celebrate China’s victory over Japan and talks about the Opium War in 1840.
Moreover, its positions on defending Taiwan are called into question when it attempts to block or delay budgets for new F-16 upgrades and other military spending. A slow awakening from an increased isolation might be seen in the relaxation of the so-called “1992 consensus,” which the KMT considered necessary due to misunderstandings between China and the ruling DPP.
Even in Europe, the KMT’s bubble is finding it more difficult to survive, with a new generation of journalists and politicians with no personal memories of cross-strait relations prior to 2000 questioning China.
They appear far more interested in Taiwan’s current affairs and the situation with China, and that 67 percent of the population consider themselves Taiwanese, compared with 2.4 percent who identify as Chinese.
However, Taiwan’s future is not safe. The reactions from the EU to Hong Kong came too slow and were weak.
Hong Kong and Taiwan have quite different histories when it comes to China, but Taiwan should be prepared for a similar silent reaction from the EU.
Unfortunately, this is happening already. China appears to be creating a new normal, allowing it to fly into Taiwan’s airspace with impunity.
The power of the EU is founded in the European countries, not in Brussels. Consequently, to increase Taiwan’s influence in the EU, it needs to invest far more economically in each European country. This would ensure an increased mutual interest, which has been directly encouraged by EU’s trade office in Taiwan.
Power also lies with the citizens of Europe. Taiwan can reach ordinary citizens by engaging even stronger with civil society groups across Europe in politics, art, sports, music and many other areas.
Taiwan representative offices can benefit from these civil society groups by promoting cooperation based on their own ideas or the ideas coming out of the passion and group dynamics among the members of the civil society groups.
Taiwan needs to reach out broadly to the European public and try new avenues to win over China. The consensus being created in Taiwan on the international status is a necessary starting point.
Michael Danielsen is the chairman of Taiwan Corner.
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