When asked why the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not send him a congratulatory message until the day after being elected chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Eric Chu (朱立倫) said that the timing of the letter was “a joint decision” by him and the CCP, a response that stunned everyone.
Chu, who lost the presidential election in 2016, is trying to stage a comeback to pave the way for a presidential bid in 2024, so it is quite surprising to see that his political wisdom has declined so incredibly fast. What other surprises can we expect from secret agreements that he might have made in exchange for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) congratulatory letter? Chu has a responsibility to all Taiwanese to offer an explanation.
The CCP apparently only accepted Chu’s reply after agreeing to it in advance. People might be curious about the motives behind Chu’s criticism of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in his response to Xi. He criticized the DPP government for promoting de-Sinicization and adopting an anti-China policy over the past few years, which he said has changed the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait and created a dangerous cross-strait situation that is raising concern on both sides.
Did he make this commentary at the request of China to prove his loyalty to Beijing, or did he make it at his own initiative?
As the CCP sees it, only those who recognize the so-called “1992 consensus” and oppose Taiwanese independence can pass its loyalty test. Perhaps blaming the cross-strait deadlock on the DPP is the first step by Chu and his camp toward that goal.
After being elected KMT chairman, Chu said the party has reopened communication channels with the CCP and expressed a hope that the two sides will engage in more dialogue despite their opposite standpoints. This would be a good thing, but if communication is predicated on the “1992 consensus,” opposition to Taiwanese independence and attacking domestic political parties, while giving the KMT exclusive license to carry out cross-strait communication “business,” there would be no mechanism for monitoring the “joint decisions” the two parties make.
There are at least three key people who might have served as Chu’s cross-strait envoys. The first is KMT Central Committee member Sean Lien (連勝文), the elder son of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰). When Chu sought the Lien family’s support for his chairmanship bid, he promised to appoint Sean Lien as deputy chairman responsible for communication with China, as Chu would take charge of communication with the US.
A second possibility is Kao Yu-jen (高育仁), Chu’s father-in-law. Kao is chairman of the 21st Century Foundation, a non-governmental group with great resources. He was more active than his son-in-law in the KMT chairmanship primary.
The third possibility is former Straits Exchange Foundation acting chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉), who allegedly wrote Chu’s political positions on cross-strait affairs. During the campaign, many of Chu’s policies on the China issue and cross-strait relations were drawn up by Kao Koong-lian.
It is worth keeping an eye on these three men. With their network of connections, they are likely to become a significant influence on Chu’s chairmanship even if they do not take up any specific party posts.
How much trust and recognition from the Taiwanese public will this kind of arrangement bring Chu? This is the biggest question raised by this arrangement.
Tzou Jiing-wen is editor-in-chief of the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).
Translated by Eddy Chang
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