During a speech to mark Double Ten National Day on Sunday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) made a simple statement of fact: “The Republic of China [ROC] and the People’s Republic of China [PRC] are mutually exclusive.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and others within the party, including former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), went berserk and accused Tsai of “violating the Constitution” and altering the so-called “status quo.” That the party elite are incensed over a choice of words that could easily have passed from Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) lips shows that the KMT has become completely divorced from its founding principles and urgently needs to adjust its malfunctioning political compass.
The party began to lose its way as early as when the Cultural Revolution drew to a close and former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), a victim of Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) purges, appeared to be jettisoning communism in favor of economic and political reform. By embracing capitalism, the CCP parked its tanks on the KMT’s lawn and robbed the party of its raison d’etre. The line between the “two Chinas” began to blur as the two economies converged.
Moreover, as China’s wealth grew, it began to delve back into its past and re-explore aspects of traditional Chinese culture that had only a few decades earlier been incinerated in a bonfire of wanton destruction. Another aspect of the KMT’s manifesto — preserving traditional Chinese culture — had been hollowed out.
However, it has become clear that the CCP never had any intention of enacting meaningful political reform and its economic reforms have also hit the buffers. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has slammed the country into reverse gear: tearing up the checks and balances on political power introduced by Deng, carrying out high-profile purges of self-made billionaires and raiding private firms’ balance sheets under the banner of “common prosperity.”
Since the CCP appears to be going full circle, and given that the KMT once modeled itself as an “anti-communist” outfit, this presents the KMT with a golden opportunity to return to its roots as a champion of capitalism and guardian of traditional Chinese culture.
The cultural aspect is not insignificant. A good example is the use of traditional Chinese characters. Hong Kong still uses them as well, but for how much longer will this continue now that the CCP has full control over the territory? It cannot be long until simplified characters are mandated by Beijing. As Singapore long ago adopted the simplified system, this would leave Taiwan as the last holdout of traditional Chinese characters, tasked with preserving the beauty, rich meaning and inner logic of the ancient writing system, crudely disemboweled by the CCP during the 1950s.
As the KMT appears to be devoid of ideas and a meaningful policy platform, here are a few suggestions for the new party chairman:
First, Chu should declare that unification is off the table, as China is not going to be democratizing any time soon, and unification would therefore contravene two of Sun Yat-sen’s (孫逸仙) Three Principles of the People: “democracy” and “the livelihood of the people.”
Second, Chu should amend the party’s constitution to bar members from holding meetings or liaising in any way with the CCP, either officially or in a personal capacity. Any member who breaches the rule should be stripped of their membership.
Finally, Chu should grant full access to the party’s archives so that the KMT can finally turn the page on its authoritarian past and fully embrace democracy.
The KMT’s only hope of survival is to reject unification with the PRC, rediscover its roots and re-enter the fight against the communists — as proud Taiwanese and custodians of traditional Chinese culture.
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