With the Dec. 18 referendum drawing close, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been vocally endorsing the reactivation of construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), even though the project was mothballed during his administration.
He directed his fire at the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for politicizing the issue of nuclear waste, but then also attacked New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) and the Yilan County commissioner for opposing the plant, citing their alleged ignorance of nuclear waste processing.
He even said that when construction began, a massive cave — big enough to hold 20,000 barrels of low-radiation waste for 40 years — was dug near the site.
Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) countered Ma’s argument by saying that during his time in office, not one single barrel of nuclear waste was processed in Taiwan, and used fuel was just stored in nuclear plants.
Hou also hit back, saying that he had been the chairman of the Nuclear Safety Monitoring Council for 11 years, where he had hosted every single meeting during his tenure, and so knew a thing or two about the issue.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) is also spearheading the referendum campaign, pushing for four “yes” votes on each question.
The KMT appears oblivious to the gaping contradictions between the four referendum questions.
While another question — on the relocation of a liquefied natural gas terminal project for the purpose of algal reef protection — also touches upon energy production, it ignores that the central government has come up with complementary measures to ensure the protection of both the environment and economy.
However, the KMT is still opposing for opposition’s sake. Is this the thinking of “normal people”?
When the KMT was in power, it allowed the importation of US beef containing ractopamine residue, but is now urging a “yes” vote on a referendum question that seeks to ban the importation of pork with traces of the feed additive. Clearly, the issue is not about banning ractopamine residues in imported meat.
As a result, one cannot but feel that stirring up anti-US sentiment and sabotaging the Taiwan-US relationship, especially on economics and trade, were manifestations of the KMT’s mantra of “staying close to the US, but on good terms with China.”
China’s military incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone have been escalating since October, with countries in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the US and EU voicing their concern. Why, then, is the KMT spending all its energy on the referendum, as well as on blocking the government’s budget, with the political buffoonery making the DPP the target enemy? Do Taiwan-friendly countries see the KMT as “normal”?
The KMT was initially riding a wave of a protests against pension reform and progressive issues, the 2018 referendum, populism and the rise of then-Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜). People were caught up in the moment, and the DPP suffered a political Waterloo.
Then, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) proposed the “one country, two systems” principle for Taiwan and cracked down on Hong Kong’s democracy movement, both of which worked against Han, whose ambition came to an abrupt end when he was recalled as Kaohsiung mayor.
The KMT remembers its rise in 2018, but has forgotten its quick downfall since, and continues to rely on populism in local elections.
With both sides reacting quickly to the changing definition of the so-called “1992 consensus” and the “one China” principle, the KMT sided with Beijing and turned its back on Washington.
On the proposal to increase the military budget in reaction to the Chinese incursions, the KMT said that this would be gifting money to the US.
The KMT has been raving about banning the US pork imports while accusing the government of ignoring people’s health, but does it not think that the lives of people come before their health? China is holding a gun to Taiwan’s head, yet the KMT chooses not to lift a finger.
By going against the will of Taiwanese and refusing to take into account the nation’s geopolitical position, the KMT is racing to its own downfall.
The reason the KMT is in such a sorry state is no secret. The foreign party-state mentality remains ingrained in its DNA. The KMT’s authoritarian past, in which it brought together local factions and shady forces, is echoed in the “united front” tactics and intimidation that Beijing is subjecting Taiwan to.
The KMT’s criticism and obstruction of every policy intended to boost the process of normalizing Taiwan is based on its ideology and national identity, with the ultimate goal of deepening Taiwan’s ties and reliance on China, which would deprive the nation of the choice to stand on its own and maintain the “status quo” as an independent country.
This is why it lacks the “blue fighter” spirit it is showing in its referendum campaign when it comes to the behavior of Beijing, including military and economic intimidation in protest of the government’s rejection of the “1992 consensus”; Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which allows extradition to mainland China; and the fines it has levied on Taiwanese firms operating in China that it accuses of making donations to the Taiwanese independence cause.
For the election of the KMT’s next caucus whip, many have said that the party needs somebody who understands the DPP’s tactics. Given the situation the party is in, it would in the first place need to fill the position with a “normal” person who could set the party right.
In the past, Chu has tried to portray himself as a “normal” person, and he was once a politician of no surprises, at least compared with people such as Ma, Han or former KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱).
His relationship with Washington might mean that he would keep his distance from Beijing, but when Xi expressed the hope that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the KMT could work together on cross-strait peace, unification and the “rejuvenation of the Chinese people,” Chu’s response was to accuse the DPP of being anti-China, of trying to change the cross-strait “status quo” and of inflaming tensions with Beijing.
His response put Taiwanese in danger, and it is hard to keep track of what Chu’s definition of “normal” might be.
It seems that the only KMT official in the ascendant is Hou.
However, US academics identifying him as a candidate for the 2024 presidential election might simply be based on Hou’s appearance as a “normal” person, a rarity in the pan-blue camp.
As New Taipei City mayor, he only needs to consider the needs of his constituents, which allows him to have more grounded ideas on major issues, such as restarting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
Hou’s “normality” highlights what an abnormal bunch the KMT leadership is, with “just a normal guy” Chu at its helm.
It remains to be seen whether a “normal” person such as Hou would be able to shine as he works his way up the decidedly odd hierarchy of the KMT.
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was normal, but he was stripped of his KMT membership, and the oddball hierarchy continued as before.
Chu reviving the idea of the KMT joining forces with the CCP to gain control over Taiwan suggests that he has been tainted by his association with Beijing’s leadership. If he was just a normal guy before, now he is not.
Translated by Rita Wang and Paul Cooper
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