Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) last week said that the reopening of the party’s liaison office in the US signaled a “return” of its voice in Washington.
The word “return” implies that there was a break-off and that the KMT is seeking to “rekindle” its relationship with the US.
Chu’s trip to the US is a political maneuver and statement. The move is not only to show goodwill to the US, but to use the opportunity to remove the KMT’s “anti-US, pro-China” label.
At the Washington-based Brookings Institution, Chu emphasized that the KMT had been “mislabeled” due to the manipulation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), saying that the KMT is neither anti-US nor pro-China.
However, having the word “Chinese” in its name, the KMT’s “pro-China-ness” has nothing to do with the DPP. The question is not whether the KMT is pro-China, but whether it stands for China.
The KMT could always argue that there is a gap between a signifier and what it signifies, and that it uses “Chinese” in its name without signifying anything.
In academic terms, “Chinese” as a signifier represents a concept, while the signified does not necessarily evoke meaning.
Nevertheless, there have been proposals from within the KMT to change “Chinese” to “Taiwanese.” One such motion was even discussed at a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting.
However, Chu shot down the motion, saying that “it would mislead supporters into thinking that the KMT is cutting ties with China and severing any past connections with it.”
Thus, assumptions about Chu’s pro-China stance do not come out of the blue.
So how does the KMT explain the so-called “1992 consensus”?
Chu most recently came up with the creative phrase “non-consensus consensus,” but, setting aside the rhetoric, all that is left of his new explanation is that there is no “consensus.”
Without a meaningful “1992 consensus,” the KMT has held on to the idea of “one China, different interpretations,” while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) endorses the “one China principle.”
This proves that the “1992 consensus” is the biggest lump of wool that the KMT and CCP have pulled over people’s eyes.
To cover up the deception of the “1992 consensus,” Chu thought that he could imitate the US’ “one China” policy by playing with ambiguity.
However, the catch is that Washington devised the policy to counter Beijing’s “one China principle” — there were no smoke and mirrors, as there had been no consensus on any “one China” issue between the US and China in the first place.
Why does Chu draw a connection between being pro-China and being anti-US?
In Chu’s words, “ties with China and past connections with it” would make being “pro-China” and “anti-US” two sides of the same coin.
Furthermore, there has been a fair share of pro-China speeches from members of the KMT, such as former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), former KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕).
Soon after Chu arrived in the US, Ma took to Facebook to lambast the DPP for turning Taiwan into an “illiberal democracy.”
In a democratic society, citizens have the right to criticize the government, as well as to express their opinion, including by saying that Taiwan is becoming an illiberal democracy.
However, Ma’s comments intended to disparage Taiwan, pander to the CCP, and praise Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for “upholding and protecting human rights in all areas, and ruling by law.”
Since the CCP established its regime, it has been following the principle that all Chinese should serve the party.
Chinese leaders since Mao Zedong (毛澤東) have been exploiting their subjects, and abusing democracy, rule of law and human rights.
While Ma’s bootlicking has been done out of ingratiation, Chu’s words should earn him a slap in the face.
Ma’s illiberal democracy comment is in contrast to Chu’s statement that Taiwan has been enjoying democracy thanks to the Republic of China Constitution.
Chu might not have been lying through his teeth like Ma did, but he seemed to have forgotten that Taiwan achieved real democracy after multiple constitutional reforms.
Is Chu changing tack to change the KMT’s pro-China image? Even though the public acknowledges this improvement, it does not mean the KMT could wipe the slate of the past clean.
Taiwanese could not be happier to see change, but the question remains: Can a weak chairman like Chu change the KMT against all odds? Only time will tell.
Chin Heng-wei is a political commentator.
Translated by Rita Wang
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