New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), who is widely expected to become the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, said on Friday in Singapore that “peace is the only option” for cross-strait relations, and practical communication is needed to reduce misunderstandings and seek the “common good” for both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the whole world.
Chinese-language media were quck to notice Hou’s remarks during his trip, which was announced on Monday and began on Wednesday, as it was his first attempt to reveal his stance on cross-strait relations — an important factor influencing presidential elections — and a “gesture” to officially enter the presidential race.
However, when asked if the so-called “1992 consensus” is the foundation of the “common good” for both sides of the Strait, Hou said the main premise is built on “fair, dignified, friendly and practical communications with each other,” without elaborating.
Earlier this month, when asked to clarify what he meant when he said he “respects the spirit of the 1992 consensus,” he said: “Safeguarding the Republic of China’s (ROC) democracy, freedom and sovereignty, and protecting the people’s safety, is everyone’s wish,” and “everyone should build the largest consensus and use the greatest strength to let the ROC peacefully and prosperously go on forever.”
Hou had been considered the front-runner in the KMT’s presidential nomination race, as he had high approval ratings and was re-elected as mayor in a landslide victory last year, but his ratings dropped this year, as he failed to take a stand on important issues such as cross-strait relations, foreign policy and national defense.
Meanwhile, Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), a former Taipei mayor and potential presidential candidate for next year’s election, also spoke about his stance on cross-strait relations during his 20-day visit to the US.
Before his trip, Ko told Japanese news magazine Nikkei Asia that “Taiwan and China have a lot in common in terms of culture, religion and history, and more collaboration can be explored between the two economies,” but “when it comes to the political level, I’m sorry, at this stage ‘one China’ is impossible.”
Ko on Thursday told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that he believes Taiwan needs to be prepared for war and enhance national defense capabilities to deter it, but must also try to reduce mutual hostility by increasing goodwill through communication.
He said the TPP hopes for peace, but “Taiwan’s self-determination” is the bottom line, so “if you [China] step over the line, then I will have to fight back,” adding that the “1992 consensus” is a stigmatized term in Taiwan, so further communication would be difficult if Beijing continues to insist on its use.
In contrast to Hou’s dodging of sensitive issues, Ko has often expressed opinions on issues beyond his role, and his often controversial remarks have given him the reputation of being inconsistent and unpredictable.
While Hou was slightly more outspoken in Singapore, his remarks were vague and bureaucratic, and he was unable to explain his vision for the nation or whether his approach to achieve peace includes embracing the “1992 consensus.” Although Ko made his stance clearer than in his visit to the US in 2019, he failed to explain how his party would improve cross-strait relations without accepting or rejecting the “1992 consensus.”
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