With campaigns for next year’s presidential and legislative elections ramping up, the pan-green camp is waging a war on two fronts against the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Taiwan’s relationship with China is at the heart of this conflict, which is exemplified by the polarizing discourse surrounding potential TPP legislator-at-large candidate Xu Chunying (徐春鶯) and KMT Legislator Ma Wen-chun (馬文君).
With the convergence of interests between the TPP and the KMT, two sides of this conflict are merging into a unified front, albeit with trivial deviances in political ideology. On one side is the pan-green camp, which calls for a cautious approach to China, while maintaining national sovereignty. On the other side is the blue-white alliance, which sees dialogue with China as the prime means for reducing the chances of a war.
The most curious aspect of the blue-white alliance centers around TPP Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who once belonged to the pan-green camp, but his recent actions unequivocally show that he has had a change of heart. Some say he is motivated by political opportunism, but the TPP’s potential nomination of Xu is perplexing, due to her status in pro-unification circles.
Xu, a Chinese immigrant, chairs the Taiwan New Residents’ Development Association. Although she says her work solely advocates for the rights of immigrants, she has allegedly attended several pro-unification events in China and met with several Chinese Communist Party officials.
In an interview with Pop Radio, Xu was asked whether she approved of a Chinese military campaign to annex Taiwan. “This seems like a question an ordinary citizen like me cannot answer,” she said, adding that “the question is better left to cross-strait leaders.” To most Taiwanese politicians, this would have been a softball question. That Xu did not answer with a resounding “no” speaks volumes.
Following critical attacks lodged against Xu, the Web site Storm Media published an editorial titled “Witch hunt of Xu Chunying beginning of a new two-state theory?” It fairly points out that the lack of clear guidelines and ambiguities in the law hinder the full integration of Chinese immigrants into civil society, but it also accuses the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of xenophobia against Chinese immigrants and launching a witch hunt against Xu.
The political scandal surrounding Xu is not really a witch hunt, in the sense of the red scare of the 1940s and 1950s. A public examination of a candidate’s public record is a normal and necessary component of a healthy democracy. Keep in mind that Xu attending pro-unification events has long been promoted by Chinese state media for propaganda purposes.
Chinese interference in Taiwan’s elections takes many forms. The unfortunate reality is that China often uses cross-strait cultural exchanges to promote its pro-unification ideology. Therefore, it is only reasonable that those involved with cross-strait exchange groups would face extra scrutiny when running for public office.
On the other hand, Ma poses a more tangible threat to national security due to her position on the legislative defense committee. Several key members involved in the Indigenous Defense Submarine program have accused her of not signing a nondisclosure agreement before being presented with sensitive documents. She also allegedly made phone calls during a confidential meeting. These claims show that Ma lacks professionalism and honesty.
Despite multiple serious complaints against Ma from the defense community, the KMT has irresponsibly continued to back her. Influential KMT members such as former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) attended a political rally in support of her re-election bid. The KMT wants to portray Ma as a helpless victim of a DPP-led smear campaign.
Truth is often the first casualty in a heated “political war.” The public must remain vigilant against the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Certainly, some might argue that Taiwan does not need such vitriolic polarization in politics. Nonetheless, the pan-green camp’s two-front war in limiting Chinese influence reveals that there should be certain bottom lines that cannot be crossed in the nomination of candidates, especially if the priority is to maintain Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Linus Chiou is a part-time writer based in Kaohsiung.
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