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Chu needs to focus on the KMT, not on China

Chu needs to focus on the KMT, not on China

New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu is preparing to pay his first visit to China since taking over the leadership of the Kuomintang from President Ma Ying-jeou and from acting chairman Vice President Wu Den-yih last January.
Ma never traveled to China during his years as KMT chairman because he was also president, and despite his strong push for a summit with President Xi Jinping, China still did not allow a Taiwanese leader to receive the honor of being treated on an equal level and meet with him.
After Chu attends the regular cross-straits forum organized by the KMT and China’s Communist Party in Shanghai Sunday, he will travel on to Beijing and meet with Xi in the latter’s role as general secretary of his party.
It took ages before Chu even admitted he was going to meet Xi, with Ma first claiming he had been trying to persuade Chu to go.
The question is what the new KMT chairman is supposed to do and say in Beijing beyond getting acquainted with Xi. Chu is the leader of a party, but as far as we know now, he is not its presidential candidate so he does not aspire to lead the country over the next four years.
In addition, not only is he unlikely to become Taiwan’s next president, but most opinion polls show that by this time next year, a completely new administration will be preparing to take office in Taiwan.
If any major steps are to be taken that could influence relations with China, it is the next administration which should be in charge of them. That aspect is even more important than the controversy which erupted over the past few days about whether or not Chu made an honest application with the National Immigration Agency and mentioned his plans to meet with Xi as well as his attendance at the cross-straits forum.
The Communist Party chief will be meeting with the leader of a weakened political party, a party exhausted, divided, and likely to be defeated when the people of Taiwan are asked for their vote next January 16.
As to Chu, it is still unclear if he will just remain as a party leader or personally take up the challenge and run for president himself. As polls indicate that even he might not be popular enough to defeat Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and prevent the return of a more China-skeptical government, he should stay away from taking major initiatives that cannot be backed up by a long-standing government which has public opinion behind it.
Chu should remember that one of the main reasons why the Ma Administration and his party are so unpopular right now has been their push for closer relations with China and the lack of openness surrounding that policy.
Whatever his presidential aspirations or lack thereof, Chu cannot risk marching on in the same direction or he will lose even more support from the public for the KMT, for whoever is representing the party in the presidential election, or for himself if he is the candidate. There have been suggestions that Chu wants to travel to China and to meet Xi purely to help his own election profile, but such a push could easily backfire.
The danger is that Chu makes major pronouncements for which he has received no mandate from President Ma, from the Legislative Yuan and especially from the people of Taiwan.
Over the past week, he has made noises about “overtaking” or “exceeding” the 1992 Consensus, the supposed agreement reached in Hong Kong between negotiators from Taiwan and China to support “One China, each with its own interpretation.” There has been no detailed explanation of what Chu meant with his possible reinterpretation of the basic KMT stance, which is not acceptable to the opposition anyway.
With his trip edging closer, Chu later dropped references to a new formula for cross-straits relations. In the past, KMT leaders such as Honorary Chairman Wu Po-hsiung used visits to China to launch careless slogans, including Wu’s “One Country, Two Areas.”
Such dangerous slips of the tongue only confuse a complicated topic even more, and they seem overly to benefit China at the expense of Taiwan’s sovereignty and independence.
A far more interesting statement from Taiwanese and KMT leaders in China would be to emphasize the existence of a separate and sovereign Taiwan, and a demand to allow the existing Republic of China more international space and more room to join international organizations.
Only true dreamers still expect that to happen, because over the past seven years of rapid rapprochement, the KMT has bent backwards in order not to offend China. It is unlikely to start on a different course for the final year of its current period in power.
“Maintaining the status quo” is another one of those China-related phrases which have created a stir over the past weeks, mainly because it unexpectedly came from the DPP presidential candidate.
The phrase should be applied literally to the period leading up to the next presidential inauguration in May 2016.
No major initiatives should be taken until the people of Taiwan have had the chance to say who they want to be the next president and what kind of China policies they want from the next government.
If Chu’s trip nevertheless still goes ahead, he should mention China’s unilateral announcement of a flight route near the median line of the Taiwan Straits. He could also ask Xi why, if relations between the KMT and Communist Party governments have improved so rapidly, China is still pointing 2,000 missiles at the island.
However, the better solution for Taiwan would be for Chu to stay home and take his role as new chairman of the KMT more seriously.
As chairman of the KMT, Chu’s priority should not be to meet with Xi or to discuss issues which belong to the domain of presidents and legislators, but it should be to stay in Taiwan and solve his party’s more pressing problems, such as the handling of its questionable assets and the choice of presidential and legislative candidates.
Taiwan needs a strictly bipartisan approach to China policies rather than the present status where the cross-straits relationship is dominated by the two ruling parties, leaving a large proportion of Taiwanese public opinion out of the loop.


Updated : 2021-09-18 04:37 GMT+08:00