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Chu needs to refocus on Taiwan

Chu needs to refocus on Taiwan

As expected, Kuomintang Chairman Eric Liluan Chu went ahead with his first trip to China after taking over the party leadership in January and did get to meet the country’s president and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping in Beijing.
While the event was billed as a major move by the KMT in the run-up to the January 16 presidential and parliamentary election, the outcome was less than convincing. No major developments in Taiwan’s favor were recorded, while confusion reigned over the phrasing of the comments Chu had made during the meeting with Xi.
Seen in a historic perspective, Chu’s trip did not have the “ice-breaking” quality which then-KMT Chairman Lien Chan’s had a decade ago. Lien became the first KMT leader to travel to China and meet its communist leader since Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was forced to leave the continent for Taiwan in 1949.
Even though at the time the KMT was only an opposition party and did not hold the power to make any basic changes to government policy, the voyage still signified a major breakthrough and a historic first.
During President Ma Ying-jeou’s period as party leader, rumors about a historic summit meeting with China’s new president occasionally surfaced, but they failed to advance mostly due to Beijing’s refusal to treat Taiwan with the respect an independent and sovereign nation deserves.
The Ma Administration mentioned the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit as a suitable venue for a high-level meeting, but China never approved, presumably because the venue would be international and Beijing just can’t accept relations with Taiwan as international rather than domestic.
Despite being the KMT leader who worked the hardest to reconcile his party with the People’s Republic of China, Ma was never accorded enough respect by Xi to allow him on a visit or a meeting in a third neutral area.
Since Chu does not hold a central government position, but is a local leader, mayor of New Taipei City, there was no barrier in the way of his visiting China. The only problem was in how far he wanted to be associated with the China-leaning policies of his predecessor as KMT leader, President Ma. Over the past year, those policies were first targeted by protesters occupying the Legislative Yuan before falling victim to the verdict of voters in the November 29 local elections.
While the elections were supposed to be about regional and local topics, the fact that the KMT only maintained control over six cities and counties out of 22 was partly ascribed to the Ma Administration’s eagerness to develop relations with Beijing.
It was therefore seen as a risky move for Chu to go and visit the Chinese capital just a few months later, and less than a year before the next election day in January 2016, when control over the nation’s government will be at stake.
While it might have raised Chu’s international profile to have met with the president of the most populous nation on earth and earned him mentions in several global media outlets, domestically it might have brought him no clear benefits.
As soon as he returned from China, Taiwan Independence supporters were lying in wait for him at the airport, accusing him of having sold out the country’s interests, an accusation Chu had until then not faced.
The face time with Xi is also unlikely to help him should he decide, against all promises in, to join the race for the presidency. While improving economic relations with China might have been a helpful promise before 2008, the record of the Ma Administration only shows that economic over-reliance does not produce miracles.
There are moves on the way to persuade Chu to abandon his repeated refusals and to run in the presidential election after all, but he would be wrong to conclude that his rendez-vous with Xi has produced any added support for a bid.
If he is a man of his word and sticks to his pledge to stay on as New Taipei City mayor and as KMT chairman, then he should concentrate, not on China, but on Taiwan’s future.
The KMT still needs to solve its own asset problems and to work harder on making Taiwan a more democratic society, which includes proposing credible measures to amend the Constitution on issues such as referendums and recalls. As to China, the most useful thing he could do would be to persuade KMT lawmakers to finally pass an effective set of measures to supervise negotiations with Beijing, a promise which helped convince the Sunflower Movement to leave the Legislative Yuan back in April more than a year ago.
Xi might have preached about relations between Taiwan and China being on a course of peaceful evolution, yet he did not say a word about the 2,000 missiles targeted at Taiwan or at the new fly route close to the median line of the Taiwan Straits, which instilled fears on the island that it could be used as cover for an eventual military attack.
Praise was also heaped on China’s plan for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is likely to turn into another futuristic project whose advantages to Taiwan might be far less than advertised by the KMT government.
Xi’s positive talk was rendered a whole lot less believable by mid-week, when China reportedly canceled a visit by a delegation including Tung Chen-yuan, an academic linked to National Chengchi University who counts as one of Taiwan’s most prominent cross-straits experts.
At the root of the sudden refusal were apparent comments by Tung downplaying the importance of the Chu-Xi meeting. According to the academic, the Chinese leader had given Chu no marked benefits and was already resigned to the fact that the KMT might lose power to Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party.
Chu should leave China behind as it were and put the aspirations of the people of Taiwan up front and center if there is to be any hope of the KMT holding on to power.
In the end, no matter how many Chinas other people calculate there might be, there is only one place that matters: Taiwan, and there’s only one of it, so it has to be well taken care of.
The KMT should stop basing hopes for its own survival and for Taiwan’s economic development on a country which behaves like an enemy and fails to show Taiwan and its leaders the necessary basic respect.


Updated : 2021-09-19 11:38 GMT+08:00