The Kuomintang’s first female leader attracted more than her share of attention Tuesday by meeting with one of the most powerful men on earth, China’s President and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping.
As usual with such meetings, there was plenty of attention for the vocabulary that would be spoken by either side. The 1992 Consensus, One China, the Republic of China, cross-straits relations, Taiwan Independence and other clichés present when Taiwanese and Chinese politicians sit down together.
A new element to the mix this year was the term “peace treaty.” It was former President Ma Ying-jeou who first briefly broached the term during his 2012 campaign for re-election. Briefly, because he abandoned it after overwhelming negative reactions from the public.
That was no problem for Hung Hsiu-chu, who first tried to run for president last year and later converted her replacement into a successful bid for party leader. All along, she has projected a strong China-leaning image, even more so than Ma, whose trade deals with Beijing were for a large part responsible for the KMT’s crushing defeat in this year’s January 16 elections.
During her campaign for president, she already launched the peace accord idea, but it was at least part of the reason why the KMT leadership later decided to replace her with its then-chairman, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu. His more moderate image nevertheless failed to attract voters back to the KMT, leaving it not only without a president, but for the first time also with a minority role at the Legislative Yuan.
As a result, this year’s edition of the cross-straits forum between CCP and KMT is only a meeting between the single party in a massive one-party state and the opposition party in an island democracy.
Peace treaties are not usually signed between political parties, and certainly not when one of the countries is a full-blown democracy with several political parties but only one of them sitting at the table.
Of course, the term “peace” always sounds attractive, especially in the light of ongoing wars in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, there is no such war in Taiwan or across the Taiwan Straits, so there is no immediate need to hurry up and sign any type of ceasefire or peace accord.
If there is any war fought across the straits, it is a battle waged with propaganda, investments, hackers, and not with weapons of mass destruction.
Taiwan needs to stay alert and not let its advantages slip away. That task is more likely to be successfully conducted by the present incumbent Democratic Progressive Party administration of President Tsai Ing-wen than by the KMT, which was driven from power precisely because citizens felt it was not proactive enough in defending the island’s national interest.
The best sign that now is not the time for a peace treaty is China’s continued international harassment of Taiwan. The practice never stopped during the Ma years, despite his claims of constructive or silent diplomacy, and they have only intensified since Tsai was sworn in last May.
There can be no peace treaty as long as China keeps over a thousand missiles targeted on Taiwan, ready to strike even though the island doesn’t show the slightest sign of military or other aggression.
Even during the years of the Ma Administration, when Taiwan had a government that was moving closer to China, Beijing never even proposed to do something about its military hardware. Would it move the missiles away if Hung and the KMT offered to sign a peace treaty straightaway?
The question has not been asked, even though the KMT should do so, but the answer is already quite clear. China is not interested in giving up any of its claims, such as territorial claims over Taiwan, and the right to intervene by force should Taiwan want more independence.
Such an attitude does not offer a basis to negotiate a peace treaty, let alone sign one, and the KMT should be absolutely clear about that. Instead, it is walking right into the trap of Chinese propaganda, allying itself with Beijing against a DPP administration.
Tsai has shown repeated goodwill to China and has lived up to her promise of maintaining the status quo in cross-straits relations, though that doesn’t mean she should swallow any demands from Beijing, especially if they’re not backed up by public opinion in Taiwan.
Opinion polls show that the majority of Taiwanese do not want their government to acknowledge Chinese demands such as acceptance of the so-called “1992 Consensus,” as they go counter to the island’s national interests and will not be met by decent concessions from the opposite side.
When Taiwan is unable to even attend conferences by the International Civil Aviation Organization because China says no, then it is obvious that cross-straits relations are nowhere near the point to even discuss a peace agreement.
By hammering on the need for such an accord, the KMT is driving Taiwanese voters further away, and risks becoming what many analysts have predicted, a new version of the New Party, a marginal group pushing for pro-Chinese policies unwanted by the vast majority of the public.
Opinion surveys have shown that the ambition of the New Power Party to replace the KMT as Taiwan’s major opposition party, once thought as an extreme example of wishful thinking, is coming closer to turning into reality.
The KMT would do well to reconnect with the aspirations of the Taiwanese public and let go of any outlandish dreams of winning a Nobel Peace Prize by selling out the basic interests of the Taiwanese people, their right to democracy, freedom, free election and human rights.