KMT feeling urgency to chart new course, including on China

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Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗)

Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) (CNA photo)

The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) is feeling a sense of urgency to reposition itself, including reconsidering its policy on China, after suffering a jarring defeat in the 2020 presidential and legislative elections.

"The party has no time to waste and will come out as soon as possible with new approaches and strategies for reform, and we will not let people down," said KMT Acting Secretary-General Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) on Friday.

On whether the KMT should abandon the party's support for the "1992 consensus" formula it has advocated as a basis for interaction with China, Tseng said the KMT will listen to different voices within and outside the party before making a final decision.

The issue will be decided by Taiwan's 23 million people, not the future party chairman or a minority of party members, he said.

The KMT is planning to hold a forum and establish a reform committee to forge a consensus on the issue, he said.

The party's presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), garnered 38.6 percent of the vote in the Jan. 11 election, compared to 57.1 percent for incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and the KMT won only 38 of the Legislative Yuan's 113 seats.

On Thursday, Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), deemed one of the main culprits in the election defeat, stepped down as KMT chairman, and Central Standing Committee member Lin Rong-te (林榮德) took over as interim head before a new chairman is picked in a by-election on March 7.

In post-mortems of the KMT's defeat, its inability to appeal to younger voters who were more likely to identify themselves as Taiwanese and maintain a distance between Taiwan and China emerged as a key factor.

Amid calls from within the KMT to restructure the party after the election defeat, Hsiao Ching-yan (蕭敬嚴), director of the KMT's Organizational Development Committee Youth Department, attributed the loss to the party's stance toward China and its decaying image.

Most of the 1.18 million first-time voters in the presidential election chose Tsai instead of Han, he said.

The election failure is proof that the "1992 consensus" has been rejected by Taiwan's people, and the KMT should discard the "one China" concept and transfer power to the younger generation, he argued.

The "1992 consensus" was the formula the KMT used to engage with China when it was in power from 2008 to 2016 and underpinned friendly relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

According to the KMT, it was a tacit agreement reached by the then KMT government and Chinese officials in Hong Kong in 1992 that there is only one China, with the two sides free to interpret what "one China" means.

The formula implied that Taiwan is a part of the "one China," something many Taiwanese, and especially younger voters, oppose, a view exacerbated by the pro-democracy protests that have been held in Hong Kong since June 2019.

The debate now being held within the KMT is to figure out whether the "1992 consensus" should be completely abandoned and a new line on China adopted or whether it needs to create a "1992 consensus" 2.0 version.