When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) elects a new chairperson, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) customarily sends a congratulatory telegram to the newly elected leader. They sent messages to other former chairs, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Eric Chu (朱立倫), Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and even the relatively controversial Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), but newly elected Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) has not received one.
The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of China’s State Council did relay, via Xinhua news agency, an “imperial edict” from Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in his role as CCP general secretary. Although it was just a list of platitudes, the point was that even if Xi had sent a telegram, it would not have said much more than the TAO did to cheer up the KMT.
The reason is simple: Just as pro-unification media have been reporting, relations between the KMT and CCP have gone downhill. That same media blame Chiang for having said that the “1992 consensus” was “a little bit outdated” and not necessarily acceptable to young people.
If the KMT feels that Beijing has been giving it the cold shoulder for the past three years, that is because the CCP, after years of effort, is already capable of managing its Taiwan concerns directly, and while it was experimenting with this direct management, it realized that the KMT was useless.
This mindset was laid out two years ago in the pro-unification Want Daily, which reported comments made to Taiwanese academics visiting Beijing by “an important person involved with Taiwan affairs.”
This unnamed person expressed the CCP’s disappointment in the KMT and listed adjustments that the CCP was making to its “united front” strategy in Taiwan.
The article listed three main points:
First, Wu’s lack of clarity about the “1992 consensus” and “one China with different interpretations” had soured relations between the KMT and the CCP, which led to no KMT-CCP forum taking place in 2017.
The person said that “it would be difficult for the KMT to serve as a reliable political prop for Beijing in its policies regarding Taiwan,” or indeed to “serve any major purpose.”
Second, the CCP would no longer invest resources “through a particular political party in Taiwan,” but would instead take a hands-on approach and make “precision investments” to directly benefit ordinary Taiwanese and encourage them to study or do business in China, thus achieving a “spiritual consensus” and “integrated development.”
Third, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) centrist and rational approach to cross-strait relations could encourage Taiwanese to reach an objective and comprehensive understanding of China, and this was especially true of the younger generation, which is the most important demographic for the CCP’s Taiwan policy orientation, but also the group with which the KMT most lacks support.
Beijing would adopt a “multifulcrum” approach toward Taiwan, and Ko could become a “new key strategic fulcrum” distinct from the KMT and other pan-blue camp forces.
In light of these objectives, Ko’s actions over the past few years should be reconsidered. Notably, for the legislative elections in January, his Taiwan People’s Party deployed candidates in a way designed to stop Democratic Progressive Party candidates from gaining seats.
Ko’s actions go more than halfway to answering the question of whether he is “red.”
In view of these realities, Chiang should not be too disappointed.
Christian Fan Jiang is a media commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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