The Legislative Yuan on Tuesday unanimously passed two Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) resolutions in a rare example of cross-party agreement.
The first resolution urges the government to encourage the US help Taiwan in the event of aggression by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The second calls on the government to endeavor toward re-establishing diplomatic ties with Washington.
The resolutions are eminently practical, given the heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the CCP’s increased saber-rattling. It should not be surprising that all parties are willing to unite in the face of displays of aggression from a hostile nation.
However, Taiwan’s situation is far from normal, and below this simulacrum of unity lies a squirming nest of political calculation.
The unity was the surprising element. The nature of the resolutions themselves should not be. They passed with the support of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, because they are consistent with the DPP’s long-standing political trajectory.
Even though they do not at first seem consistent with the KMT’s trajectory, this is only because the party, especially under the leadership of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), has strayed from its original course to one more pro-China, putting Taiwan’s sovereignty at risk for temporary cross-strait peace.
However, the resolutions are consistent with KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang’s (江啟臣) vision of party reform, which seeks to return the KMT to its earlier spirit.
During the time of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), the KMT welcomed the US’ patronage and protection.
The second resolution proposes working toward re-establishing ties between the Republic of China (ROC), not Taiwan, and the US. That, too, is consistent with the KMT’s position.
The DPP would not object, as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said that she has no intention, for the time being, to change the official name of the nation.
The CCP’s displays of aggression are ostensibly the reason for proposing the first resolution. The reason for proposing the second was to score political points against Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), who in an interview with Washington-based National Public Radio last month said that the government is “not seeking full diplomatic relations with the US at this moment.”
With the resolutions, the KMT is trying to reclaim the ground it has lost to the DPP, with regards to being the party with the closest relationship to the US.
On Sept. 24, two days after Wu’s interview was broadcast, KMT caucus whip Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said that the US could best support Taiwan by resuming formal ties and signing a mutual defense treaty, something the nation enjoyed when Taiwan-US relations were “at their best,” referring to the ROC under Chiang Kai-shek, in what the KMT sees as its heyday.
In the current political climate, the KMT needs to remind the electorate of its anti-CCP — as opposed to anti-China — roots if it is to stop its slide into insignificance as a political force.
In a post-vote news release, the KMT caucus — disingenuously — said that it was surprised the DPP caucus supported the resolutions. It also goaded Tsai and Wu to follow through on them.
It knows that the government straying from its cautious approach when the US is not ready to comply would leave Tsai and Wu vulnerable to accusations of inciting war with China. The KMT could then present itself as being committed to stability and peaceful cross-strait development, but one that is willing to push back against the CCP.
However, it also risks leaving itself open to blowback if it continues to stymie the government’s attempts to strengthen ties with the US.
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