June 26, 2022

Taiwan’s opposition party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), re-opened its representative office in Washington on June 8, 2022, in the midst of an eleven-day U.S. visit by the party’s chairman, Eric Chu.  

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Chu declared that his mission is to counter the “smear campaign” against his party.  In his speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Chu stressed that the KMT is not a “pro-China party”, as perceived in Taiwan.  

Chu’s mission statement and the timing of the KMT’s reopening of its U.S. office are rather suspicious.  

At face value  

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Since Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996, the KMT lost 4 out of 7, including the latest two in a row.  The KMT’s loss in support in Taiwan is mainly due to its pro-China stance.  

At one end of the KMT’s China-dealing spectrum is the all-out economic integration approach without political consideration.  This is advocated by Han Kuo-yu, the KMT’s populist nominee for the 2020 presidential election.  This approach risks Taiwan’s political independence by subjecting its economy to the control of China.  

At the other end of the spectrum is the politics-only approach.  One of the KMT’s former chairs, Hung Hsiu-chu (March 2016 to July 2017), is the flag-bearer of this school.  Hung has been active promoting cross-strait political integration.  In her view, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are destined for unification, by force if necessary, echoing China’s carrot-and-stick tactics.  

Between the two extremes is the most consequential China policy, implemented between 2008 and 2016, when Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT was Taiwan’s president.  During that period, the ruling KMT adopted a “1992 consensus”–based China policy to maintain the cross-strait status quo through a “no unification, no independence, and no use of force” practice.  Because of this framework, China later suspended all cross-strait interactions with Taiwan on the ground that Ma’s successor, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), did not accept the “1992 consensus” as a pre-condition.  

The KMT’s China approach has put Taiwan in a disadvantaged position in dealing with China.  And Taiwanese people have taken note.  

If the KMT genuinely wants to reverse its China-accommodating image, it needs to, at a minimum, distance itself from those who put China’s interest ahead of Taiwan’s.  Chu’s U.S. tour did not help much.