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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Expanding the Taiwan consensus

Expanding the Taiwan consensus

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Following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) decision at its National Congress on Sept. 6 to uphold the so-called “1992 consensus” to govern cross-strait relations, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) on Sept. 8 invited former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to lead the party’s delegation to this year’s Straits Forum in Xiamen, China.

On Sept. 10, a program on China Central Television (CCTV) showed a headline about Wang and the delegation that read: “With the [Taiwan] Strait on the brink of war, this man [Wang] is coming to the mainland to sue for peace.”

The headline sparked a public outcry, and the KMT promptly fell flat on its face. When the party called for an apology from CCTV — a mouthpiece of the Chinese government — but failed to receive one, it decided not to send a delegation “as a political party” to the forum. Even former KMT acting chairman Lin Rong-te (林榮德), who originally planned to attend the forum as an “individual,” came under fire and consequently canceled his “personal” trip.

Intense criticism also came from within, with grassroots KMT members and local representatives denouncing the party even more fiercely than outsiders. While it is unclear whether the headline had been intended to have the effect it did, the CCTV interlude has allowed the public to clearly see that the KMT’s and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) wishful thinking of achieving consensus with each other is nothing but a beautiful mistake. Being so sensitive to the phrase “suing for peace,” the KMT apparently shares more common ground with Taiwanese society.

The CCP’s main tactics against Taiwan are: to isolate the primary enemy, join forces with the secondary enemy and form a “united front” with insiders.

At this point, the primary enemies are the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), along with other Taiwan-centered political groups, and President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration.

The secondary enemies are the KMT, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and many fence-sitting groups, while the insiders are the New Party, the China Unification Promotion Party and other deep-blue groups, along with their die-hard supporters.

The results of the January presidential and legislative elections have already shown that mainstream public opinion favors a stance that prioritizes Taiwan, and the political territory of the KMT and TPP is gradually shrinking.

However, a regime change is still possible and the DPP might repeat its defeat in 2008. If the Taiwan-centered administration gets too carried away, pro-China forces might regain the presidency and legislative majority, giving way to a rush toward unification. In that case, the democratic principle that sovereignty rests with the people would be overthrown.

Based on ideology or personal interests, certain people have taken advantage of the protection provided by democracy and the rule of law, and gone to China to serve as comprador in the enemy’s camp.

This is the inevitable consequence of Taiwan having yet to become a normal state, and underscores the urgent need to pass the so-called “Five Acts for National Security” and the Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法). Otherwise, Taiwan would disintegrate.

Commenting on the failure of “suing for peace,” the TPP and the New Party played the same old tune, saying that “cross-strait exchanges are important.”

In the face of China’s “divide and conquer” strategy, the most effective countermeasure is not to deepen the nation’s internal fissures, but to expand the common ground. As the CCP’s principle goes: “Friends are those who are not the enemy.”

Taiwan should expand its range of “friends” and demarcate the boundary between “internal competition” and “joint efforts against external enemies.”

Admittedly, “suing for peace” and “begging for benefits” are deeply ingrained among certain parties’ top officials, but grassroots members and supporters growing up and living in Taiwan have their feet firmly on the ground.

Most Taiwanese support the idea of an “independent Taiwan,” which encompasses Taiwan proper, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu,” and oppose turning Taiwan into another Hong Kong. To safeguard the existence and dignity of “independent Taiwan,” Taiwanese should seek common ground in values and actions.

If the internal consensus is continuously expanded and enhanced, Taiwan would be immune and able to resist China’s verbal intimidation and saber rattling. What Beijing wants to see is its “united front” tactics spreading and creating fissures in Taiwanese society, with the public only seeing differences and overlooking their common ground.

This is Beijing’s strategic goal — to force Taiwan into an endless circle of disintegration, thereby reducing the cost of annexation to the minimum.

A strange phenomenon has long existed in Taiwan. Some people would not think twice about fawning on Beijing and begging for a “consensus,” and are not discouraged when given the cold shoulder.

These people do not have the slightest interest in seeking common ground, instead focusing on internal differences. They hold twin-city forums and the Straits Forum so dear, as if those forums were fragile vases that need their most careful caress.

By contrast, easing restrictions on US beef and pork imports — which is critical to Taiwan making a strategic breakthrough and was endorsed by the same group of people when they were in power — is something that must be boycotted when they became the opposition in the legislature.

These people talk about “consensus” and “being one family” with the enemy at cross-strait forums, but they view election opponents — with whom they share a community of common destiny — as their arch-enemies.

These people blamed China’s state-owned media and the program host, Li Hong (李紅), for the headline on the CCTV show, but they do not have the courage to seek accountability from top officials in Beijing, who apparently made the decision.

Faced with their own government, which is democratically elected, they go to extremes at every turn. Such double standards are precisely what Beijing likes to see happening in Taiwan.

At a time when Beijing is using maximum force to divide Taiwan from within, Taiwanese must move to consolidate the nation by making the best use of a Taiwanese consensus.

Over the past few years, the national discourse formulated by the Taiwan-centered regime has evolved democratically from viewing the Republic of China (ROC) as a foreign regime to understanding it as the “Republic of China in Taiwan.”

While such a discourse has drawn opposition from some solid Taiwanese independence supporters, it has undeniably reduced the internal friction in a state that has not yet become normalized.

The majority of Taiwanese agree on maintaining a democratic “independent Taiwan” that benefits both the ROC and Taiwan. This common feeling also triggers more people to cast doubt over the “one China” discourse.

As Taiwan steadily maintains its “independent status quo,” international support has increased significantly. The benefits and gains generated by this Taiwanese consensus are positive for the expansion of a common foundation.

It is difficult to hold a family together when there are internal squabbles. This is especially true of Taiwan. In real life, a politician’s greatest concern is to win elections, so the public cannot completely rely on their conscience to build up Taiwan.

Fortunately, Taiwan is a democracy, and sovereignty lies in the hands of the people. The gradual civil awakening through elections and daily supervision, such as the fury over the trip to “sue for peace,” is a call to politicians and political parties to act in line with mainstream public opinion.

Following this trajectory, elections in Taiwan will eventually become a public platform for the expansion of common ground. If, on the contrary, public opinion is hijacked by populism, which gives politicians who are skilled at fanning up public sentiment the ability to set the political agenda, the strata of public opinion would gradually become fragmented and the consensus would begin to disintegrate.

When that day comes, people espousing the so-called “1992 consensus” and “one China” consensus would take advantage of the opportunity, and the gloomy prophecy that Taiwan would follow Hong Kong’s steps and fall into China’s hands would become an unfortunate reality.

Translated by Chang Ho-ming

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2020/09/26

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