Taiwans KMT elects a new president. Will she reconsider her position on relations with China? – The diplomat
Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Johnny Chiang was elected party chairman in a landslide on Saturday, winning nearly 69% of the vote to defeat former mayor of Taipei Hau Lung-bin.
Chiang, 48, campaigned on promises to hand over the KMT to its next generation, who are more skeptical of the warm ties to Beijing and prefer to reconsider the previous foundations of the partisan approach to cross-strait relations, including understood the so-called 1992 consensus.
After winning the vote to chair a party tasked with picking up the pieces after the overwhelming defeat of its friendly presidential candidate in Beijing, Han Kuo-yu, Chiang has promised to lead a more modern and faster party to meet demands.
Young KMT voters, who enjoy greater support from older voters than the ruling Progressive Democratic Party (DPP), asked that the 1992 consensus be reconsidered.
The consensus on an alleged agreement that Beijing and Taipei agree that there is only one China but agrees that they do not agree on what this means was reinterpreted by Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the beginning of 2019 when he said consensus required a single Hong Kong country, a framework of two systems for Taiwan.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen denounced Xis' statement and, as pro-democracy protests mounted in Hong Kong, was easily re-elected in January, backed by an electorate firmly opposed across party lines to a one country and two systems model.
Han maintained his support for the 1992 consensus although he said that as president he would not accept a single country, two frameworks of systems – on my corpse, did he declares. It was not enough to prevent defeat and send the desperate KMT KMT back to the drawing board.
Despite Chiang's generational reform campaign, however, he will enter a party ecosystem still dominated by older, more conservative voices hating to radically alter positions on both sides of the strait.
In an address Wednesday to the KMT Standing Committee, Chiang refused to repudiate the 1992 consensus, stating that there was not necessarily a problem and that it represented a spirit of seeking common ground in a landscape of tension and political differences. Chiang also said that he would not make a decision on the 1992 consensus on his own and that it would be decided by a party committee.
The address left the KMT members looking for clarity and suggested that Chiang, whatever its intentions, could be trapped between a rock and a hard place.
Within the KMT, supporters of consensus believe that Xi left Taiwan again to take advantage of his own interpretation of consensus and keep it as the basis of the political status quo. They accused Tsai of politicizing the issue by choosing to interpret the Xis vision of consensus as it was declared in early 2019 by Xi: a one-country, two-system model.
These supporters, however, lost their credibility among sections of the electorate as Beijing intensified a campaign of pressure against Taipei by forcing airlines and international companies to register Taiwan as a province of China by stealing military aircraft close to Taiwanese airspace and limiting the participation of Taiwanese in international organizations, including the World Health Organization.
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For the KMT, rethinking cross-strait relations will be essential for any real generational reform within the party. However, despite Hans' resounding defeat in January, the KMT as a whole is not exactly in crisis. Celebration fairly well executed in the January legislative elections, although he did not prevent the DPP from retaining his majority in Parliament. The KMT won three seats, revealing that some Tsai voters also voted for the KMT candidates, a clear sign that Hans' defeat was due to his weaknesses as a candidate rather than his only party affiliation .
The KMT will strive to modernize nationally and locally, in the hope of becoming a strong opposition party to the DPP. But cross-strait issues are at the heart of every national election in Taiwan, which means that the party will have to develop a clear position on its future engagement with Beijing before it can consider running for president in 2024.
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