EDITORIAL: KMT unable to define ‘status quo’

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) performance in an interview with German news outlet Deutsche Welle (DW) published on Tuesday was described as “disastrous” by several Chinese-language media and political pundits in Taiwan.

The interview aimed to discuss the KMT’s views on cross-Strait relations and clarify the purpose of KMT Vice Chairman Andrew Hsia’s (夏立言) controversial visit to China last month as China conducted live-fire military exercises around Taiwan.

Chu, who ran for president in 2016, surprised people by dodging questions, denying factual statements, referring to intangible concepts and abruptly ending the interview saying, “Thank you for your interview, the time is up”.

In the interview, Chu claimed that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government refuses to communicate with China, putting Taiwan in a dangerous position, while the KMT’s goal is to maintain the “status quo” – the preference of the majority of Taiwanese – in “maintaining a channel of dialogue between Taiwan and China” to avoid war.

However, Chu began to dodge questions when asked how the KMT planned to communicate with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to avoid war, and how he could pass on polls that show less than 7% of Taiwanese want “unification” with China, as it would be contrary to Xi’s will to maintain the cross-strait “status quo”.

Chu insisted that the KMT could achieve its goal of maintaining the “status quo” by communicating with China, as KMT-run administrations had done for many years since 1987, brushing aside the fact that the government Chinese had changed.

The highlight of Chu’s “disastrous” interview was when the interviewer cited a June poll by the National Chengchi University Election Study Center, which showed that only 14% of Taiwanese identify with the KMT. Chu dismissed the poll, calling it “false information” and saying that “our party will win the election,” which is the best poll.

It is unclear whether Chu was unprepared or whether he intentionally gave ambiguous answers to avoid revealing the paradoxical reality of his party’s strategy, perhaps out of fear of upsetting China or Taiwan. Yet it is unfortunate that he could not clearly explain the KMT’s cross-Straits perspective.

Chu has failed to define the “status quo” the KMT is trying to preserve. He could not explain whether the “status quo” is dynamic, or what the KMT might do if China tries to change it. It won’t persuade people to trust the KMT to represent them in negotiations with China without sacrificing their interests – be it the protection of a democratic way of life or economic interests.

Although Taiwan and the global community have observed China’s attempt to undermine the “status quo,” including its rapid military expansion, incursions into the Taiwan Straits midline, and economic threats to Taiwan, Chu downplayed the responsibility of China by accusing the DPP, rhetoric also used by Beijing.

In contrast, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), in an interview published by DW last week, clearly stated the DPP-led government’s commitment to maintaining the “status quo” – which he defined as the two parties “having no jurisdiction over each other”. and that “Taiwan is already a democracy” in which the people have a say in their future. He explained his strategy to deal with China’s growing threat to Taiwan and the global community.

If Chu and the KMT cannot clearly communicate the party’s understanding of the “status quo” and its ability to protect it, but continue to paint a vague and elusive picture of a seemingly peaceful “status quo” achieved by the KMT in the past as its vision for the future, it is no wonder the party is enjoying record party identification.

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