Taiwan’s Topsy-Turvy Cross-Strait Politics

Taiwan’s 2020 presidential candidates hint at a massive gravity shift toward China in both the KMT and DPP.

The Diplomat
Date: May 01, 2019
By: James X. Morris

If Taiwan’s current field of 2020 presidential contenders is any indicator, the issue of

Image Credit: Presidential Office, Republic of China (Taiwan)

maintaining Taiwan’s self-rule status quo against Chinese interference has passed from the hands of one political party and landed into another. In this topsy-turvy political world in which liberal democracies are facing political realignments left and right, it shouldn’t come as a surprise; however, in Taiwan it appears that the once pro-status quo party has become more polarized, fielding radical candidates who are close with Chinese officials, while the once radical pro-independence party has had to fill in the vacuum, becoming more pro-status quo.

A recent incident may help explain this ideological shift: On April 22, legislator Kung Wen-chi of Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) challenged the minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, Chen Ming-tong of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on his statement opposing Beijing’s use of force to integrate Taiwan into China. “On what grounds do you urge China to renounce the use of force against Taiwan? Xi Jinping has actually softened his approach to us[,]” Kung claimed. The statement, which was quickly picked up by Taiwan’s netizens and followed closely by Taiwan News, has been widely panned as KMT capitulation to Chinese threats of force.

The KMT’s potential challengers to incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP are lining up, and the two loudest KMT voices also happen to be the most controversial, buoyed by the 24-hour news cycle and bombastic unpolished approaches to rallying popular support back to the KMT. Han Kuo-yu, the recently-elected mayor of Kaohisung in southern Taiwan, has hinted his interest in the position, but had declined to officially enter the race, despite his enormous popularity, citing his relatively new role as mayor. Han won an insurgent victory in a traditional DPP stronghold in Taiwan’s 2018 local-level elections, and became an immediate darling for the KMT. Despite his reluctance to run, the media has been covering Han non-stop for months, and his popularity has led to the Kuomintang drafting him as a candidate into the race on April 24. More recently, Foxconn chief Terry Gou has stolen some of the media attention away from Han by officially entering the race on April 17, claiming the Sea Goddess Matsu appeared to him in a dream telling him to run.    [FULL  STORY]

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