Chinese state media was livid on Tuesday after Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) — the more pro-Beijing of the major Taiwanese parties — introduced legislation that would ask for American assistance against Chinese Communist aggression.
The Global Times snarled that the KMT has “gone downhill and become vulgar,” dismissed the party as a bunch of “losers,” and mused the Chinese military should “teach Taiwan independence forces a hard lesson.”
The KMT was alienated three weeks ago by comments on China’s CCTV state television network that portrayed the Taiwanese party as pathetic supplicants who intended to “beg for peace with the mainland” at the annual Straits Forum in September.
The KMT generally bills itself as much more friendly to Beijing than the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headed by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. In particular, KMT candidates claim their party has mutually respectful relations with Chinese officials and can dialogue with them more effectively than DPP’s independence-minded representatives. Stunned Kuomintang officials quickly announced a boycott of the Straits Forum, the first time the party has not attended since the event began in 2009.
“Recent inappropriate comments from CCTV changed the tone of goodwill for this exchange. The cross-strait relationship is very complicated and sensitive right now. Inappropriate remarks harm goodwill that isn’t accumulated easily,” said Wang Yu-min, head of KMT’s Culture and Communications Committee.
Kuomintang lawmakers raised eyebrows across Taiwan — and, evidently, blood pressure at Chinese editorial desks — by introducing a bill that asked the administration of President Tsai to re-establish formal diplomatic ties with the United States for the first time in forty years. The U.S. supports Taiwan and maintains an institute in Taipei that serves as an unofficial embassy, but it formally switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979.
The KMT also asked Tsai’s administration to seek American assistance against Beijing’s effort to “undermine the security, social, and economic systems” of Taiwan.
The Taiwanese legislature unanimously approved both non-binding proposals on Tuesday, even though some DPP lawmakers were suspicious of the previously Beijing-friendly KMT suddenly introducing proposals more radical than anything Tsai’s party has proposed.
“The KMT must be insane. Just days ago, it said restoring ties with the U.S. would only seriously provoke the Chinese Communists, and now they are asking the government to do it,” said baffled DPP legislator Hsu Chih-chieh.
The South China Morning Post quoted skeptical DPP representatives who welcomed KMT’s lurch in their direction, but suspected it was either a trick to embarrass the DPP, a desperate bid to outflank the DPP among young independence-minded voters, a fit of pique at China for embarrassing KMT, or perhaps growing fear that China is no longer terribly interested in cultivating a good relationship with the opposition party in Taiwan.
The Global Times sneered that KMT’s “losers” must have “woken up on the wrong side of the bed,” and suggested the more China-friendly of the Taiwanese parties has outlived its usefulness, so the time has come to “fully prepare for war” with Taiwan:
Judging from such a loser mentality of the KMT, it is clear that we must not count on them for future cross-Straits peace and national reunification. On the upside, those politicians’ treachery have helped the Chinese mainland see clearly what is happening on the island. We must no longer hold any more illusions. The only way forward is for the mainland to fully prepare itself for war and to give Taiwan secessionist forces a decisive punishment at any time. As the secessionist forces’ arrogance continues to swell, the historical turning point is getting closer.
It’s certain that the current status of the island of Taiwan is only a short period in history that will definitely come to an end. The initiative of ending this period while minimizing losses and maximizing gains toward the rise of China in the process is firmly in the hands of the Chinese mainland. The more trouble Taiwan creates, the sooner the mainland will decide to teach Taiwan independence forces a hard lesson.
Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s top envoy to the United States, said on Tuesday that a “cautious balance” would be maintained in relations with America, but added Taiwan has “very strong confidence” in the U.S., and said many Taiwanese were excited by the possibility of developing stronger ties with the United States in the wake of KMT’s legislation.
Hsiao’s comments echoed Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu’s remarks last month that even though relations with the United States have never been better, “Taiwan is not pursuing formal diplomatic ties with the U.S. for now.”
Writing at the Taipei Times on Wednesday, retired professor Chang Kuo-tsai suggested it might be time for Wu to reconsider his reticence to push as hard as KMT proposed, since “Donald Trump is undeniably the U.S. president who has been most friendly to, and supportive of, Taiwan in the past half-century.”
Chang thought establishing formal diplomatic relations with the United States could undo the campaign China has been waging, ever since President Tsai Ing-wen took office, to diplomatically isolate Taiwan by bribing and bullying its allies:
Taiwan has in the past few years been going through an emotional roller-coaster as it has established and severed diplomatic ties with a series of largely nameless countries without much substantial political significance.
For the 23.5 million Taiwanese, cutting ties with those countries hardly makes any difference — even if ties were eventually re-established, people would hardly feel any benefit from them.
However, it would be important beyond imagination if Taiwan were to establish diplomatic relations with the US, the leader of the democratic world, as that would encourage many countries to follow Washington’s lead. That would be a great diplomatic victory for Taiwan.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office dismissed the “separatist proposals” of KMT on Tuesday and suggested KMT leadership should “distinguish the good from the bad” by realizing tensions across the Taiwan Strait are increasing because of “collusion” between DPP and “external forces.”
KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang stood his ground on Wednesday, rejecting the Taiwan Affairs Office statement and insisting the Republic of China is a “sovereign nation.”
Chiang said KMT would do a better job than DPP of stabilizing the Taiwan Strait by getting closer to the United States and calling Beijing’s bluff on invasion threats. He said KMT’s policy has always been “close with the U.S., peace with the mainland.”
“We wish for stability in the Strait. Who is the one disrupting the peace? We raised these proposals in the hopes that the other side would clearly see that blindly intimidating Taiwan would only make it move further away,” added KMT caucus whip Lin Wei-chou.