Xi talks aid Chu’s 2020 election bid
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times  2015.4.25

To find out how the relationship between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) resigned as KMT chairman, all eyes turn to New Taipei City Mayor and KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫). Chu now needs to take two steps: attend the upcoming KMT-CCP forum in Shanghai early next month and meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing.

Chu is well aware that the Sunflower movement, as well as the KMT’s defeat in the nine-in-one elections last year, is the result of the Taiwanese public’s anger over Ma’s pro-China policy, which means that Chu needs to be very cautious. Still, the word “Chinese” in the party’s full name makes sure that he has little room to maneuver.

When Chu was trying to decide whether to attend the forum in Shanghai, even Ma, who was discontented with him for several reasons, publicly backed his trip to China, because Chu is now responsible for continuing KMT-CCP cooperation — just as Ma was after he took over the KMT chairmanship, publicly pledging that he would continue the five major consensuses reached by former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), although he chose not to attend the forum at that time so as to attract more votes.

Instead, he appointed Lien to attend the forum, bestowing the term “honorary chairman” on him, to extend the collusion between the two parties. However, the KMT now does not have an honorary chairman, so, had Chu decided not to attend the forum, he would have annoyed Beijing for delaying the forum and Beijing’s timetable for unification. In the end, he decided that attending the meeting outweighed the risks of not doing so.

Whether to meet with Xi is a difficult issue for Chu. If he decides to follow in Ma and Lien’s footsteps, he will be seen as just another “comprador,” in which case he will never win the presidential election next year should he decide to run, while the KMT is certain to lose more legislative seats. The best strategy for him, for the time being, is to keep his distance from Xi.

However, similarly to the possibility of a meeting between Ma and Xi, the decision on whether there will be a meeting between Chu and Xi is in the hands of Xi. If Xi wants to meet, how would any of the KMT’s rich and powerful, who all act like CCP servants, dare not meet with him? From this perspective, they are inferior to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), seen by many as being pro-Taiwanese under his blue coat, who once politely declined China’s invitation for a visit.

Xi currently needs Chu to visit Beijing and meet for several reasons.

First, the Sunflower movement and the KMT’s defeat in the nine-in-one elections showed that China’s Taiwan policy has failed. Although Beijing recently invited People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to discuss Taiwan’s “three middles and one youth” — residents in central and southern Taiwan, middle and low-income households, small and medium-sized enterprises and young people — that effort was in vain, while the attempt to split the Democratic Progressive Party has not been working either. This means that it has to continue to rely on the KMT and Chu as models for its united front work.

Second, since the CCP is troubled by Hong Kong, it urgently needs to save face with Taiwan, which is why Chu’s attendance at the forum seems necessary. Even if he only appeared on the KMT-CCP stage for a short while, that would be better than seeing some less important figures on the stage. Besides, Hong Kong and Macau affairs are in the hands of Zhang Dejiang (張德江), a member of the Political Bureau of the CPP’s Central Committee who belongs to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin’s (江澤民) faction. Therefore, Xi needs to score with Taiwan to outshine his political rival.

Third, the Chinese economy is slowing down. The Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign, which Xi takes such pride in, is unlikely to catch any more offenders at the Political Bureau level. This is why he really needs to accomplish something regarding Taiwan when dealing with public opinion and rival factions inside the CCP.

Chu could have used Xi’s needs as valuable bargaining chips, but the KMT is used to kowtowing to Beijing and it is not easy for the party to regain some of its dignity. This is why Chu is likely to meet with Xi in Beijing in the end. By doing so, he can win Xi’s trust and start preparing for a presidential bid in 2020.

Hence, the KMT and the CCP might play word games to confuse others — domestically and internationally — because this, after all, is what China does best.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Eddy Chang


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