【明報專訊】THE lead-up to the Taiwanese presidential election in January 2020 is entering a white-hot state. The Kuomintang (KMT) is to announce today (July 8) the results of the opinion polls for the primary. No matter whether it is Han Kuo-yu or Terry Gou that emerges victorious, the KMT will find that the best moment to create momentum is already lost, as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been approaching the race with perfect composure.
In the "nine-in-one" elections in November last year, the DPP suffered a crushing defeat thanks to economic issues and pension reform. No one could have expected that just half a year later the situation would be completely reversed. The full deterioration of Sino-US relations aside, the speech made by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, in January also played a part. In the speech, Xi defined the "1992 Consensus" as the "peaceful unification" and "One country, two systems" and suggested "the exploration of a proposal for 'two systems' for Taiwan". Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan from the DPP who has long rejected the "1992 Consensus", skilfully exploited the anxiety of the people and equated the "1992 Consensus" with "One country, two systems", browbeating the KMT, which has been supportive of the "1992 Consensus", into stating its stance openly. By doing so the DPP has gained the upper hand over the KMT. The outbreak of protests against the amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in Hong Kong has even allowed Tsai to complete her political discourse on the "defence of Taiwan's sovereignty".
What is pathetic is that the DPP's "anti-China" card has become the dominant theme of the election. From presidential candidates such as Han and Gou to the party's chairman Wu Den-yih, people from the KMT have had no choice but to follow the lead of the DPP in rejecting "One country, two systems". Tsai has equated the "1992 Consensus" with "One country, two systems". In contrast, the KMT is rejecting both the unification and China, but at the same time continues to support the "1992 Consensus". That makes the KMT look like someone with a split personality. Even if the KMT abandons the "1992 Consensus", the DPP will not let it have its way, and the KMT will risk a complete breakdown in its relations with the Communist Party.
The DPP has also fought its own battles very swiftly. It concluded its primary in mid-June, with Tsai beating Lai Ching-te, the former Premier of the Republic of China, overwhelmingly. That allowed the party to regain cohesion and unity rapidly in preparation for the presidential election in 2020. The KMT's primary, in contrast, looks like a long and sluggish saga. First Gou announced his candidacy out of the blue. Then Han expressed hesitation in joining the primary. Finally, Wang Jin-pyng withdrew his campaign. Different factions within the party scheme against each other. Opinion polls conducted in Kaohsiung prior to the primary show that if Gou is nominated, 38 percent of Han's supporters will not cast their votes, showing how deep the divisions are within the party. The fall of the KMT translates into the rise of Tsai, whose approval rating was once lower than almost every prominent candidate from the KMT but is now ahead of all her adversaries. All opinion polls conducted recently show that the campaign is hers to lose no matter whether she faces Han or Gou.
Recently the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) of the US published a report on a closed-door meeting. According to the report, attendees of the meeting from the Chinese government said that if the DPP remained in power in 2020, it could actually speed up the unification of mainland China and Taiwan. This is in line with the views of observers from the outside — that "a hasty attempt to seek independence will hasten unification". If a DPP free from any constraints acts recklessly, the 2020 election can be the straw that breaks the camel's back, ruining the relations between both sides of the strait.
browbeat : to frighten or threaten sb in order to make them do sth
split personality : a condition in which someone behaves so differently at different times that they seem to have more than one character
scheme : to make secret plans to do sth that will help yourself and possibly harm others