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Taipei mayor-elect Wayne Chiang greets members of the public on November 27. Taiwan’s ruling party suffered a resounding defeat in island-wide local elections a little more than a year before a new president is chosen. Photo: Bloomberg

Letters | Kuomintang win in Taiwan elections is start of uphill battle to improve cross-strait ties

  • Readers discuss the Kuomintang’s victory in Taiwan’s local elections, and a turning of the tide with regard to countries’ attitude to China evident at the G20
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The Kuomintang’s defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party in Saturday’s local elections in Taiwan, which prompted Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, to resign as head of the DPP, marks a significant change in the island’s political climate.

The “blue wave” signifies the Taiwanese people’s distaste for the DPP’s bellicose rhetoric against the mainland and the desire to refocus on domestic issues. Some suggest it sets the stage for the island’s 2024 federal election.

The KMT’s big win was somewhat surprising, given its relative weakness both domestically and internationally. Over the years, the DPP has outmanoeuvred the KMT, while the KMT’s own internal jostling fragmented its messaging.

Internationally, the United States favoured the DPP and used it to inflame cross-strait tensions, as manifested in greater military support for Taiwan and high-level political visits.
Nevertheless, the KMT has shown it can still garner the support of the people of Taiwan. Will this be enough to secure the KMT’s future? For stable cross-strait relations and adherence to the one-China principle, KMT viability is critical.
With the DPP in power in Taiwan, the US deployed strategic ambiguity masterfully, dialling provocation towards the mainland up or down at will. However, strategic ambiguity may not have the same effect on the KMT as it has had on the DPP, and thus the US will have to reconsider its strategy should the KMT defeat the DPP in 2024.
The Ma Ying-jeou days are long gone. The mainland and Taiwan may desire friendly relations anchored in economic and cultural exchange, but this may be less attractive to the US given the current geopolitical climate.

The KMT, even if it can win in the future, could be tied down by heavy domestic troubles instigated by the DPP and possibly the KMT’s own intraparty grievances. Self-renewal and connecting with the electorate is critical. The new era requires fresh thinking to solve difficult issues which carry historical baggage.

Beijing has been patient and magnanimous on cross-strait issues and eventual reunification. But the DPP and its supporters have taken advantage of this with provocative measures, even challenging the 1992 consensus.

So, while the KMT may be the party to set the conditions for improved cross-strait ties, this is truly an uphill battle. Thinking across the strait needs to expand beyond the status quo in pursuit of enduring order and peace.

Robert Y.C. Wang, Ontario, Canada

G20 signals the retreat of China hawks

As G20 leaders gathered this year, they faced a different world from the one when China hawks ushered US president Donald Trump, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and other “idealistic do-gooders” into power.
However, two years of a pandemic, supply chain issues, the impact of the sanctions on Russia due to the Ukraine war, and inflation fuelled by misguided US policies have shown world leaders just how little appetite their citizens have for them continuing their “righteous” cause.
As American policies, including the sanctions on Russia, rebound on the US, it’s no wonder that Chinese President Xi Jinping could smile and warmly shake the hands of the prodigals, whose policies have failed allies and their own citizens. Anti-China leaders are being pushed aside by people and businesses who would prefer the good old days of cheap energy and food security.

Many in the global south are tired of years of manipulation by the US under the guise of human rights and are looking to the BRICS grouping, comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China, as well as China-led trade groups, to create a new era. Will this herald prosperity or conflict? Only time will tell.

Soon, at the signal of US President Joe Biden, the rest will toe the line, not because of any change in their values, but because of the realisation that what is more important is hot food and access to cheap energy and that those who control these levers will be emperors of our brave new world. An off-ramp will soon be found for Russia as Ukraine will be forced to negotiate and Nato may also retreat.

Suzanne Ho, Singapore