The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has given up the idea of making Taiwan unique and attractive. As globalization forces governments to enter political unions or emphasize their attractiveness in order to increase their global influence, the KMT government has done neither. Instead, it prefers to diminish Taiwan’s global reach by saying it is part of China, with the “one country, two areas (一國)” formula proposed by former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) during his visit to Beijing last month.
This formulation comes as nation states can no longer provide the same assurances to their citizens as before, because numerous economic decisions are taken elsewhere by companies, world unions or other international actors. They operate above governments and for this reason, governments need to create or enter political unions, such as the EU, in which countries can obtain greater control.
Others try to utilize their uniqueness like Bavaria in Germany, Scotland in the UK and Catalonia in Spain, which circumvent the nation state and rely on their regional uniqueness and industrial background. Taiwan’s strategy of joining a larger Chinese family will on the contrary diminish its international influence and control over its own future.
It is getting increasingly impossible for the KMT to explain what the difference is between the ambitions of the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The KMT’s answer will be that the “one country” in the “one country, two areas” refers to the Republic of China (ROC). However, no one outside a tiny and fast diminishing minority in the world is able to understand that the KMT seriously suggests that the ROC rules all of China, Mongolia and Taiwan. Rather than creating an atmosphere of peace and jubilation in China and in the world community, such an agenda could be seen as a direct threat to China and peace in the Taiwan Strait.
A stronger influence in global organizations requires that Taiwan be positively present in the hearts and minds of the world community. Potential supporters can be found among politicians, non-governmental organizations and others, and they may be able to provide new or the extra momentum to international policy initiatives from Taiwan. To do this, there has to be clear and positive political agenda from Taiwan that can attract international attention. Taking over China is not one of them.
To put it mildly, the “one country, two areas” formula is a clumsy attempt to further accommodate China as the KMT has done over the past four years. The KMT’s policy of refraining from provocations has already reduced the pressure on the EU and the US to assist Taiwan in organizations where its influence may be felt, thus reducing Taiwan’s participation as a sovereign state.
As an example, the KMT government has touted its “observer status” at the World Health Assembly — a position that is subject to a Chinese veto. One would think this should have led to a greater participation by Taiwan at the WHO, but a reality check shows that its participation in the world health body as a whole has deteriorated. Indeed, Taiwan participates in far fewer important committees compared with the period under the Democratic Progressive Party government, with its focus on creating a strong Taiwanese identity.
By saying Taiwan is Chinese, it links itself to China in the eyes of international politicians and further reduces its chances of being a member of regional trade unions that will have a significant say in the future. The consequence is an even more isolated Taiwan that hurts Taiwanese participation as a sovereign state and its people. Instead of making Taiwan unique, the KMT keeps repeating a bad habit of being on the wrong side of history.
Michael Danielsen is the chairman of Taiwan Corner.