Taiwanese democracy can be a viable model for China: Kuomintang leader Chih-Yung Ho

THE KUOMINTANG, Taiwan’s founding party and the island’s largest opposition party, performs a delicate balancing act. Even as Taiwan faces a major national security crisis, the Kuomintang is trying to accommodate both China and the United States. As China fired missiles and carried out aggressive military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, Kuomintang Vice Chairman Andrew Hsia flew to China, much to the chagrin of President Tsai Ing-wen. Speaking exclusively to THE WEEK, Chih-Yung Ho, deputy director of the Kuomintang’s culture and communication department, acknowledged that within his party there are different perspectives on Taiwan’s political future.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q/ The Kuomintang looks like an aging party with an old outlook.

A/ The Kuomintang traces its establishment to the Revive China Society overseas in 1894, supported by young revolutionaries. So, of course, we are a century-old political party. In the modern era, we hope to attract young people by convincing them that we are a moderate, professional and responsible force. On national identity, I believe that the Kuomintang must remain faithful to our history. Based on history and international law, the sovereignty of Taiwan belongs to the Republic of China (ROC). Since the time of the later Ming and Ching (Qing) dynasties, Taiwan has been an ethnic Chinese society, and more than 95% of our population today is made up of Han Chinese. While we inherit pluralistic Western, Japanese, indigenous and even Southeast Asian influences, Chinese language and culture predominates. Chinese culture is Taiwan’s treasured legacy and heritage. We have a responsibility to preserve our Chinese culture in Taiwan, but also to let it evolve and flourish with modern and creative Taiwanese characteristics.

Q/ How do you view the Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait?

A/ The Kuomintang reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We urge authorities in Beijing to recognize the fact that Taiwan exists and to cease its coercive tactics so that cross-Strait relations can progress. We believe that international friends like President Nancy Pelosi have a right to visit Taiwan. But both sides of the Taiwan Strait and international stakeholders like the United States must exercise restraint, so that we can avoid misjudgments resulting from an unnecessary escalation of tensions. As tensions across the strait rise, Taiwan should stress that while it does not seek war, it is not afraid to defend its sovereignty. In times of peace, we must strengthen our military preparedness so that we can safeguard the security and well-being of our people in times of crisis.

Q/ Does the Kuomintang support the unification of Taiwan with China?

A/ There are various perspectives within the Kuomintang on Taiwan’s political future. Fundamentally, the party opposes Taiwan independence and Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula. Our position is based on the ROC constitution and party charter. In the interest of peace and stability across the strait, we must maintain the status quo for now. But ideally, we want Taiwan and mainland China to be peacefully reunited under a democratic political system, or at least to develop peaceful relations. Mainland China’s 1.4 billion compatriots must also enjoy a way of life based on freedom, democracy and the fair distribution of wealth. We believe that Taiwanese democracy can serve as a viable political model for the whole Chinese nation.

Q/ President Tsai Ing-wen ends her mandate in 2024. How do you see the next presidential elections? Do you expect more Chinese interference?

President a/ Eric Chu promised that the Kuomintang, after being in power for eight years, will nominate the strongest candidate to run in the 2024 elections. We are working hard to democratize and modernize our party so that it can attract younger voters. We hope that in 2024, the Taiwanese people will give the Kuomintang the opportunity to advance Taiwan. We are a sovereign state and we are proud that Taiwan is the first and only Chinese democracy in history. As we expect tougher policies and retaliatory measures against Taiwan, we call on mainland China to respect the will and opinion of our people.