Chu play­ing China card to boost KMT cam­paign

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Few would have be­lieved that New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu re­ally meant what he said when he re­peat­edly stressed that he would not run for pres­i­dent next year. But some of the lat­est de­vel­op­ments have shown that he is determined to honor his prom­ise to the vot­ers who elected him to the may­oral post last Novem­ber in that he will com­plete his four-year term.

The most telling devel­op­ment is his sched­uled meet­ing with Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Xi Jin­ping in Bei­jing next week in their ca­pac­i­ties as the heads of their re­spec­tive na­tion­al­ist and com­mu­nist par­ties.

Such a meet­ing would only un­der­mine the pres­i­den­tial bid of any can­di­date from the pro-China uni­fi­ca­tion Kuom­intang, for it would look as though he or she was look­ing for the Chi­nese leader’s bless­ing and ap­proval.

A meet­ing be­tween Xi and the pro-in­de­pen­dence Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party’s can­di­date Tsai Ing-wen in the run-up to the pres­i­den­tial poll would be seen dif­fer­ently — if such a thing could hap­pen at all.

The sen­si­tiv­ity of the up­com­ing Chu-Xi meet will al­most cer­tainly pre­vent the New Taipei mayor from run­ning for pres­i­dent this term, un­less he re­ally lacks the po­lit­i­cal wis­dom to see the im­pli­ca­tions and pos­si­ble dam­age.

Chu has over­whelm­ing back­ing from KMT sup­port­ers who have looked up to him as the best can­di­date in a bid to keep the pres­i­dency for the rul­ing party af­ter its crush­ing de­feat in the lo­cal elec­tions in Novem­ber.

But it may not be dif­fi­cult to see why he is re­sist­ing the temp­ta­tion: he has prom­ises to keep for his New Taipei job; and the party would risk los­ing both New Taipei and the pres­i­dency if he ran and lost, for he would be forced to give up his may­oral post to show his com­mit­ment to the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

In­stead, Chu is giv­ing him­self a cru­cial role of an­other type — a king­maker. As chair­man of the KMT, he is clearly ea­ger to set the agenda for the pres­i­den­tial race, as well as the leg­isla­tive elec­tions, both of which are tak­ing place early next year.

Judg­ing from his sched­uled meet with Xi, Chu is again play­ing the China card, high­light­ing the im­por­tance of cross-strait sta­bil­ity. The KMT has al­ways played such a card in pre­vi­ous elec­tions, tar­get­ing the DPP’s Achilles’ Heel.

Tsai and her DPP peers know the KMT trick per­fectly well. Tsai has al­ready vowed to main­tain the sta­tus quo of cross-strait re­la­tions if elected pres­i­dent, seek­ing to keep the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on the course she has set to­ward ad­dress­ing key do­mes­tic is­sues, such as so­cial jus­tice.

But the KMT is not let­ting her off the hook eas­ily, de­mand­ing that she spells out more clearly her China pol­icy.

And Chu does not seem to be only ready to re­peat what his KMT pre­de­ces­sors have re­it­er­ated for main­tain­ing friendly ties across the Tai­wan Strait.

It is not known for cer­tain what Chu and Xi will talk about in their May 4 meet­ing, but sources close to the KMT lead­er­ship have been cited as say­ing that the party chief will seek to “deepen” the so-called “1992 Con­sen­sus” — un­der which both Taipei and Bei­jing agree to dis­agree on the mean­ing of “one China.”

The sources did not elab­o­rate on how Chu is go­ing to “deepen” the con­sen­sus, but such a move could add pres­sure on Tsai.

Tsai has warned that cross-strait re­la­tions are more than those just be­tween the KMT and the Chi­nese com­mu­nists; they are re­la­tions be­tween two gov­ern­ments.

But the re­al­ity is the com­mu­nists have been ea­ger to make friends with the KMT, and snub the DPP. Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou has been able to im­prove ties with China, while cross-strait ties were stalled dur­ing the eight-year stint of his DPP pre­de­ces­sor Chen Shui-bian.

Tsai might be able to win the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by fo­cus­ing on the do­mes­tic is­sues and ig­nor­ing the KMT’s cross-strait agenda. But still cross-strait re­la­tions will re­main a key is­sue that any pres­i­dent of the R.O.C. will have to ad­dress.

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