What Americans Need to Know About the KMT’s Past | Taiwan News

TAICHUNG (Taiwan News) – Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) has just returned from a trip to the United States, where he reopened the party office in Washington DC, met with groups of foreign compatriots , academics, officials, the Project 2049 think tank, and did everything to impress its hosts.


He claimed the KMT has “always” been pro-American, has never been pro-China, has fought communism for over 100 years, and called the 1992 Consensus “a consensus without a consensus.” Curiously, he also revealed that he was apparently the 29th generation descendant of a Chinese poet from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1279).


Chu sought to assure his American audience that he was on their side, and by always being able to speak with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the KMT is a force for stability and dialogue in the Taiwan Strait – unlike to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has been shut out of any discussion since Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016. More importantly, he wanted to dispel the idea in Washington that the KMT is pro-China and cannot be trusted.


This message was sharply contrasted during an almost simultaneous visit to China by Chu’s predecessor, former KMT Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), who in a Facebook post called the Chinese genocide in Turkestan East (Xinjiang) of “anti-terrorism”.


He was also quoted by Chinese news agency Xinhua as saying, “All kinds of facts have shown that the accusations against Chinese Xinjiang fabricated by the United States and some other Western countries are totally slanderous.”


Chu’s assertion that the KMT has always been pro-American and anti-Communist is not entirely accurate, either historically or currently. The reality, as Hung and Chu’s radically divergent messages demonstrate, is more complicated than that.


power and influence


The KMT has its roots in the movement to overthrow the hated “barbarian” Manchurians from the throne of the Qing dynasty (1636-1912) in China and restore Han Chinese rule under a republican form of government. Over time, he endured civil wars, rose to rule most of China, fought the Japanese, lost China to the Chinese Communist Party, and fled with the remnants in shreds of the government of the Republic of China to distant Taiwan.


Taiwan, which for most of this period had been a colony of the Empire of Japan, was a fairly foreign place to newcomers, with native inhabitants speaking Japanese and various regional Han and native languages. The KMT set about seizing the power apparatus of the Japanese colonial government and, distrusting the locals (especially after they violently rose up against mismanagement, corruption and inflation in 1947), held almost every position of power and influence with newly arrived Chinese exiles. .


These exiles and their families, although they represent only between 10% and 20% of the population, have undertaken to remake Taiwan and the Taiwanese in their (Chinese) image. This included KMT ideology, its pantheon of heroes and villains, and the mythology of an epic past, all taught to schoolchildren in their imported national language, Mandarin.


Much of the KMT’s top leadership grew up in this environment, and this self-image remains very real in the minds of many party members, especially those from exiled Chinese families. Both officially and in the hearts and minds of their followers, the KMT is Chinese and Taiwan is part of China.


In the United States, when Eric Chu spoke of defense and 100 years of opposition to communism, he was referring to the defense of the Republic of China (ROC) and the fight against the CCP dating back to the Chinese Civil War.


The 1992 Consensus that the KMT and CCP both claim to accept is phrased on the KMT side as “there is one China, each side with its own interpretation” – although the CCP has never accepted the “de each side” and views the ROC as an extinct state replaced by the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.


The KMT and the CCP firmly maintain that the South China Sea, the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, Tibet and other territories are Chinese territories, although they disagree on which China they belong to . Taiwan maintains several outposts in the South China Sea due to this heritage.


Difficult relationship


Chu’s message to his American audience was, in essence, the standard KMT approach during the martial law period and early Democratic period in the late 1990s. They were staunchly anti-Communist, devoted to the defense of the ROC and pro-US


To date, the KMT has been largely pro-American, but contrary to Chu’s “always pro-American” assertion, the relationship has at times been rocky, and American “betrayal” at key times is a crucial part of KMT mythology. When the KMT ruled China, treaty ports (including US concessions) were a sticking point, as was the US at various points in the Civil War intervening to try to put the KMT and CCP on the same footing. wavelength in the fight against the Japanese. invasion.


After the move to Taiwan, there were frequent clashes, including over the US preventing the KMT from attempting to “reclaim the mainland”, the behavior of US troops there (which led to the ransacking of the embassy by a mob in 1957), and efforts to open Taiwan’s markets and devalue the currency. There was also the severance of diplomatic relations in favor of Beijing, which many inside and outside the KMT still view with bitterness.


Another incident that led many young activists, including future president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), to protest is the Baodiao movement after the United States returned the Ryukyu Islands to Japan. The deal included the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, which both the KMT and the CCP claim belong to China.


These incidents, and many others over the years, left a residue of mistrust and resentment among many Taiwanese, especially within the KMT. This was evident in recent vocal KMT protests against the government’s abandonment of the import ban on pork containing ractopamine.


That being said, however, the KMT has remained pro-American over the years. The assistance provided by the United States during evacuations from China, diplomatic support for “Free China” until the 1970s, and years of massive financial and military support during the Cold War meant that the KMT and the Taiwanese remained pro-American.


Considerable cultural and economic ties have been forged over the years, deepening the relationship. Indeed, most of the KMT’s top leaders were educated in the United States, and many of their children are US citizens.


As pro-American as the KMT has remained, since 2000 another force inside the KMT has arisen: the pro-Chinese. Any US assessment of the KMT must bear this in mind.


This will be the subject of the next column.


Courtney Donovan Smith (石東文) is a regular columnist for Taiwan News, the central Taiwan correspondent for ICRT FM100 Radio News, co-editor of Compass Magazine, co-founder of Taiwan Report (report.tw) and former chairwoman of the Taichung American Chamber Trade.

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