'Communist system should not be applied to Taiwan': Chen-Dong Tso

Tso is foreign affairs adviser to KMT's presidential candidate


There is excitement in the Kuomintang party (KMT) about resuming dialogue with China and improving the situation in the Taiwan Strait. Chen-Dong Tso, foreign affairs adviser to KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih, told THE WEEK that the party had prepared a blueprint for resuming the peace process. He said the KMT was committed to protecting Taiwan's sovereignty and its democratic system. Excerpts from the interview:

Q What are the KMT's plans to manage tensions with China?

A During the DPP rule under President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan has been on the brink of war and we have seen a constant increase in Chinese military provocation. Chinese fighter jets and warships crossed the median line and also entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone. Chinese military exercises and provocations have raised eyebrows around the world as they indicate that a war is becoming imminent. Of course, the KMT politicians understand that the tensions are caused by Chinese provocation, but at the same time, there can be certain factors that aggravate the problem, especially as both sides do not have an open line of communication under the DPP rule.

On the other hand, KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih has a plan to restart the cross-strait dialogue on a model of “mutual non-recognition of sovereignty and mutual non-denial of authority to govern”. We are hopeful that tensions across the Taiwan Strait can be lowered and both sides can find ways to avoid accidents and any conflict in the future.

Q What will be the basis of the cross-strait dialogue?

A In November 1992, the Taiwan government and China government came to the final stage of negotiation on how to express the concept of “one China’’. There are written documents of the 1992 Consensus in the form of exchanged letters. The ROC government then proposed to verbally express the concept of “one China’’, saying that both sides adhere to one China but have a different understanding of what it means. So, the 1992 Consensus definitely has a role to play when both sides decide to restart dialogue. It worked during the previous administrations when both sides continued dialogue for 16 years. So, I think it can still work. The KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih has said that he supports the 1992 Consensus consistent with the ROC constitution. This is very important as I feel the ROC constitution can function as the basis for both sides to shelve differences and seek common ground.

Q How do you see the future of Taiwan under the KMT? There is speculation about a soft merger with China.

A The approach that our candidate Hou takes is to lower the temperature across the Taiwan Strait step by step. He hopes that the official dialogue can be resumed, but he also understands that it is not possible to immediately return to the era of former president Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT. The goal can be to enhance people-to-people exchange and cultural, religious as well as academic ties so that both sides understand each other better. The third step would then be to restart functional cooperation by expressing goodwill for each other and building confidence in each other. This is what the candidate calls the de-escalation stage. Hou cherishes the common culture, language and shared history with China and it is our hope that both sides can find ways to solve the differences.

Q You talked about similarities. But how is Taiwan different from the Chinese system?

A Taiwan has a political system which is democratic and protects personal freedom. I think there is a high degree of consensus among Taiwanese people that the communist political system of mainland China should not be applied to Taiwan. Candidate Hou stays committed to protecting the sovereignty of Taiwan and its free and democratic system. He opposes China’s attempt to absorb Taiwan under the formula of “one country, two systems” and upholds the view that Taiwan’s future will be determined only by its people.

Q What is the KMT’s approach towards the security of the Indo-Pacific region in the face of growing threats from the Chinese expansionist policy?

A Candidate Hou is looking at the possibility of including the Indo-Pacific as a pillar of foreign policy to build a common vision and a good neighbourly policy with countries like Japan, South Korea and India. Ma Ying-Jeou was the last Taiwanese president to visit India. I hope that KMT leaders can pay a visit to India in the near future after the elections.

Q The KMT has been sending delegations to China, and even as we speak, KMT leaders are in China. What is the agenda?

A All parties, including DPP, have sent delegations all over the world calling overseas voters to come back to Taiwan to vote. In the 2020 presidential election, the administration even provided some incentives for the overseas Taiwanese to return home to vote. So, you can see how every vote counts. This is the reason why KMT also sent delegations all over the world, including mainland China. For Taiwanese people residing in mainland China, it takes just two hours or even less to travel back home. So, if they can come back, you can imagine the number of voters could be higher than those from US and Europe.

Q Do you agree a misinformation campaign is being run by China to influence the polls in Taiwan? 

A We see false information coming from many places all the time; it could come from Mainland Chinese sources or our own citizens here in Taiwan. What worries me is that our government sometimes uses Mainland Chinese fake news as an excuse for their shoddy handling of issues of public concern. So, we all have to be careful not to allow any actions that can destroy the public's trust in the government. We need to be careful before we label any fake news as Mainland Chinese propaganda. As far as the US is concerned, it is their stated position that it will not interfere in Taiwan's election and it has also said it wants all stakeholders not to interfere in the elections.