Leaders of Taiwan’s Kuomintang and the mainland’s Communist Party will hold talks on Tuesday in Beijing, in a meeting analysts say is likely to set the tone for next level of cross-strait relations.
But analysts said it also threatened to widen the rift in the KMT, which has once again become an opposition party with its resounding defeat in January’s presidential election to the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.
Leading a 140-member delegation, KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu would first leave for Nanjing on Sunday and visit the mausoleum of KMT co-founder Dr Sun Yat-sen the next day, KMT officials said.
Hung would meet President Xi Jinping in his capacity as Communist Party chairman at 3pm on Tuesday in Beijing, where the two were expected to discuss such issues as the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, they said.
“Including the two chairpersons, each side will have seven people for the meeting,” one official said. He said the annual forum between the two parties would be held on Wednesday and Thursday, but Hung would not attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the event.
The forum this year will be rebadged as the Cross-Strait Peace Development Forum – it was formerly the Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Culture Forum.
The upcoming meeting between the two will be widely watched not only by the DPP and the government of President Tsai Ing-wen, but also members of the KMT concerned that Hung might say something on forging a peace pact or cross-strait reunification to please Xi.
The KMT legislative caucus has openly questioned the reasons for Hung’s eagerness to meet Xi, especially after Hung orchestrated the change of the party’s policy platform by the KMT congress in September.
On September 4, the national congress of the party adopted a new policy platform that included enhancing the “1992 consensus” on the basis of the constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official title) and exploring possibilities for ending cross-strait hostility through the pursuit of a peace pact.
The consensus refers to a tacit understanding reached by the two sides in 1992 that there is only one China, but each side was free to interpret what China stood for.
While the new platform keeps the consensus, it stops short of mentioning the separate interpretation issue.
Hung has stressed that the new policy platform, which she has dubbed a “peace platform”, aimed to save both the party and the public in Taiwan as she would strive to seek the peaceful development of ties with the mainland.
But KMT legislators and party bigwigs are more concerned about Hung removing the phrase “each side can have its own interpretation of what that China stands for”.
“I don’t see the point of leaving out the separate interpretation part, which has long been considered a treasure for the party,” KMT legislator Lai Shyi-bao said.
Lai’s comment reflects the concern of a number of party members, who suspect that Hung revised the platform in order to please Xi, thereby adding weight to her political status, which could help her run for a new term in July.
Some also worry that if Hung left out the separate interpretation part and stressed only peaceful reunification with the mainland, it could damage the KMT as reunification was never a serious option for most voters in Taiwan.
“Hung has been considered a relatively weak party leader compared with her predecessors like Eric Chu, Ma, Wu Poh-hsiung and Lien Chan because she has never held any top government administrative posts,” political commentator Chen Feng-hsin said. “Her meeting with Xi will definitely benefit her politically.”
But, Chen added, Hung needed to communicate with other KMT members who openly questioned her motives to assure them that she would not do anything to hurt the party.
A senior KMT official told the South China Morning Post that if Hung failed to heed different voices and proposed to promote a cross-strait unification peace pact, the KMT would stand to lose other elections.
“If the worst comes to the worst, I am afraid the party will be divided further if she goes ahead and does what she wants,” he said, referring to the growing opposition within the party against Hung.
Mainland scholars, however, were optimistic about the upcoming meeting.
“Hung’s visit will have a very positive influence on cross-strait relations,” said Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies.
“This would help increase consensus over peaceful cross-strait development and unification.”
The mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office is also positive about the meeting, saying it would “help consolidate a common political basis and maintain peaceful cross-strait relations”.
But Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council warned Hung against signing any agreements with the mainland, saying Hung did not have any authority to represent Taiwan, especially in relation to a pact.