by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: CtiTV/YouTube

THE SECOND KMT chair debate, which took place on September 18th, had five rounds. The first round consisted of opening comments, while the second round allowed candidates to field questions from a panel of commentators that they were allowed to choose from. The third round involved questions asked by a panel of media experts, the fourth round allowed for cross-examination between candidates, and the last round consisted of closing comments. The four candidates are current chair Johnny Chiang, former party chair and New Taipei mayor Eric Chu, Sun Yat-Sen School head Chang Ya-chung, and former Changhua magistrate Cho Po-yuan. 

In the first round, Johnny Chiang stressed that the KMT needed to rebuild the party internally and return to the 1992 Consensus in order to win support. Chiang emphasized the importance of the Internet in winning back the support of young people. Eric Chu called for collaboration within the party rather than in-fighting and called for the use of recalls in order to target pan-Green legislators, singling out Chen Po-wei of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party. Chu stated that the KMT needed to fight against the DPP’s “cultural Taiwanese independence” while benefiting the Huang Fu-hsing branch of the party. 

Photo credit: CtiTV/YouTube

Chang Ya-chung criticized past KMT chairs for alienating the party from young people, while criticizing opponents for labeling him as an advocate of extreme pro-unification views. In this, Chang was attacking Eric Chu for criticizing him as such. On the other hand, Cho Po-yuan praised Han Kuo-yu for boosting the KMT’s vote share by two million votes in 2020 elections, while attacking the DPP for what he claimed were its authoritarian actions, including investigating the illicit party assets of the KMT retained from property seizures during the White Terror, and stripping CtiTV of its broadcast license. 

In the second round, when the four candidates were asked about cross-strait relations and US-Taiwan relations by commentators, Eric Chu stated that as chair he would set up a KMT office in Washington DC, because the US government disproportionately heard the DPP’s views because it, alone, has an office set up in DC while the KMT does not. Chang’s comments were primarily focused on defending himself from the accusation of being pro-unification, though Chang stated that he believed there was no need to set up an office in DC because of the expense, and he would go through the American Institute in Taiwan or overseas Chinese compatriots in the US in order to maintain relations with the US. Chu cited the split between Chang and former KMT chair Hung Hsiu-chu as a sign of Chang’s extreme pro-unification views. 

Yang Chi-liang, the equivalent of Minister of Health under Ma Ying-jeou, was one of the commentators. In his comments, he suggested that revolution was an appropriate response to the Tsai administration’s failure to secure sufficient vaccines for Taiwan. Johnny Chiang responded that voting to register displeasure was the way forward, seeing as the human cost of an armed revolution would be too high. When asked about the possibility of changing the party’s name by Formosa Television’s Dennis Peng, candidates defended the name, history, and ideals of the party. Cho Po-yuan also claimed that part of the KMT’s alienation from the youth was because, after the authoritarian period, the KMT left campuses, allowing the DPP to enter. 

The four candidates were also asked about the 1992 Consensus. Chu stated that as chair, he would stress the “Respective interpretations” section of the 1992 Consensus, stating that the KMT would focus on the cultural promotion of its views, rather than trying to sign a peace treaty with China—which it could not do, as the opposition. Chang Ya-chung accused Chu of not understanding the 1992 Consensus, and claimed that the DPP simply hoped to preserve the 1992 Consensus for its own sake, which would lead to cross-strait conflict being permanently unresolved. Cho Po-yuan claimed that the 1992 Consensus was constantly in a process of advancing and developing and that war might break out with a continued decline in cross-strait relations. Chiang stated that if relations with the US were more stable, the Taiwanese public might have a different view of the 1992 Consensus. 

In the third round, debate continued about the 1992 Consensus, cross-strait relations, and the ROC. Cho Po-yuan claimed that the ROC had international recognition, hence the DPP feared it as an obstacle to its aim of realizing Taiwanese independence. Chu touted past visits by him to China, accusing Chang of slandering him to pro-independence media, while attempting to hide his own pro-unification views. Chu emphasized the need of the party to defend the ROC. Chiang stated that the KMT’s largest crisis was not its ideology, but confronting the DPP. 

Candidates also accused each other of secretly harboring ambitions to run for president, despite all publicly vowing that they would not run for president as chair, but instead aim to cultivate the strongest possible presidential candidate. All claimed that they would attempt to unify the party for this candidate and clear other obstacles. 

Photo credit: CtiTV/YouTube

In closing comments, Cho called for party inclusivity and mobilizing grassroots party workers to combat the DPP. Chiang emphasized the importance of the upcoming chair election for the KMT, in ensuring the survival of the ROC and finding a strong presidential candidate for the KMT. Chu stated that the party needed to support military veterans affected by the Tsai administration’s pension reforms and peaceful exchanges of opinion between party members. Chang asserted that he had run for chair to protect the common interest, while also lashing out at Chu again for making accusations against him of being pro-unification. 

Compared to the first chair debate, more of the second chair debate was focused on cross-strait issues. Although answers did not substantially differ from the first debate, one notes that Eric Chu and Chang Ya-chung are particularly at loggerheads. With some polling showing that Chu and Chang are close contenders at present, this may be why Chu focused fire on Chang. Voting for the KMT chair elections will take place this Saturday. 

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