The Kuomintang party in Taiwan wants people to pick between war and peace in the upcoming election.

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6 min readJan 9, 2024

While rock music blared, dancers on stage spun around, and the crowd went crazy waving thousands of Taiwan flags.

There was a lot going on at the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate for president on January 13th gathering on Saturday.

The host yelled, “Give me a president!” The crowd yelled, “Hou You-ih!”

While Mr. Hou watched, Jaw Shaw-kong, his running mate, took the mic and attacked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which was in power.

“What path are they taking? He waved his finger and said, “The road to war!” “The road that leads Taiwan into danger, the road that leads to uncertainty!”

The KMT is trying to make people in Taiwan think they have to choose between war and peace with China as the election this weekend gets near.

Beijing claims the self-governing island as its own, and even though it wants “peaceful reunification,” it hasn’t ruled out using force to take Taiwan.

During the eight years that the pro-sovereignty DPP has been in power, China has steadily increased its military force around Taiwan. This is known as “grayzone warfare.”

The DPP has said that they also want peace and stability, but they want to keep Taiwan on its path of growth.

A recent campaign ad that went viral showed President Tsai Ing-wen driving quietly on quiet country roads with William Lai, her party’s presidential candidate. Then she gets out, and Mr. Lai takes the wheel with Hsiao Bi-Khim, his running mate. “Drive better than I do,” Ms. Tsai tells them.

But some people don’t believe he can do the job.

There were a lot of die-hard KMT supporters at the gathering in Taoyuan, but many of the people the BBC talked to were more worried about the economy and the cost of living. But things with China were also very important.

“I used to not think there was a chance of war, but now there is, and it’s scary.” “The DPP is too hostile; I want to return to peace with the KMT,” Ms. Shi, a 45-year-old service worker who was with her parents, said.

“We should look at how China takes care of its people and learn from them.” Take a look at their infrastructure and high-speed train. China is so far ahead that even their phones are better. “We don’t have that,” said Ms. Tu, 58.

“I’m not saying we should join together, but I do think we should work together more.” “We are the same people as China and we believe in the same things,” Mr. Li, a KMT party member, said.

“A tricky balancing act”
In the Chinese civil war many years ago, the KMT fought the Chinese Communist Party, which was its fierce enemy, and lost. They then ran away to Taiwan. It now likes stronger ties.

This is mostly because their economies are becoming more and more connected. China has become an important economic support for Taiwan because it buys the most Taiwanese goods.

A huge number of Taiwanese businessmen, or “taishang,” depend on the mainland to make a living. There are a lot of taishang who have traditionally backed the KMT.

The KMT’s party color is blue, and the “deep blue” group that wants the strongest ties with China still has a lot of power.

There are a lot of them who are from the so-called “1949 generation,” who left China when Mao Zedong’s communist army took over. For them, the country is still very important.

But over the past few years, the KMT has had a harder time finding the right balance.

It wants to have close ties with China, but it also wants to stay important to voters who are moving farther away from the mainland. It has been in power in Taiwan for decades, but the DPP has recently won some elections.

Polls show that most Taiwanese believe they have a unique Taiwanese culture and would rather keep things the same, which means they don’t want to declare independence or join with the mainland.

The KMT has had to tone down its message, saying that it is not “pro-China” but rather wants to improve ties with China.

It has put forward Mr. Hou as its presidential candidate. He is an ex-cop who is seen as a “light blue” centrist and a “benshengren” from a family in Taiwan. Recently, Mr. Hou replied to Xi Jinping’s renewed promise to unite the two sides by saying he would “forever protect Taiwan’s democratic system” and freedoms.

In the same way, Mr. Jaw, a fiery “deep blue” media personality who has pushed for unification in the past, recently said that China and Taiwan’s systems were “too different” and told voters that he would not push for unification if he was elected vice president.

People still think that the KMT is taking a lot of risks, though.

One reason is that its rhetoric sounds a lot like China’s, which some people might not like.

According to Song Tao, a top Chinese official, the two sides had “a choice between war and peace, prosperity and decline” in November. Because of this, the DPP government said that China was using the story to try to sway Taiwanese opinion before the election.

China has also made its choices clear by calling Mr. Lai of the DPP a “separatist” and a “troublemaker.”

Another risk is that it’s not clear if a KMT government would be able to achieve peace and make Beijing happy.

“The KMT thinks it can get Beijing to promise to be careful and keep its word.” “When I think about China’s position on Hong Kong, I’m not as sure that Beijing is ready to commit to anything,” said Ian Chong, a scholar at Carnegie China who does not live there.

“If the KMT wins, Beijing might calm down for a while.” But in the end, they want to take control of Taiwan, either by being economically dependent on it or by using force and threats.

In the long run, this is also a problem for the KMT. Different generations have different ideas about how Taiwan should interact with China. The KMT has always stood for a different view.

“The war and peace narrative is a reflection of a party trying to reconcile two different sides of itself and present a coherent argument to voters,” Dr. Chong said.

The KMT is moving in a certain direction, but people want to go in a different direction as well. They have to choose what kind of party they are: the Chinese Nationalist Party?” he said, referring to the main English name for the Kuomintang.

“Or is it happy to be a Taiwan nationalist party?”

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