The Dilemmas of the KMT Diaspora

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Sunday April 26, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

The unspoken reality that the members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Taiwan face is that they represent a diaspora, which lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

That this loss has been an unspoken reality for more than a half a century does not diminish its reality. Instead, it presents a quandary to KMT members preparing for an upcoming meeting with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Nanjing, China.

Some KMT members travelling to Nanjing may be presidential hopefuls in Taiwan; others may be seekers of profit, privilege or influence. Regardless of who they are, and what they seek, they all still face this same quandary. How to acknowledge that the KMT lost the war and became a diaspora but at the same time still pretend that the KMT did not lose the war?

There is some background to this dilemma. It lies in past claims to Taiwan. Japan was the first nation to control and rule the whole of Taiwan. The Manchus' Qing Dynasty at one time controlled parts of the nation, as the Spanish and the Dutch did and even fleeing Ming Dynasty loyalists before them. The Manchus had even fought against Aborigines in an attempt to control eastern Taiwan.

However, when the Manchus lost the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and ceded Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki the Manchus did not have sovereignty over the east; the Aborigines did. The Japanese were the first to conquer them.

The date the Chinese Civil War began can be disputed but it was certainly after the Qing Empire started to dissolve in 1911.

That war ended in 1949 with the victory of the CCP over the KMT who became a diaspora. As for Taiwan, Japan surrendered control of the nation in 1952 in the Treaty of San Francisco, but the treaty did not say to whom it should be given.

Speculation could even be as broad as to say that Japan might have intended to return the nation to the Aborigines whom the Japanese subdued in their 50-year colonial rule. That part of the treaty has never been expressed and remains undecided.

This sets the scene for the quandary faced by KMT as they now prepare to for the Nanjing forum. The KMT could pretend that the Civil War is not over, but the CCP would not accept that. For them it ended in 1949 when they took control of China.

Another option is that the KMT could admit that they are part of a diaspora, which lost the war but then under what grounds would they claim the right to have a forum with the CCP? Could they make this claim as the right of a "prodigal son" who might be allowed to return home bringing the gift of Taiwan?

Some KMT members like former premier Hau Pei-tsun could try to pretend that war was just a family spat between brothers and that China's real war was against Japanese aggression.

However even if such people went to China and sang old war songs with the CCP, that would not erase from memory the millions that died in the battles, and would not solve the Taiwan question.

Other KMT members might be tempted to admit that like a prodigal son they are returning to China, and to justify themselves, they might offer Chinese President Xi Jinping Taiwan as a gift to allow them to return.

However, while they might want to make such an offer, and while the CCP would be happy to receive Taiwan from them, the nation is not the KMT's to give away.

The KMT's quandary remains. It lost the war and fled to Taiwan, and Japan, under the Treaty of San Francisco, never stated to whom the nation was given.

The fact that the KMT as diaspora controlled Taiwan through the Martial Law and White Terror eras after World War II does not mean that Japan gave the nation to the KMT.

Taiwanese who have elected their lawmakers since 1992 and their presidents since 1996, should insist on knowing the exact intentions of KMT members who are attending the forum. The KMT has never fully explained to the Taiwanese what the official KMT position is vis-à-vis the Chinese Civil War--of which Taiwan had no part.

Some party members will bring up the so-called "1992 Consensus," which is a fabricated agreement on the interpretations of ""one China." This supposedly allows the KMT and the CCP to talk to each other. But it ignores the fact that the KMT invented it in 2000 and the CCP never accepted it. It further crumbles under the reality of trying to explain how the Chinese Civil War ended.

Does the "1992 consensus" mean that for the CCP, it won the Chinese Civil War and it is just a matter of time before the KMT returns in the role of a prodigal son?

For the KMT, does its interpretation mean that it never really lost the war and it is only a matter of time before the CCP admits that it must find a way to share power and accept it back into the fold as long as it brings Taiwan with it?

This is the unspoken reality that the KMT avoids as it prepares for the forum. How does the KMT face the fact that it lost the war? How does it confront and admit to the reality that the KMT is a diaspora? Taiwanese have a right to know.