China Invites Taiwan's KMT to Visit, Signaling Shift in Cross-Strait Ties

The Chinese Communist Party has invited Taiwan's Chinese Nationalist Party to visit China, marking a shift in tone to improve cross-strait relations. The move comes ahead of Taiwan's president-elect William Lai's inauguration on May 20.

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Bijay Laxmi
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China Invites Taiwan's KMT to Visit, Signaling Shift in Cross-Strait Ties

China Invites Taiwan's KMT to Visit, Signaling Shift in Cross-Strait Ties

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has invited politicians from Taiwan's Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to visit China, marking a shift in tone aimed at improving cross-strait relations ahead of Taiwan's president-elect William Lai's inauguration on May 20. This move is seen as a change in Beijing's approach to ties with Taiwan, which has been characterized by over a decade of rejection and coercion.

Why this matters: The shift in tone by the CCP could have significant implications for regional stability and global politics, as it may influence the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, the development could also impact Taiwan's sovereignty and security, as well as its relationships with other countries, including the United States.

The CCP's overtures come as China faces domestic economic problems, rising tensions in the South China Sea, US export controls, Western de-risking, and EU-China trade disputes. The KMT touts this development as a victory, but questions remain over the nuance of its approach. In the past, the KMT presented the 1992 consensus as a concession extracted from the CCP, allowing for dialogue and stability. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping has since removed any ambiguity regarding the 1992 consensus, linking it to PRC sovereignty over Taiwan.

Critics argue that the KMT's approach is not nuanced diplomacy but rather capitulation. During Ma Ying-jeou's presidency, the KMT brokered a diplomatic truce with the CCP, which temporarily desisted in poaching Taiwan's allies. However, Beijing continued to ramp up its military capabilities, while Taiwan's military spending remained stagnant.

A recent visit to China by a delegation of KMT lawmakers led by caucus whip Fu Kun-chi coincided with the detection of more than 30 Chinese military aircraft near Taiwan. This has raised concerns about the KMT's ability to secure Taiwan's prosperity and security.

Taiwan's economic data released last week showed a GDP growth rate of 6.51% in the first quarter, higher than expected. However, the growth is overshadowed by concerns over the KMT's approach to cross-strait relations. As Tamkang University Graduate Institute of China Studies associate professor Chang Wu-ueh notes, "KMT-CCP rapprochement provides Chinese President Xi Jinping with a face-saving exit, so he does not have to continue to take such a tough approach."

The CCP's invitation to the KMT ahead of William Lai's inauguration as Taiwan's president signals a significant shift in cross-strait relations. While the KMT sees this as a diplomatic victory, critics question whether the party's approach amounts to capitulation rather than nuanced diplomacy. As tensions remain high, with Chinese military activity near Taiwan, the implications of the KMT-CCP rapprochement for Taiwan's security and prosperity will be closely watched.