The KMT View:Taiwan Will Not Become the Next Afghanistan But Ought to Take Caution

By Ho Chih-yung and Alfred E. Tsai

September 2, 2021


The withdrawal of United States troops culminated in the abrupt collapse of Afghanistan’s government and the return of the Taliban, prompting a debate within Taiwan about the credibility of American commitments. On August 16, President Joe Biden defended his decision in a televised national speech, stressing that U.S. troops cannot and should not be fighting and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. From our perspective, the statement is especially applicable to Taiwan as well.


The international community is rightly concerned about the chaos after the fall of Afghanistan, especially fears that the United States may not support its allies and partners unconditionally or infinitely. Analyses like this represent the deep-seated worries of the Taiwanese people about the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen and its lopsided “pro-American, anti-China” stance.


In Taiwan, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) repeated futile attempts to discredit the legitimate worries of the people by distorting history and slandering the opposition party only blur the focus. We regret that the DPP and its flanks have been launching politically manipulative attacks on the Kuomintang (KMT), alleging that the KMT advocates so-called "Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow" rhetoric, even comparing the situation in Afghanistan to setbacks facing the Nationalist government during the Chinese Civil War of the late 1940s. These disgraceful comments only serve to insult our men and women in uniform as well as all those who have sacrificed for our country. 


As the largest opposition party of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the KMT needs to clarify its policy stance towards the United States, especially in the context of recent developments in Afghanistan. For sure, we are deeply grateful to the United States, especially for its long-term assistance and support in strengthening Taiwan’s national defense capabilities and maintaining peaceful and stable cross-Strait relations. But the people of Taiwan must stand strong and self-reliant, so as to defend our national sovereignty and earn foreign support, while at the same time taking the initiative to improve relations with the Chinese mainland.


The KMT deeply cherishes our friendship with the United States based upon shared values of democracy, freedom, and human rights and supports strengthening U.S.-Taiwan cooperation in the areas of security, trade, and investment, as well as people-to-people exchanges. The KMT values U.S. commitments based upon the "Taiwan Relations Act" of 1979, which has provided an institutional framework for maintaining our "rock-solid" relationship and supplying necessary defensive arms to Taiwan in order to ensure regional stability and security. 


The KMT appreciates American popular support for Taiwan. According to recent polls published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, popular support for Taiwan in the United States has reached an all-time high, and roughly half of the respondents surveyed support the United States coming to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a mainland Chinese invasion. We observe that most of the surveys were conducted in July before the developments in Afghanistan, including the devastating Kabul airport attacks, which may impact current opinion. Notwithstanding, our government certainly has more work to do in the area of public diplomacy, so as to strengthen the image of Taiwan as a vital friend and partner to the United States.


It is thus incumbent upon the Republic of China as a sovereign state to ensure that it has sufficient capability to defend itself against external threats. The KMT remains the most steadfast defender of our nation’s Constitution and sovereignty. As such, the party opposes so-called “de jure Taiwan independence” and Beijing’s “One Country, Two Systems” because they both undermine the legitimacy of the ROC and deviate from the mainstream vox populi within Taiwan. We believe that cross-Strait relations may be improved while furthering relations with the United States; the two are not at odds or mutually exclusive.


For more than seven decades, the destinies of the Republic of China and Taiwan have been closely intertwined. On this jagged path towards constitutional democracy, the ROC has made great strides in Taiwan. In the 1940s and 1950s, countless Nationalist soldiers sacrificed their lives to defend our nation. To this day, the KMT has demonstrated its strong will to defend Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu and done the utmost to strengthen our economy and democracy. As such, Taiwan survived unfavorable circumstances and setbacks of the time and achieved new heights.


While far from perfect, Taiwan has been praised worldwide as a “beacon of democracy” which shows a better path for all the Chinese people. We argue that Taiwan’s example can play a leading role in shaping China’s future. 


Taiwan will not become the next Afghanistan, but we ought to take appropriate caution. As Chairman Chiang put it, when the people face a confidence crisis, a responsible ruling party should take concrete and effective measures to reassure the people, instead of discrediting the opposition party and shifting the focus.


After President Tsai abandoned the “1992 Consensus” referring to “One China, with respective interpretations” since taking office in 2016, her administration has continued to play the “anti-China” card, making Taiwan a high-risk flashpoint. Now, after the fall of Afghanistan, the people deserve an explanation from the DPP and Tsai administration about how Taiwan can best prepare for and avoid an unnecessary cross-Strait confrontation.


Ho Chih-yung is deputy director of the Department of International Affairs, Kuomintang, and a party spokesman. Alfred E. Tsai is an executive officer in the department.


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