Following Part I on Kuomintang (KMT) reforms, the largest obstacle ahead for the opposition party is how it will redefine its engagement with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Toward the end of Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency, popular discontent with KMT cross-Strait policies became increasingly vocal In public opinion polls conducted in November 2015, nearly 60 percent of Taiwanese did not see China and Taiwan as part of “One China,” and nearly 50 percent of those polled saw the Xi-Ma meeting to be to China’s advantage. In 2014, the Sunflower Movement linked the island’s economic problems to its increasingly close relationship with China. Accompanying cultural identities shifted overwhelmingly to self-identification as “Taiwanese” rather than Chinese. Even as an awareness of interdependence between Taiwan and China has grown, so too has a uniquely Taiwanese identity shaped how both voters and policymakers perceive Taiwan’s national interests.
The debate over how cross-Strait relations should be managed is heavily nuanced within Taiwanese society, ranging from staunch advocates of Taiwanese independence (the deep green [深錄] Democratic Progressive Party or DPP) to firm believers in the importance of unification (the deep blue [深藍] KMT). For the KMT, it has claimed that it is possible to be both Taiwanese and Chinese, consistently recognizing the so-called “1992 Consensus” as a basis for relations with Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But the extent of public opposition to the KMT’s basis of engagement with Beijing and stance that “the Republic of China is the nation’s core value and Taiwan its identity” may mean that these positions will need to be rethought for the KMT to remain politically viable. KMT leadership has criticized the Tsai administration for what it perceives as empty cross-Strait policy. Yet, the now-opposition party does not appear to have a clear alternative for how to manage ties with Beijing.
The KMT has several options for reforming its cross-Strait policy: first, they have the option of re-branding the party’s links and formal dialogue with the CCP. Chairwoman Hung has already hinted at this possibility, to include renaming the KMT-CCP forums as “cross-Strait forums” and using the discussions to engage in diplomacy as well as trade and cultural issues. Second, the KMT could tone down its pro-unification agenda, becoming less “deep blue” and more “aquamarine” on the Taiwanese political spectrum. This would likely entail moderating the pace of economic interactions with China and ensuring legislative transparency in any future agreements—but such efforts would likely encounter opposition from deep blue supporters. Third, the KMT could continue to maintain its channels of communication with Beijing, a gambit for the opposition party that could be seen by the Taiwanese electorate as intentionally evasive or opaque.
Since the cross-Strait relationship has largely focused on socioeconomic initiatives to date, the more difficult task of navigating political and security issues lies ahead. Yet, beyond the ranks of deep blue members, few Taiwanese are willing to see political talks with China over the island’s future. More feasible instead is a wait-and-see approach that Chairwoman Hung has already applied to internal party reform. She could set the expectation that the KMT will wait until other appropriate conditions are in place to further deepen cross-Strait ties. The risk with this approach, however, is that Chinese President Xi Jinping may not be willing to wait indefinitely to resolve the Taiwan issue.
Lastly, the KMT could resuscitate efforts to negotiate a peace accord with Beijing, an option first floated by Ma Ying-jeou in his 2012 campaign. Chairwoman Hung recently said that KMT leadership had drafted amendments to the party’s policy platform that would strengthen its interpretation of the so-called “1992 Consensus” and create a foundation for a peace agreement. While these amendments did not ultimately come to fruition, the KMT’s national congress passed a new policy platform in September that reflects a commitment to improve cross-Strait relations and present a China policy that can overcome the current stall in communications between Beijing and the ruling DPP. Despite differing opinions within the KMT, the new party platform has purportedly retained the phrasing “one China with each side having its own interpretation.” This is a step intended by the KMT to preserve cross-Strait stability through the prevention of any significant movement beyond the status quo.
The Kuomintang’s Path Ahead
The elasticity in PRC’s demand that its “1992 Consensus” serve as the political foundation for cross-Strait ties may be observed in Beijing’s willingness to hold dialogue with KMT politicians while employing various degrees of pressure aimed at convincing the DPP to also accept the unwritten consensus. It is in the interests of the KMT to be more active in setting the terms of its conversation with Beijing—but the opposition party first requires a sound strategy to guide its ability to do so.
The lessons of the Ma era, while clear to KMT leadership, are at risk of not being utilized as a catalyst to reform—at risk, as one op-ed put it, of losing Taiwan. Infighting and partisan politics suggest a political party clambering to stay relevant through a hold on political power—as opposed to a relevance won electorally through the support of its constituents.
Aside from structural reform to the party itself, other efforts currently in motion are targeting lower hanging fruit. They focus on areas where the Tsai administration has already set forth its own agenda and initiatives, including indigenous peoples, economic policy, and cross-Strait relations. Absent meaningful reforms that differentiate the KMT as committed to revitalizing the economy and easing the pace of cross-Strait interactions, the Kuomintang’s political viability will remain contested. President Ma’s decisions yielded dual reactions of disillusionment with cross-Strait engagement and disappointment in the island’s economic performance; a KMT failure to realign with the priorities of the Taiwanese people will contribute to the party’s further decline.
Main point: The KMT must redefine its cross-Strait policy in such a way that balances the concerns of the Taiwanese electorate over the pace of engagement with its own political identity and platform.
 Syaru Shirley Lin makes a similar point, but confines her discussion to Taiwan’s shifting economic policy and engagement with China. See Taiwan’s China Dilemma: Contested Identities and Multiple Interests in Taiwan’s Cross-Strait Economic Policy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).
 This term emerged from a 1992 meeting in then-British Hong Kong between China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). It allows both sides to recognize that there is only “one China,” but to interpret the meaning of “one China” differently.
 Chin-Hao Huang and Patrick James, “Blue, Green or Aquamarine? Taiwan and the Status Quo Preference in Cross-Strait Relations,” The China Quarterly 219 (2014): 670-692.