Han Kuo-yu has won the Kuomintang primary in Taiwan

So yes, Taiwan does have the weirdest politics in the world right now.  Here is a reprise from my Bloomberg column last week:

Another candidate vying for the KMT nomination is Han Kuo-yu, mayor of Kaohsiung and a blunt-speaking outsider populist. He has called for closer ties with China and is believed to be China’s favored candidate, calling China and Taiwan “two individuals madly in love.” It is believed that Chinese cyber-operatives have been working to promote his candidacy. He might be more interesting yet.

What if Han wins the general election and calls for “peaceful reunification” of the two Chinas, based on “one country, two systems”?  Solve for the equilibrium!  I see the following options:

1. They go ahead with the deal, and voila, one China!

2. The system as a whole knows in advance if this is going to happen, and if it will another candidate runs in the general election, splitting the KMT-friendly vote, and Han never wins.

2b. Han just doesn’t win anyway, even though his margin in the primary was considerable and larger than expected.

3. The current president Tsai Ing-wen learns from Taiwanese intelligence that there are Chinese agents in the KMT and she suspends the general election and calls a kind of lukewarm martial law.

4. Han calls for reunification and is deposed by his own military, or a civil war within the government ensues.

5. Han foresees 2-4 and never calls for reunification in the first place.

Well people, which of these would it be?  Here is general background (NYT) on the new primary results.


So that is it. America will passively watch the Chinese conquest of another American ally. When they came for Tibet, I did nothing because I am not Tibetan. When they attacked India, I did nothing because I am not a devil-worshipper. When they invaded the Soviet Union, I did nothing because I am not a communist. When they went for Hong Kong, I did nothing because British colonialism sucks. When they came for student dissenters, I did nothing because I was doing business with them. When they came for Richard Gere, I did nothing because those Hollywood stars are so entitled. When they were oppressing Hong Kongers, I did nothing because it was a Chinese internal affair. When they came for Taiwan, I eagerly saluted the peaceful reunification. When they finally came for Texas, there was nothing I could do.

“It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans,
who exterminated their Indians” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

This is why the USA will bow down to a fascist dictator who clearly hates America and everything she stands for.

I predict 6. Han publicly dithers, but privately makes a deal like Quisling's, where China invades and completes an Anschluß while Taiwan's military doesn't react.

"Closer ties to China" and "reunification" are far from the same thing, to my mind.

I think that reference and background are lacking here. For example, regularly scheduled & daily commercial flights from Taiwan to mainland China began only in April 2009. There were no direct flights until 2003.

Most people would recognize, I think, that the KMT has a long history of successfully getting China to open up to Taiwanese trade without allowing mainland Chinese political influence to creep into the country. My understanding, please correct me if I'm wrong, is that Taiwanese citizens are allowed to live and work and own businesses in mainland China more or less as they please. My understanding is that even some mainland China citizens are not afforded these same rights - my understanding being that some classes of Chinese nationals are limited by where they may live and work, internally within their own nation.

Knowing absolutely nothing about this candidate in particular, I would hesitate to say that someone is "pro-unification" without some very specific evidence to that point. My understanding, again, is that "closer ties" and "unification" are very different things, and that the latter may be used as a slander. It may or may not be true in this case, I want to be clear that I have no knowledge of these candidates, but it is best to be sure...

According to the article, Han said he’d only allow one-country-two-systems over his dead body. Reunification isn’t going to happen as the two countries are still too far apart in terms of development. The current system is working well for people on both sides, especially the Taiwanese, who have earned huge profits on their Chinese investments. I don’t think either side cares about their ethnic pride enough to damage the economic relationship. More likely we’ll just see more trade deals and looser travel restrictions.

No, it isn’t going to happen because a.) it would be annexation, not reunification, and b.) the values of the CCP can never accommodate the values of Taiwanese democracy.

That said, Han is lying because that’s what he does. He’s absolutely pro-unification/annexation.

It would be annexation if done forcibly, which I think will never happen. A Chinese invasion has no guarantee of success and would result in devastating economic damage to China even succeeded, given the importance of Taiwanese business and investment in China. China hasn’t even conquered the few Taiwanese-owned islands that are right next to the Mainland and now connected by bridge to the Mainland. It would be reunification if done pursuant to an agreement of both sides, which is the only realistic way for it to be achieved. That will of course be up to the people in Taiwan.

As for values, China’s values will change as it becomes richer; this is true of practically every country as measured in the World Values Survey. And China has been accommodating of the democratic system in Macau just fine. Arguably, China has made Hong Kong more democratic too, as Hong Kong has no elections at all under British colonial rule and elections were only instated after the agreement to return the territory to China.

Why is there not a discussion about diversity in Taiwan and China?

Why do we argue whether Europe and US need 7/10 in diversity rather than 5/10 when in China and Taiwan you have 0/10? Surely you have decreasing returns to diversity.

Singapore's foreign born population is almost 50% of its population and the country is doing well. They are still aggressively looking for more. In the US it is 13% and there is a lot of whining about immigrants for certain noisy groups.

Singapore is an authoritarian city-state of 5.5 million people that's 75% ethnic Chinese.

With a Westminster-style Parliamentary system, a popularly elected President, and a judiciary based on English common law, they are 100% representative democracy. Yes, they have the caning thing, the gerrymandering, and the same party winning all elections (from gerrymandering) but that doesn't make them Saudi Arabia.

Singapore is not a democracy. There is no reasonable process by which the electorate can choose who the candidates will be - the candidates are simply presented to them, and while the person who gets the most votes wins, that is about as democratic as, say, Russia. Which is to say, not really democratic at all.

There isn't much in the way of freedom of speech or the press, and without that democracy cannot flourish.

Yes, let's copy Singapore's immigration laws! Will any of the Democratic presidential candidates support the idea?

Here are some of Singapore's rules for foreign unskilled and semi-skilled workers:

Employers must:
Only employ foreign workers who have a valid work pass.
Pay workers their salaries and the cost of their upkeep and maintenance, including the cost of medical treatment.
Ensure foreign workers have proper housing.
Send your workers for a medical examination by a Singapore-registered doctor. If they are certified medically unfit, their Work Permit will be revoked...

Foreign workers must:
Work only in the occupation and for the employer specified in the Work Permit card.
Carry their original Work Permit at all times and produce it for inspection on demand by any public officer ("Show us your papers!").
Not get pregnant or deliver a child in Singapore during the validity of their Work Permit unless they are already married to a Singapore citizen or permanent resident with the approval of MOM (i.e. no anchor babies).


Just because you can't tell the difference between the Han, Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uyghur, Yi, Tujia, Mongols, Tibetans, Buyei, Yao, Koreans, Hani, Li, Khazaks, Dai, She, etc. doesn't mean they can't.

There is a discussion on diversity in Taiwan. (And academically there is one in China, too.) Lots of Taiwan watchers you can follow to learn about that.

6. Han wins and surprises all observers when he reveals Taiwanese populism is boring. He doesn't substantial change the economy, demographic crisis or security situation. PRC overtures are softly rejected because no one in Taiwan (or East Asia or in the US military) is stupid about what they really mean. He gradually loses popularity and loses the next election. The blissful nightmare of Taiwan continues.

Whaf if he is a Manchurian candidate?

according their new book the princeton (u.s.a) history dept confidently claims that the "aliens" in the roswell incident were actually developmentally delayed adults who also were surgically operated on by the u.s. government!
doesn't this sound more like a hoax than a princeton u. history?
princeton =28 grand/yr (and that is just the kindergarden)

Why expect Taiwan to change in some abrupt way? Look at university campuses: no specific turning points or watershed moments, yet they are very different today from what they were a decade ago, two decades ago, three decades ago...

Han Kuo-yu Kuomintang

Some one dropped the silverware.

"About 80 percent of Chinese students who get degrees abroad now go back — up from about 33 percent in 2007, according to China’s Ministry of Education. Some 15 percent take jobs in China’s booming tech sector."

Bad news. The future of this century is being fought now. The West needs to attract more talent and retain them. The populists in charge are weakening the West to an incredible degree.


We are perfectly capable of training our own engineers.

We are capable but in reality we are not able. The country that invented the telephone has no 5G equipment manufacturer.

Some CIA HQs must surely be on fire now.

Post HK 2019 I think the argument for one country two systems is much much harder to make convincingly. Re-state that as "one country one system one emperor", and it's more accurate, though substantially less appetizing.

Anyone who thought "one country two systems" was convincing before needed to have followed the situation more closely. The Taiwanese have consistently rejected that notion, knowing full well what it was doing to Hong Kong and would do to them. The vast majority of Taiwanese identify primarily as Taiwanese, not Chinese, and there has never been strong support for 1C2S or even an opening for it to be popular. ("Closer ties" sometimes wins as it did under Ma Ying-jeou but not even he - the guy who actually tried to economically tether Taiwan to China to the point of no return - could not sell 1C2S).

Most Taiwanese support maintaining their full sovereignty. They're willing to do that under the current status quo, or independence if that can be done peacefully (war is obviously not popular), but any kind of unification including 1C2S has, in the entire 21st century, been a loser.

And the data keeps moving toward Taiwanese identity - among young people there's the "naturally independent" sentiment in which a vast majority of Taiwanese under 40 would not even consider that Taiwan is anything other than independent (and see that as so obvious that it's not even worth discussing because it's quite clear that it is not China.) To avoid war, it's acceptable to maintain that through the status quo, but that's about as far as they'll go in 'negotiating' the idea of independence.

Research has been done that removes the status quo as an option. Forced to choose between de jure independence and unification, de jure independence is a clear winner, even if it might mean war. And that only gets stronger the younger you poll.

So who is 1C2S supposed to "convince" again? Because I can assure you it has always been a stinker in Taiwan.

Even the idea of "two Chinas" that Cowen references is basically a joke. Only a few old folks think that. Nobody else here really considers Taiwan a type of "China".

2b or 5.

Most of the rest of this is just overblown and overly dramatic, even if Taiwanese politics is weird.

There is no such thing as ‘reunification’ as the PRC and ROC were never unified. There is only annexation (violent unification). There is no such thing as peaceful unification, because Taiwan would never actively choose it.

Words matter; please use them accurately.


The notion that Tsai would declare martial law is laughable.

There is discussion of diversity in Taiwan. Follow some Taiwan experts and watchers. You’ll see. You’d only say that if you weren’t aware of current discussions on Taiwanese identity.

Academia discusses Chinese diversity but the government actively suppresses such topics in general discourse.

I feel like a lot of this discussion is coming from a place of having a basic but shallow understanding of Taiwan.

From the Medium article: "When someone says 'Taiwanese are Chinese' they are telling others what they should think of their own language and identity. Don’t be that person."

Exactly. One cultural heritage, two nationalities.

For more in-depth knowledge on what's actually going on in Taiwan, I suggest following Frozen Garlic, a blog by an electoral scholar at Academia Sinica. His last update was before the primary, but he called it, and reading his work will quickly help disarm any and all of this historically inaccurate "reunification" business, this "mild martial law" joke, this "two Chinas" nonsense, or the notion that Han could win, declare a "peace agreement" resulting unification and it would result in actual non-violent unification (did you see what happened the last time a president tried to push through an unpopular agreement with China? The whole thing where the legislature was occupied for three weeks and half a million people took to the streets, and the bill was killed? Do you know that the leader of that movement in 2014 is now the deputy secretary general of the DPP? "Peaceful unification" my ass).


10% Taiwanese lives in mainland China. 40% Taiwan's export goes to China. Taiwan's income has stagnated since 2000 because a lot of Taiwan's investment has gone to mainland China instead of staying in Taiwan. I think the contrary is true: it's quite possible they will reunite peacefully in 10-15 years.

Hong Kong is far far more integrated with mainland China and the people there are less aligned with China than ever. Economic integration is no guarantee of peaceful unification.

Hong Kong and China already peacefully reunited, despite some Hongkongers think otherwise. Hong Kong will further integrate with China once the plan for Greater Bay Area is realized.

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