A Chinese Commonwealth? An Unpopular Idea Resurfaces in Taiwan.

The K.M.T. has a long history of arguing for economic integration with China. The party’s roots date back to the nationalist army that lost a civil war against Chinese Communists in 1949 and escaped to Taiwan to regroup. K.M.T. officials, who initially ruled as a military dictatorship, were so committed to the dream of returning to the mainland for a rematch that, a Ming Chuan University professor told me, they routinely barred active-duty soldiers from getting married, out of fear soldiers would be diverted from their cause. The closest that Taiwan has ever come to One Zhonghua occurred between 2008 and 2016, under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou of the K.M.T. He signed a raft of agreements with China, including a sweetheart trade deal that allowed many Taiwanese goods to be sold in China with reduced tariffs, without giving China the same access in return. That deal remains in place, and it’s seen as vital to Taiwan’s economy today.

But a second trade deal, which focused on services, was a bridge too far. Spooked that Taiwan was growing too close to China, protesters took over the legislature building in 2014 and helped push the K.M.T. out of power two years later in what was called the Sunflower Movement.

Since the D.P.P. won the 2016 election, it has announced changes that underscored the separateness of the Taiwanese identity, shrinking the size of the words “Republic of China” on passports while making the word “Taiwan” much more prominent. The number of people who consider themselves Taiwanese has grown from 17.6 percent in 1992 to 60.8 percent in 2022, according to Ching-hsin Yu, director of the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

Young activists are dismayed that Ms. Lu, who once served five years in prison under the dictatorship for trying to bring democracy to Taiwan, is peddling One Zhonghua.

“Lu’s proposal is actually very outdated,” said Fei-fan Lin, a former protest leader who became deputy secretary general of the D.P.P. and is now a board member of the New Frontier Foundation, a D.P.P. think tank. China’s crackdown on Hong Kong starting in 2019 removed any doubt that China would dismantle Taiwan’s political system if it got the chance.

“Can Chinese Nationalists (or Their Apologists) Please Shut Up About Zhonghua?” ran the headline of an article by Brian Hioe, a chronicler of progressive activism in Taipei, in New Bloom magazine last August. On Twitter, he has suggested that figures like Ms. Lu, who is now 78 years old, need to be “put out to pasture.”

Yet for the older generation in Taiwan, the idea of being Chinese still holds deep cultural power. Lung Ying-tai, the former culture minister, told me that since China was unified in the year 221 B.C.E., many in China have harbored the notion that Chinese people should all live in unity under the same ruler.