Beijing is the Key to the 1992 Consensus
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 2, 2008
The protagonists were the same. The setting was the same. When Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou met yesterday, it was virtually a scene by scene reenactment of their meeting two years ago. Especially in terms of the total lack of consensus between them over the 1992 Consensus. The result of this closely watched "Chen Ma Meeting" was a "Chen Ma Debate" that resulted in "One 1992 Consensus, Two Different Interpretations."
The only difference is that two years ago, Chen Shui-bian was a sitting president who wielded full power. Now he is a lame duck with less than two months left in his term. Only two years ago, Ma Ying-jeou was a humble opposition party chairman. Now he is president elect. President Chen again insisted "There is no so-called 1992 consensus," and in any event it was "a thing of the past." Ma Ying-jeou on the other hand, maintains that "There was a 1992 Consensus" and that it may become "a thing of the future."
This total lack of consensus between the Blue and Green camps over cross-strait policy has been the norm for years. The KMT has repeatedly cited a series of messages between the two sides, proving there was a verbal consensus concerning "One China, Different Interpretations," and confirming that the two sides subsequently conducted a number of cross-strait talks predicated on this consensus. The DPP maintains that there is no written record showing that the two sides signed a 1992 Consensus. The Blue and Green camps have never reached a consensus in this eight year long dispute. Instead their exchanges have been an endless round of "Says you? says me!" This situation, in which each side expresses its own view, is itself a case of "Different Interpretations."
The Democratic Progressive Party would like to reduce the 1992 Consensus to a matter of textual research. There was no formal document with the two words "1992 Consensus" on the cover. Therefore, they argue, "The 1992 Consensus doesn't exist." For the Kuomintang the 1992 Consensus is an issue of hermeneutics. Although the communiques between the two sides may be scattered, ultimately they add up to a tacit understanding. This allows different perceptions on each side, and allows each side to set aside its differences. Hence "Different Interpretations." This mutual tolerance, this rhetorical expediency is a solution to the insoluble dispute over sovereignty. After all, if we don't proceed on this basis, then talks will remain stalled on issues of reunification vs. independence. Of course, if one wishes to engage in legal sophistry, one can simply claim that the consensus does not exist. This of course is what President Chen is doing, with an air of righteousness.
If each side refuses to yields to the other, then whose view is adopted depends entirely upon who is in office. The DPP has been in office for nearly eight years. Cross-strait relations have been conducted on the basis that "There is no 1992 Consensus." The outcome of this approach is clear to see -- an eight year cross-strait stalemate. The SEF and ARATS have ceased interacting. Direct flights, mainland tourism, currency exchanges have all remain stalled. Besides satisfying the requirements of their fundamentalist ideology, the DPP has never offered any alternative.
The KMT is back in office. Ma Ying-jeou has reintroduced the 1992 Consensus which the DPP kept stuffed in the bottom of a chest for eight years. He has announced that the SEF and ARATS will soon resume their dialogue. The Bush/Hu Meeting reaffirmed the 1992 Consensus. The world has been paying close attention, hoping that the cross-strait freeze can be further melted.
Frankly, whether there was in fact any 1992 Consensus is no longer the point. The point is whether both sides felt they had arrived at an mutally acceptable understanding. Chen Shui-bian pointed out a problem. Since Beijing recognizes the 1992 Consensus, that means it recognizes the "Different Expressions" clause. During their Chen/Ma Meeting Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian declared that if Beijing refuses to recognize "Different Expressions," then all bets are off. In other words, the ball is now in Beijing's court. If Beijing wishes to underscore only "One China" to the exclusion of "Different Interpretations," then Ma Ying-jeou will face tough resistance from the Green Camp when it comes to cross-strait policy. Beijing must be clear on this point.
Similarly, if the two sides can interact on the basis of the "One China, Different Interpretations" consensus reached in 1992, then the DPP will have to get past its resistance to "One China." At the very least the DPP must adopt Chen Shui-bian's "Return to the Spirit of 1992" approach. The DPP must stop seeing its struggle with the KMT over cross-strait policy as a zero sum game. It must see it as a win/win game. If the DPP remains mired in its ideological fundamentalism, if it refuses to emerge from its self-imposed isolation, if it refuses to walk into the light, then Taiwan will continue to spin its wheels for years to come.