Monday, August 9, 2010

Do Not Poke Holes in the 1992 Consensus

Do Not Poke Holes in the 1992 ConsensusUnited Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 9, 2010

A disagreement may be brewing between Taipei and Beijing. Mainland Affairs Council Chairperson Lai Hsing-yuan made a number of remarks on cross-Strait relations during her recent visit to Washington, that according to reports, raised grave concerns in Beijing. A stern response reflecting Beijing's views on the matter cannot be ruled out. Lai Hsing-yuan's "flight to Los Angeles was cancelled" ostensibly "due to mechanical problems," and she is returning to Taipei ahead of schedule.

We would like say a few words before Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office holds its weekly press conference. We hope this incident will not damage relations between the two sides.

A second disagreement has also been brewing. Mainland China Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said that as long as the two sides abide by the One China Principle, issues such as the withdrawal of missiles and the redeployment of troops are all open to discussion. ROC Presidential Office Spokesman Luo Chi-chiang responded. He said that of Mainaland China is willing to abide by the 1992 Consensus, and relocates its missiles on its own initiative, the public on Taiwan would surely express approval. KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou wrote a draft of his speech for the provisional plenary session. It too including mention of the 1992 Consensus, and called on Beijing to take the initiative to withdraw its missiles. But during his oral presentation, he skipped over them.

Over the past few days, comments issued by Hong Kong's Phoenix Satellite TV have pointed out that Taipei refers only to the "1992 Consensus" and avoids reference to "One China." Phoenix TV said that is why Ma Ying-jeou's conception of the 1992 Consensus "is probably not our conception of One China." The day before yesterday, ARATS President Chen Yunlin noted during a Xinhua News interview that cross-Strait relations are currently good, and "must be cherished and treated with care." The same remark has been repeated a number of times by different individuals. Chen added that some degree of instability and uncertainty still plagues cross-Strait relations. "Taiwan independence secessionist forces" continue to obstruct and undermine cross-Strait peace. It is generally believed that the Taiwan Affairs Office weekly press conference will deal with this topic.

We believe authorities on both sides should return to the 1992 Consensus . For Beijing, the original intent of the 1992 Consensus is "Uphold the One China Principle, but refrain from politically defining "One China." For Taipei, the original intent of the 1992 Consensus is "Both sides of the Taiwan Strait insist on "One China," but the two sides differ in their definition of "One China." In other words, Beijing says "Different Interpretations of One China." Taipei says "One China with Different Interpretations."

Su Chi, the creator of the "1992 Consensus" said 'When [I] invented the term "1992 Consensus," I was attempting to avoid the words "One China."' In other words the 1992 Consensus was a synonym for "One China." The only difference is that the two sides have different definitions of One China. When Beijing uses the 1992 Consensus as a synonym for One China, Taipei does not object. When Taipei uses the 1992 Consensus as a synonym for One China, Different Interpretations, Beijing has yet to make on open objection. Because the 1992 Consensus has so many different meanings, the two sides have been able to ensure "peaceful development" and a "favorable overall picture."

Assuming the above understanding is correct, Lo Chi-chang and Geng Yansheng may have misunderstood each other. Geng Yansheng spoke of the One China Principle. Lo Chi-chiang responded with the 1992 Consensus. This implies that the 1992 Consensus and One China are mutually exclusive, mutually hostile concepts. This was Phoenix TV's understanding. But the 1992 Consensus and One China, Different Interpretations does not repudiate the principle of One China. It merely allows for Different Interpretations. Because the Ma government is not on the path to Taiwan independence, it must uphold One China, Different Interpretations. Ma's "no unification / no independence / no war" policies all fall within the framework of One China, Different Interpretations. Absent this strategic framework, one has no ground to stand on.

Let us return to Lai Hsing-yuan's remarks. Lai provoked two controversies. First, she called for the Mainland "to forsake the use of force against Taiwan, both in terms of thinking and in terms of law." Second, she said "the world needs Taiwan as a key... by which to influence the Chinese Mainland." Actually, as Mainland Affairs Council Chairman, Lai Hsing-yuan's second remark was redundant. In fact, if Taipei can contribute to the maintainance of "peaceful development" between Taiwan and Mainland China, that would be its greatest contribution to the world. Lai Hsing-yuan's first remark was an unintentional blunder. Beijing directed its Anti-Secession Law against "de jure Taiwan independence." When the Mainland Affairs Council makes such a comment, it is likely to make Beijing extremely suspicious.

The public has probably noticed that with the five cities elections approaching, the Ma administration's public remarks have also become increasingly pointed. For example, it denounced the Democratic Progressive Party for deceiving and harming the nation. It said that the DPP's "opposition to ECFA amounted to opposition to the people." Similarly, Lo Chi-chiang's response to Geng Yansheng, as well as Lai Hsing-yuan's remarks during her visit to the US, may have been efforts to shrug off the label of "cozying up to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan." But Lo and Lai must not unwittingly sacrifice one thing for another. They must not stretch matters beyond the breaking point.

The authorities on both sides should return to the 1992 Consensus. Beijing likes to refer to it as the 1992 Consensus / One China Principle. Taipei likes to refer to it as the 1992 Consensus / One China, Different Interpretations. It is precisely this ambiguity that has allowed "peaceful development," a major achievement.

The 1992 Consensus is a concept still in development, and still amenable to development. It is a paper window that lets in light but also separates. Neither side should poke holes in this translucent paper window.













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