1992 Consensus Means Different Interpretations
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 28, 2012
Summary: Everyone on Taiwan has heard the term "1992 consensus." Many people refer to it, but few have an accurate undestanding of it. Few are able to explain what it really means. Some would deny its existence altogether. For the sake of Taiwan's future, we would like to take some time to explain what it means. The 1992 consensus appears complex. In fact, it is quite simple, All that is required is good faith.
Full Text below:
Everyone on Taiwan has heard the term "1992 consensus." Many people refer to it, but few have an accurate undestanding of it. Few are able to explain what it really means. Some would deny its existence altogether. For the sake of Taiwan's future, we would like to take some time to explain what it means.
In 1993, the Koo-Wang Meetings threw open the doors to official cross-Strait negotiations. The two sides took their first steps towards mutually beneficial exchanges. But all of the negotiations that took place had a mutually agreed upon premise. Without this premise, the two sides would not have been able to sit down at the same table. The premise of the Koo-Wang Meetings was summed up by former Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Su Chi, who referred to it as the "1992 consensus." As long as both parties accepted this premise, a consensus existed. Whether the premise was written into the official results of the negotiations, whether it was explicitly referred to as the "1992 consensus," the "Spirit of '92," or any other name, makes no difference. None of these undermine the fact that such a consensus exists.
Taiwan independence elements always say the 1992 consensus does not exist. They even insinuate that Su fabricated it. They are merely seizing on the fact that when the two sides exchanged documents, the words "1992" and "consensus" never appeared. But none of this changes the fact that a meeting was held in 1992, and a consensus emerged from this meeting. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable to abide by convention and refer to this consensus as the 1992 consensus.
Consider the contents of the 1992 consensus. Beijing has seized upon the "one China" principle and neglected other aspects. Taipei meanwhile, refers to it as "one China, different interpretations." Consider Taipei's perspective for the moment. Taipei's take on "one China" can be seen in the language used in the National Unification Council proceedings of 1992. It read: 'Concerning the meaning of "one China," the two sides of the Taiwan Strait adhere to the one China principle. But both sides ascribe different meanings to the term. The Chinese Communist authorities understands "one China" to mean the "People's Republic of China." They think that after reunification, Taiwan will be a "Special Administrative Region." We think that "one China" means the Republic of China, founded in 1912. Its sovereignty includes the whole of China. But its current jurisdiction is limited to Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. Taiwan is part of China. But the Chinese mainland is also a part of China.'
We subscribe to the resolutions of the National Unification Council. Therefore the two sides have no disagreement over the territorial sovereignty of "one China." Both say that "China" includes the Mainland and Taiwan. They disagree only over how sovereignty and jurisdiction should be exercised. That is the only part over which they disagree. That is the only part over which there is no consensus. That is the only part over which they are compelled to have "different interpretations." There is no disagreement over the "one China" part of the 1992 consensus. There is only disagreement over the "different interpretations" part. This part pertains to jurisdiction, and includes the national title and the structure of the government. This is why Beijing says that the 1992 consensus means "one China," but that each side has its own interpretation about "the part about which no consensus has been reached." For this part, "different interpretations" persist, and of course, no consensus exists.
As we can see, China under the 1992 consensus is a nation with unified sovereignty but divided jurisdiction. The ROC Constitution's "Articles on Relations between People Across the Strait" clearly specifies "one country, two regions." Both Mainland China and Taiwan are included in ROC sovereignty claims. That is why over the years, the Mainland has never complained that Taiwan is taking advantage of it, or that Taiwan has demeaned the Mainland by classifying it as a region.
President Ma said the two sides "do not recognize each others' sovereignty, but do not deny each others' jurisdiction." This remark is particularly significant. The term "sovereignty" implies exclusivity. The two cannot coexist in the same territory. If the two sides recognize each others' sovereignty, then China would immediately be split into two sovereign states. Therefore having the two sides "not recognize each others' sovereignty" is essential. But within "one China" there are two regimes. Each regime must face the fact that the other exists. Only then can they have peaceful contacts. Therefore they must not deny each others' jurisdiction. The former, "one China," is legal consensus. The latter, "different interpretations," is realpolitik.
The 1992 consensus must be clarified and honored. Only then can cross-Strait conflicts be resolved. For example, the Mainland's new passports include scenes of Taiwan. The Mainland authorities' jurisdiction may not be as compelling as the Taiwan authorities'. But that does not negate its sovereignty over Taiwan. This is the Mainland's "one China, different interpretations." The Mainland Affairs Council has complained about the Mainland's new passport. It has called upon the Mainland to "shelve disputes and face reality." But the MAC is confused. Is the MAC saying that the Republic of China cannot include the Yangtze River and the Yellow River in official Republic of China documents? The MAC has apparently confused sovereignty with jurisdiction. The two sides have no dispute over territorial sovereignty, Therefore what is there to shelve? Beijing did not ask the public on Taiwan to apply for Mainland passports. Clearly Beijing recognizes the reality of divided jurisdiction.
The cross-Strait situation is like two brothers separated by a courtyard wall. They had no contact with each other. They even asked foreign powers to intervene. With the passage of time however, the two have let go of their resentments. They have begun talking to each other. They have realized that the wise course of action is to heal the rifts within the family.
The 1992 consensus appears complex. In fact, it is quite simple, All that is required is good faith.