Sincerely Recognize the ROC Constitution, Rationally Confront Cross-Strait Conflict
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 20, 2016
Executive Summary: The commemorative beer bottles for Tsai Ing-wen's presidential inauguration feature digital images of her face. They have been flying off the shelves. President Tsai's cross-Strait policy is a digital image, one described as “incomplete”. As the focus is sharpened, the president's true face will be revealed. Is she sincerely honoring the constitution? Is she rationally confronting cross-Strait issues? By then the image will be fuzzy no more.
Full Text Below:
Before Tsai Ing-wen delivered her inaugural address, Beijing officials charged with Taiwan-related issues said the 1992 Consensus is a "question that must be answered". They said it was a "true or false question". Yesterday, the Office of the State Council for Taiwan Affairs said Tsai's inaugural address was “an incomplete questionnaire". President Tsai made no mention of the 1992 Consensus. She said only that she "respected the fact that in 1992 the two cross-Strait associations reached an understanding". That said, her address included other details that had other implications. One detail drew the most attention. Twice she mentioned the Republic of China Constitution. She said "The new government will be based on the Republic of China Constitution, and cross-Strait relations will be handled according to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area”.
Therefore immediately following her address, several Mainland scholars specializing in Taiwan issues weighed in. They interpreted her reference to the ROC Constitution as acceptance of the clause "in response to the needs of the nation prior to reunification". They interpreted her reference to the Act as acceptance of the “one nation, two areas” framework, and the “governing cross-Strait relations prior to national reunification" clause. They interpreted it as a move toward "both sides of the Strait are part of one China". Suddenly even the DPP believed the 1992 Consensus may be superseded.
As expected, five hours later Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office issued an official press release. It demanded “recognition of the 1992 Consensus and opposition to Taiwan independence” as the shared political foundation. It said Beijing had taken note of certain relevant statements. But it also said Tsai failed to explicitly recognize the 1992 Consensus and its core meaning. It said Tsai failed to offer specific methods to ensure the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. As a result, the tone remained grim.
In her inaugural address Tsai Ing-wen invoked constitutionalism in an effort to relieve pressure to recognize the 1992 Consensus. She listed two details in an effort to build trust and establish a shared political foundation.
Politically, her address mentioned the East China Sea and South China Sea issues. She said "I was elected president in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China. I have a responsibility to defend the territory and sovereignty of the Republic of China." That was significant.
Economically, she expressed willingness to participate in the RCEP. She said "We would like to participate with the other side on issues related to regional development, and seek opportunities to cooperate and work together." This too was significant.
President Tsai failed to alleviate Beijing's concerns. The 1992 Consensus remains an unresolved red vs green matter. No one knows how it will end. In fact, when it comes to the 1992 Consensus, Beijing long ago seized the initiative. It continues reeling the DPP in. Beijing issues questionnaires. Tsai Ing-wen fills them in. When Tsai Ing-wen cozied up to the "Republic of China Constitution", she should have simply proceeded to recognize a "constitutional one China”, “one China, two areas”, and “one China, different interpretations". Sadly, she ducked the issue of the 1992 Consensus yet again. Therefore no matter how she answers, Beijing will consider it "incomplete".
Beijing has made its position clear. Without the 1992 Consensus, the matter remains unresolved. The Tsai government must either cave in, or prepare for a never ending war of nerves. The only way out is unequivocal support for a "constitutional one China", and "one China, different interpretations”. That being the case, why not simply accept the 1992 Consensus?
The situation is critical. But a glimmer of hope remains. Beijing has not closed the door on constitutionalism. It merely said that the answer was incomplete. Meanwhile, President Tsai seeks a way out through the ROC Constitution. If she can clearly declare that she supports "a constitutional one China", she may be able to "solve the problem". The formula “one China, different interpretations” may still have some life left in it.
Before she delivered her inaugural address, the Tsai regime said “The new government's future political stance will be based on sincerity and rationality". Cross-Strait relations are currently unpredictable. We urge the new government to sincerely honor the constitution, and rationally confront cross-Strait issues.
First take the matter of sincerity. Her address showed that President Cai realizes she cannot jettison the constitution. When Chen Shui-bian said in reference to de jure Taiwan independence, that "Impossible means impossible!”, that was sincerity. When DPP party insiders proposed freezing the Taiwan independence party platform, that was sincerity. President Tsai has pledged to honor the constitution and to speak with sincerity. If so, she can no longer harbor fantasies of "backdoor listing". She must sincerely embrace the Republic of China Constitution, and accept the ROC Constitution's shelter and protection. Next, take the matter of rationality. Rationality means forgoing the use of such expressions as "pandering to China and selling out Taiwan" to tear the current generation apart. It means forgoing the use of such expressions as "natural Taiwan independence" to pigeonhole the next generation. It means resorting to rational debate rather than populist demagoguery. It means establishing a cross-Strait framework conducive to a peaceful win/win relationship.
The commemorative beer bottles for Tsai Ing-wen's presidential inauguration feature digital images of her face. They have been flying off the shelves. President Tsai's cross-Strait policy is a digital image, one described as “incomplete”. As the focus is sharpened, the president's true face will be revealed. Is she sincerely honoring the constitution? Is she rationally confronting cross-Strait issues? By then the image will be fuzzy no more.