Tsai's Refusal to Affirm the 1992 Consensus Spells Double Trouble for Taiwan
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 25, 2016
Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen told the Washington Post that she rejected the Mainland's deadline for affirming the 1992 Consensus. Taiwan now faces a double dilemma. Perhaps Tsai would like to tell the people of Taiwan when they can expect a breakthough? Whether Tsai responds to the 1992 Consensus is secondary. But the president is the nation's leader. Tsai Ing-wen has turned the rudder. She cannot throw up her hands and feign a "The owner isn't here” attitude. Taiwan is adrift. It is being battered by wave after wave. It is an ghost ship that may be overturned any moment.
Full Text Below:
President Tsai spoke to foreign reporters for the first time since assuming office. When the Washington Post asked her about the 1992 Consensus, Tsai said, "Setting a deadline and demanding that the Taiwanese [sic] government defy the wishes of the people and accept the other side's conditions? That is highly unlikely". Cross-Strait relations are already troubled. Her comments have added fuel to the fire.
The Mainland-based Global Times interviewed academics. The People's Daily published an opinion piece, with attribution. The consensus is that Tsai, for all intents and purposes, has repudiated the 1992 Consensus. Some news channels on Taiwan reached the same conclusion. In response to the turmoil, the presidential office hastily undertook damage control. They accused the media of “reading too much into her statement”. Did Tsai mean to say that "when the bell rang, she would not hand in her test paper”? Perhaps not. But she has for the time being refused to hand in her test paper. That much is fact. More importantly, cross-Strait exchanges made possible by the 1992 Consensus have gradually been hollowed out, and will continue to be hollowed out. The foundation on which cross-Strait exchanges are conducted may eventually collapse. That too is fact. That is the major issue that warrants concern.
The fear that cross-Strait exchanges may end, is not not baseless paranoia. Consider Taiwan's international maneuvering room. The cross-Strait deadlock over the 1992 Consensus has presented the DPP with a double dilemma. Taiwan is being dragged, step by step, down a blind alley. The chief pressure naturally, is coming from the Mainland. The 1992 Consensus means “one China, different interpretations”. In the past Beijing stressed one China. Taipei stressed different interpretations. But Beijing tolerated this and remained silent.
Tsai however, has refused to affirm the 1992 Consensus. The Mainland has responded by highlighting “one China" while downplaying “different interpretations”. This May, during the World Health Assembly (WHA), Tsai was forced to swallow UN Resolution 2758. During the 1970s we referred to this as “the resolution that shut us out and classified us as an outlaw”. This resolution is the harshest possible manifestation of the "one China" principle. The resolution “expelled the Republic of China government from all illegally held positions in United Nations organizations”. It did more than declare that the PRC was the sole legitimate government of all China. It expelled the ROC from the UN.
The DPP refuses to accept the highly conciliatory 1992 Consensus. Yet it prostrates itself before the humiliating UN Resolution 2758. It even failed to do what the Ma administration did – emphasize Taiwan's need for participation. DPP representative Lin Chou-yan made no mention whatsoever of Taiwan, adding to the humiliation.
Worse still, UN Resolution 2758 is not going to remain an individual case that pertains only to the WHA. It will be applied universally, across the board. Tsai Ing-wen has been forced to swallow UN Resolution 2758 on the WHA. She will also be forced to swallow the upcoming September 27 ICAO General Assembly, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports is currently under preliminary planning. Unless Taiwan chooses not to participate, Tsai Ing-wen will yet again be forced to swallow UN Resolution 2758.
The pressure from the Mainland is grim. But Tsai rejected the 1992 Consensus. Therefore this pressure came as no surprise. On the other hand, the pressure from the UN is far more embarrassing for the DPP, since it amounts to betrayal by supposed “allies”. In order to please the United States and Japan, the DPP refused to defend ROC maritime sovereignty. It shrank from asserting ROC fishing rights. It referred to Cong Zhi Niao Reef as Cong Zhi Niao, parroting Japan in denying that it was merely a reef. The DPP was touching in its sincerity. What did it receive in return? It received the South China Sea “ruling”, with its preposterous reclassification of Taiping Island as a “reef”. Embarrassments such as these reflect the ugly reality of the “international community”, as well as the inevitable consequences of Tsai Ing-wen's refusal to maintain friendly relations with the Mainland.
When Ma Ying-jeou came to power, he actively sought friendly relations with the Mainland. In terms of US strategic interests, Taiwan and the Mainland becoming close may have elicited concern in Washington. But diplomatic face saving meant that the US nevertheless had to treat Taiwan with kid gloves. Now however, the United States no longer cares about how it treats Tsai Ing-wen. Repudiation of the 1992 Consensus makes it impossible for Tsai Ing-wen to befriend the Mainland. The South China Sea “ruling” has humiliated Tsai Ing-wen, who will now be regarded as the "little sister".
The American Institute in Taiwan is utterly indifferent to Taiwan's feelings about the South China Sea “ruling”. It leaped forward and claimed that the South China Sea “ruling” is legally binding. Clearly the United States cares not one whit about the Tsai regime's “face”.
Tsai Ing-wen told the Washington Post that she rejected the Mainland's deadline for affirming the 1992 Consensus. Taiwan now faces a double dilemma. Perhaps Tsai would like to tell the people of Taiwan when they can expect a breakthough? Whether Tsai responds to the 1992 Consensus is secondary. But the president is the nation's leader. Tsai Ing-wen has turned the rudder. She cannot throw up her hands and feign a "The owner isn't here” attitude. Taiwan is adrift. It is being battered by wave after wave. It is an ghost ship that may be overturned any moment.
Reaffirm the 1992 Consensus. Refit the ship of state with its old rudder. Or fit it with a new rudder. Demonstrate responsible leadership. Tsai Ing-wen has no excuse for shirking responsibility.