Tsai Ing-wen's Visit to the US Underscores Her Dilemma
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 19, 2011
Summary: The Democratic Progressive Party's real reason for opposing the 1992 consensus is that it cannot accept the "One China" part of One China, Different Interpretations, even though the "One China" part refers to the Republic of China, as specified by the Republic of China Constitution. Where should consensus be sought? Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP must seek it within themselves, through introspection. If they cannot even accept the Republic of China Constitution, where can they possibly find consensus on Taiwan?
Full Text below:
DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen recently visited the United States. The biggest bonus for voters on Taiwan was a partial explanation of what she means by "Taiwan consensus." Unfortunately her explanation was extremely vague. Also, her explanation changed from day to day over her three day visit. This underscored Tsai Ing-wen's dilemma, and highlighted the DPP's inability to face its cross-Strait Achilles Heel.
Tsai Ing-wen raised the issue of "Taiwan consensus" one month ago, at home on Taiwan. But she has never fully explained what it means. Her very first explanation was made not to fellow citizens, but to a think tank in Washington -- the American Enterprise Institute. Apparently a "Taiwan consensus" is something that must be explained to Americans first. Apparently this how Tsai Ing-wen seeks a national consensus.
Her choice of venue was strange. So was what she said. She said that if she was elected president, she would emulate the precedent set by the Taiwan Relations Act, which is domestic US law. She would turn her "Taiwan consensus" into domestic law. She said this would enable rival political parties to reach some degree of understanding with each other. Tsai Ing-wen was supposed to explain what her "Taiwan consensus" meant. Instead, she merely explained how her "Taiwan consensus" would be implemented. She implied that the Ma administration's 1992 consensus was merely an agreement between two parties, and not a consensus among the public on Taiwan. Therefore, if she was elected president, she would turn her "Taiwan consensus" into the law of the land.
Tsai Ing-wen's argument is seriously out of step with the assumptions of a modern democracy. After all, the KMT is the ruling party. Fifteen agreements were signed with the Chinese mainland based on the 1992 Consensus. These agreements, including ECFA, were approved by the Legislative Yuan. Tsai's "consensus legislation" is dangerous sophistry. According to her, legislation passed by the national legislature under a KMT legislative majority is not "consensus legislation." Therefore it lacks legitimacy. So-called "consensus legislation" presumably requires taking to the streets and railing against the legislature. So-called "consensus legislation" presumably requires only a minority stonewalling the majority. Such confrontational practices have nothing to do with seeking consensus. They have nothing to do with any manner of political order.
Tsai Ing-wen's "Taiwan consensus legislation" is a non-solution that only makes matters worse. Three days later, she visited the United States and held several press conferences in New York. Again and again, she told us what a "Taiwan consensus" is not. Apparently a "Taiwan consensus" is not simple majority rule. A "Taiwan consensus" is not ordinary legislation. A "Taiwan consensus" is not an ordinary public policy issue. A "Taiwan consensus" is not a ordinary domestic policy issue. A "Taiwan consensus" requires talks with the Chinese mainland. Tsai talked about "consensus legislation" for three straight days. Her explanations were internally self-contradictory, and never really explained what a "Taiwan consensus" is. She spoke only about procedure, not about content. She spoke only about vague abstractions. She said "A Taiwan consensus seeks commonalities among different beliefs. It seeks something acceptable to all through mutual compromise."
Such formulations might be appropriate for a religious leader or talking head. But Tsai Ing-wen is running for president. The stakes are high in this election. She is not some unconcerned bystander. She is the candidate for the largest opposition party on Taiwan. She must offer concrete and practical policy proposals. She cannot say: I'll wait until everyone has debated the issue, and tells me what the Taiwan consensus is." Tsai said "If I tell you now what the Taiwan consensus is, it would not be the product of the democratic process." But party leaders in a democracy have a responsibility to lead, not just follow. Tsai's argument is totally at odds with the concept of political leadership.
Most bizarre of all, she agreed that "Reunification is one option for a Taiwan consensus." In fact this election is not primarily about reunification vs. independence. Even Beijing seldom mentions reunification these days. On Taiwan the most pressing question is how to shelve controversy over reunification vs. independence, to allow Taipei and Beijing to carry on exchanges. The greatest achievement of the Ma administration's 1992 consensus is a tacit understanding between the two sides, founded on One China, Different Interpretations. Only such a foundation can advance public welfare on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Ma administration has already progressed to "no [immediate] reunification, no independence, and no use of force," Tsai Ing-wen meanwhile, is still seeking to resolve disputes over reunification vs. independence. The Ma administration has already established a Taiwan consensus. Tsai Ing-wen on the other hand, is apparently still casting about for one.
Tsai Ing-wen remains unable to offer specific policy prescriptions. On the one hand, she wants to attract moderate voters. Therefore she cannot obsessively promote hatred and antagonism toward the Chinese mainland. On the other hand, she is afraid to offend Deep Green voters. To many of these voters, any contact with the other side is construed as "pandering to Beijing and selling out Taiwan." The 1992 consensus is construed as a secret accord with the CCP, one that betrays "the people of Taiwan." Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP characterize the 1992 consensus as fictitious. But that is a subterfuge. Many institutional arrangements among human beings are fictitious. When former president Lee Teng-hui advanced his "Two States Theory," it too was an artifice. It too was fictitious.
The Democratic Progressive Party's real reason for opposing the 1992 consensus is that it cannot accept the "One China" part of One China, Different Interpretations, even though the "One China" part refers to the Republic of China, as specified by the Republic of China Constitution. Where should consensus be sought? Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP must seek it within themselves, through introspection. If they cannot even accept the Republic of China Constitution, where can they possibly find consensus on Taiwan?