Tsai Ing-wen is the One Repudiating the Taiwan Consensus
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 7, 2011
Summary: Many people do not understand DPP chairman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen. What does she mean when she holds forth on her "Taiwan consensus?" Tsai Ing-wen says "The Taiwan consensus is simply the process of Taiwan's democratization." Tsai Ing-wen's explanation is not wrong. Political parties may hold different positions on reunification and independence. But a consensus can still be achieved through the democratic process. A direct presidential election is the clearest example of just such a democratic process. The outcome of such a democratic election is the clearest example of a Taiwan consensus.
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Many people do not understand DPP chairman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen. What does she mean when she holds forth on her "Taiwan consensus?" Tsai Ing-wen says "The Taiwan consensus is simply the process of Taiwan's democratization." Tsai Ing-wen's explanation is not wrong. For the 23 million Republic of China citizens who live on Taiwan, the "Taiwan consensus" ought to be an uncontroversial topic. We are all Taiwanese. We all love Taiwan. Political parties may hold different positions on reunification and independence. But a consensus is still possible through the democratic process. A direct presidential election is the clearest example of such a democratic process. The outcome of such a democratic election is the clearest example of a Taiwan consensus.
Unfortunately Tsai Ing-wen persists in obfuscation. The Taiwan consensus is not the Democratic Progressive Party consensus. Voters on Taiwan will decide. The ruling and opposition parties, which compete for power, must accept their decision. The Taiwan consensus is not a unilateral laying down of the law.
Tsai Ing-wen argues that when voters on Taiwan arrive at a consensus, cross-Strait relations will actually be more stable, and the Mainland will actually be happier. The Mainland will no longer have to worry about ruling party changes under Taiwan's democracy. The Mainland will realize that government policy will not change merely because the ruling party has changed. Tsai argues that "When the government holds consultations, rooted in the will of the people, and expressed through a democratic and transparent process, the rights of our citizens will be assured." Tsai promises that if she is elected, she will establish a "dialogue group" and consult with opponents Ma Ying-jeou and James Soong.
Tsai Ing-wen's rhetoric is unassailable. Since the 1996 presidential election, the Republic of China has undergone two ruling party changes. During this period, cross-Strait policy underwent little change. The only difference was the pace of change. The Mainland is unconcerned about which party rules on Taiwan. But cross-Strait relations must not regress. This is also consistent with the interests and expectations of the public on Taiwan.
President Chiang Ching-kuo opened the doors to cross-Strait communications. Veterans could visit their birthplace. Contacts were no longer forbidden. Chiang's reasoning was simple. People on both sides are friends and relatives. What right did the government have to keep friends and relatives apart? President Lee Teng-hui expanded these exchanges. We went from individual contacts to economic and trade exchanges. The scope may have been limited. But Taiwan businessmen are now our friends and neighbors. Later Lee's "avoid haste, be patient" policy limited the pace of these exchanges. But Lee was unable to prevent Taiwan businessmen from moving to the Mainland.
President Chen Shui-bian invoked "New Centrist Path" rhetoric, enabling the Democratic Progressive Party to attain power. But he could not overturn the foundation for cross-Strait exchanges laid down by the KMT. Chen Shui-bian was in office for eight years. His scorched earth diplomacy led to a cross-Strait freeze. But private sector exchanges never ceased. Cultural and creative exchanges enabled talent from Taiwan to shine on the Mainland.
When Chen Shui-bian was elected, he spoke of an "inter-party cross-Strait policy group." The group was to be headed by former Academia Sinica Chairman Lee Yuan-tse. But this idea was blocked by the National Security Organization, then headed by Chiu Yi-jen and Tsai Ing-wen, and died a natural death. When Chen Shui-bian was "re-elected" in 2004, he spoke of an "inter-party peace and stability committee." Before taking office he even sought out SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu, Lee Yuan-tse, TSMC chairman Morris Chang, PTV chairman Wu Feng-shan, Taiwan Thinktank chairman Chen Po-chih, hoping to establish a consultation team. Chen Shui-bian expressed a desire to chair the team. He invited representatives from the community to participate. Together they studied the possibility of a cross-Strait peace development program. Unfortunately nothing came of these proposals.
Tsai Ing-wen was involved in every one of these projects. She cannot possibly be unaware of what was going on. Cross-Strait policy is central to DPP policy. Chen Shui-bian did nothing for eight years. The obstacle was not the Mainland. The obstacle was not a lack of consensus on Taiwan. The obstacle was the DPP. The DPP was unable to break free from constraints imposed upon it by Taiwan independence fundamentalists.
Tsai Ing-wen clearly understood the importance of dialogue to her own election bid. So why did she refuse to dialogue with Ma Ying-jeou following his election to president in 2008? Lest we forget, when Chen Shui-bian was elected in 2000, KMT Chairman Lien Chan and PFP Chairman James Soong personally visited the Presidential Palace to dialogue with Chen Shui-bian. In 2005 James Soong secretly met with Chen Shui-bian and was denounced for his treachery.
Tsai Ing-wen acknowledged the existence of "1992 talks," but denied the existence of a "1992 consensus." She cast the 1992 consensus as a "KMT/CCP consensus," and proposed a "Taiwan consensus" in its stead. But she forgot that the 1992 talks were proposed by President Lee Teng-hui, in order to shelve cross-Strait confrontation. Negotiators did not used the words "1992 consensus." But they reached the conclusion that "there is only one China, but each side has its own interpretation." This tacit understanding between the two sides was reaffirmed in 2005, during the "Lien/Hu Summit." It became the primary plank in Ma Ying-jeou's 2008 political platform. It was vigorously reaffirmed. It received seven million votes. This is how the democratic process on Taiwan established a Taiwan consensus. This consensus was the basis for 17 cross-Strait agreements in three years, all of which were submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review. This is the democratic process. It conforms strictly to Tsai Ing-wen's own logic. She cannot deny it.
Democracy and cross-Strait peace are the Republic of China's most cherished achievements. Just over a month from now, voters on Taiwan will once again participate in the democratic process. Tsai Ing-wen says "The nation is of greater significance than any political party." She must demonstrate her allegiance to this principle through her actions, and not just words. Only then can she convince the public to return the DPP to power.