Thursday, January 19, 2012

The 1992 Consensus is the Taiwan Consensus

The 1992 Consensus is the Taiwan Consensus
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 19, 2011

Summary: During the just concluded presidential election, Tsai Ing-wen lost to Ma Ying-jeou. She lost not as a result of her campaign strategy, but because the DPP's core concepts have diverged too far from the underlying cross-Strait reality. If the DPP seeks a return to power, it must first overcome this, its greatest hurdle.

Full Text Below:

During the just concluded presidential election, Tsai Ing-wen lost to Ma Ying-jeou. She lost not as a result of her campaign strategy, but because the DPP's core concepts have diverged too far from the underlying cross-Strait reality. If the DPP seeks a return to power, it must first overcome this, its greatest hurdle.

Some have criticized the "Taiwan consensus" as being too devoid of content. Some have criticized Tsai Ing-wen for refusing to recognize the 1992 Consensus. Such pragmatic public concerns are valid. But the real problem is more fundamental. The raison d'etre of the DPP since its very founding, has been to sever the umbilical cord between Taiwan and Mainland China. It has been to establish an independent "Nation of Taiwan," that will insulate Taiwan from Mainland influence. The vast majority of DPP supporters embrace this dream. The achievement of this goal remains at the heart of the DPP.

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have long been at loggerheads with each other. Many on Taiwan hate and mistrust the Mainland. Essentially the DPP advocates distancing Taiwan from the Mainland. For this, it has garnered considerable support. It can easily cast itself as a "champion of Taiwan." When cross-Strait relations are tense, the DPP can easily incite mob sentiment in order to rally public support. But when cross-Strait tensions are relaxed, and cross-Strait relations are warm, the DPP loses that support. It loses that support because its basic posture is diametrically opposed to the larger historical currents.

Ma Ying-jeou eventually prevailed amidst bitter fighting. Ma won not primarily because the voters supported the 1992 Consensus. Ma won because everyone wanted the two sides to increase cooperation and reduce tensions. Ma Ying-jeou used the 1992 Consensus and the one China constitution to lay a foundation for his cross-Strait policy. The Mainland is willing to go along with Ma's position. Ma's reasoning is able to withstand the test of constitutionalism and jurisprudence on Taiwan. As a result it has become the basis for bilateral exchanges and consultations. Therefore, Ma Ying-jeou's cross-Strait policy is practicable in the real world. Following the cross-Strait thaw, Taiwan has been the recipient of real world benefits. In the absence of better alternatives, most people see no reason to shout "Stop."

The DPP's fundamental policy toward the Mainland, is to see the other side as the enemy, one that must be resisted with all one's might, whose influence on Taiwan must be totally excluded, the way it was during the Cold War. But this is no longer the way things are. The world is changing. The tides are shifting. The Mainland is changing. Today's Mainland is not merely undergoing a swift economic rise. It is also becoming an important player on the international stage. Its society is changing. It will inevitably move toward liberalization. Current cross-Strait interactions are closely knit. This is unprecedented in Taiwan's history. Marriage, education, business, tourism, film and television arts have all made cross-Strait relations closer than ever. Some Mainland schools have even used Taiwan pop singer Jay Chou's lyrics as teaching material. Some Mainland students on Taiwan have become Internet celebrities. Cross-Strait relations long ago ceased being the way the DPP perceives them. They will be even more different in the future.

As a result of the DPP's basic posture, it refuses to keep up with these changes. Instead, it chooses to turn a blind eye to them. The DPP leaves people with the impression they would do everything in their power to forestall closer relations with the Mainland, merely to ensure Taiwan's separateness. But in an era of globalization and the Internet, exchanges are the norm. The closed-door policy is obsolete. People go where they want, and do what they wish. Due to cultural and ethnic affinity, economic dependence, and geographical proximity, exchanges between Taiwan and the Mainland are thriving. They will continue to deepen in the future. If the DPP refuses to face even this reality, how can it possibly offer a practical and feasible cross-Strait policy?

Ma Ying-jeou has found a way to communicate with the Mainland. He has found a common language. But the DPP's fundamental posture is too far removed from the Mainland's. It is unable to find common ground. Actually the KMT's cross-Strait rhetoric has undergone repeated revision over the decades. It has gone from denouncing Beijing as a "bandit regime," to silence regarding Beijing's jurisdiction over the Mainland, It has gone from "recovering the Mainland" to peaceful coexistence. Step by step, it has moved closer to reality, until eventually arriving at the 1992 Consensus. If the century-old KMT can make such a huge adjustment, why can't the DPP? Why can't the DPP be bolder and more flexible? Why isn't the DPP better able to respond to reality?

Frankly, the DPP's cross-Strait policy has never worked. Chen Shui-bian ruled for eight years. Cross-Strait relations remained frozen and stagnant. This was in part due to Mainland resistance. But it also shows how cross-Strait policy is the DPP's Achilles Heel. Even during the recent election, Tsai Ing-wen failed to advance any concrete, real world policy. The DPP's problem is that a ruling party must respond to the practical needs of the people. A political party incapable of dealing with cross-Strait issues, cannot meet the needs of the public on Taiwan.

In order to acquire the authority to govern, a political party must offer a workable and pragmatic cross-Strait policy. It must offer people solutions to their problems. It must protect their interests. It must seek out business opportunities. It must respond to future trends, and engage in advance planning. Political parties must confront the reality of people's needs. Only then can they provide them with the answers they seek. If the DPP wants the opportunity to serve the people, it must offer them an honest to god cross-Strait policy.











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