Sun, Jun 17, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Ma subscribes to fiction as history

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is breaking dubious new ground when he uses statistics to explain why the "1992 consensus" is such a good thing.

Ma emphasizes how the four years after the "1992 consensus" were a golden age for Taiwan's foreign affairs, as the number of countries maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan reached 31.

At the same time, because trade with China had commenced, the economic growth rate went up to 8 percent, higher than today. But all this talk could not be farther from the truth.

First, the 8 percent growth rate is a number from the late 1980s. In the period 1992 to 1994, the growth rate had dropped to 7 percent, and from 1995 to 1996 it fell further to 6 percent.

This shows that the "1992 consensus" did not help maintain a high economic growth rate at all.

Second, it is true that the aimless, muddled foreign relations policy of the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration has wreaked havoc on international friendships, and of course this needs to be looked into.

But to say the "1992 consensus" created a favorable environment for foreign relations shows a complete lack of understanding of international politics.

The improvement in Taiwan's foreign relations in those years did not start in 1992, but in 1988.

After the KMT left the UN in 1971, the number of countries maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan dropped from 59 to 22 over a period of 15 years. But by the end of the 1980s, the situation changed in some crucial respects:

First, in the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and the West abandoned the strategy of joining with China against the Soviet Union.

Second, after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the world imposed sanctions on China.

Third, Taiwan's democratization offered a contrast to the Chinese regime.

Fourth, Taiwan accumulated the rewards of 30 years of economic growth, attracting global attention.

And fifth, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who took office in 1988, initiated a pragmatic foreign policy.

The result of these developments was that more countries forged diplomatic relations with Taiwan. By 1992 the number of allies had increased to 30. After 1992, there was no further increase and the number of new allies equaled that which severed ties with Taiwan.

This shows that the "1992 consensus" did not make any difference. The main reason the situation has been getting worse after 2000 is that China became increasingly powerful, which has nothing to do with Taiwan not recognizing the "1992 consensus."

And not only that. From 1993 on, cross-strait negotiations on other issues, such as cross-strait crime, came to a halt. When Lee visited his alma mater Cornell University as a civilian, Beijing was angered for years.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that more and more countries intensified relations with Taiwan in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, prompting China in 1992 and 1993 to file the most objections to countries that had relations with Taiwan -- more than 100 times in a year.

Even if there were a consensus in 1992, it did not bring about anything like a honeymoon period between China and Taiwan.

A consensus means that everyone agrees and thinks and says the same thing. The problem is that the KMT feels the "1992 consensus" meant that each side could have their own interpretation of what any agreement said, so that China could say that it is the People's Republic of China, and Taiwan could say that we are the Republic of China.

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