Tue, Oct 28, 2008 - Page 8 News List

1992: The consensus that never happened

By Huang Kun-huei 黃昆輝

At the 1992 meeting between representatives of Taiwan and China in Hong Kong, China suggested starting the meeting with a discussion on how to interpret “one China.” The Chinese side first raised its own five points of interpretation and asked Taiwan to respond, treating it as a condition for negotiations. The Taiwanese side voiced its disagreement and proposed its own eight points of interpretation. Since Beijing did not agree to these either, the two sides came to a deadlock.

Soon after, China tried another ruse, requesting in a letter that Taiwan to hold a press conference and accept by spoken agreement the idea of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation,” thus giving the false impression that a consensus had been reached. In the letter, China even specified what Taiwan’s stance should be, attempting through the exchange of correspondence to influence the statement. Taiwan made no response at all, refusing to recognize a mutual consensus in either oral or written form, and so the dialogue petered out with no conclusion.

Taiwan’s refusal to accept the principle of “one China, with different interpretations” was widely reported and criticized in the Chinese media.

Nevertheless, the following year (1993) the two sides held a high-level meeting between Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and Wang Daohan (汪道涵), then chairmen of Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) respectively.

After he was elected earlier this year, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that he had accepted the so-called “1992 consensus” because Beijing would not negotiate if Taipei did not accept it. The facts, however, do not bear this out. The truth of the matter is the 1993 Koo-Wang meeting was arranged and scheduled by the secret envoys of the leaders of the two sides in June 1992 and it went ahead regardless of the results of the 1992 cross-strait meeting in Hong Kong.

In April 2000, eight years after the Hong Kong meeting and coinciding with the transfer of political power in Taiwan from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), then Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) invented the term “1992 consensus,” supposedly spurred by his worry about developments across the Taiwan Strait, to create at least a vague concept that could serve as a basis for future negotiations. Actually, the purpose was to trap the new DPP government within the framework of a “1992 one China consensus.”

With the DPP at the helm, Beijing adopted the same strategy, claiming for itself the right of interpretation and demanding that the so-called “1992 consensus” be the basis for cross-strait talks. Unfortunately, the inexperienced DPP government was not alert to the “1992 one China consensus” trap, allowing Beijing to repeatedly quote the “consensus” in its propaganda. With the cooperation of the KMT in Taiwan, the Chinese side hoped to form a false impression both at home and abroad of a one China consensus reached at the Hong Kong meeting.

ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) is set to visit Taiwan for cross-strait talks next month. The Ma administration will inevitably take the “1992 consensus” as the basis for the upcoming SEF-ARATS talks. We need to remind Ma and his government that if they continue to overemphasize the idea of “one China,” the result may be that a false impression of “one People’s Republic of China” takes shape in the international community. This would eliminate the existence of the Republic of China. If this happens, Ma will have to bear full historical responsibility.

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