Fri, Sep 02, 2011 - Page 8 News List

A new vision for today’s Taiwan

By Ruan Ming 阮銘

Tsai’s critics are neither realists nor idealists. They are blind to the present reality and devoid of aspirations for the future. They disregard the fresh approach that the policy guidelines embody, and regard the broken down engine of the “1992 consensus” a Goliath who can brush aside Tsai with a mere swipe of the hand. Preposterous.

The then-Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) devised the term “1992 consensus” in 2000. I wrote an article about how there was no consensus in 1992, in which I likened the “one China” principle to a hangman’s noose, after which Su gave me a book and explained the situation, saying that he had invented the concept to get China to back down.

At the time Beijing was not keen on the idea of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” because it believed it suggested the existence of two Chinas, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (ROC), and that there was therefore no consensus. I recall joking that the original 2000 formulation of the “1992 consensus” was “one China with no interpretation whatsoever.”

The “one China, no interpretation whatsoever” version of the “1992 consensus” was officially embraced by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and subsequently used in the 2005 meeting between him and former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰). As such, it would be more appropriate to refer to it as the “2005 consensus.” At the time, Hu had already signed Beijing’s “Anti-Secession” Law despite objections from both Taiwan and the international community, when “Uncle Lien” stepped in to save the day. Hu was very pleased with this outcome, and has insisted on this formulation ever since.

This is all in the past; it’s just mincing words, splitting hairs. The public has heard enough. History moves on. Today’s Taiwan and cross-strait situation are not the same as those of 1992, 2000 or even 2005. Even if there really were such things as a “1992 consensus,” a “2000 consensus” or a “2005 consensus” in those snapshots of time, it is all water under the bridge.

That is not to say that they are irrelevant: We need to explore the past, establish the reality, look to the future and crystallize some form of “Taiwan consensus” to carve out a new place for Taiwan in the world and in terms of our relationship with China.

The 10-year guidelines bypass these fatuous arguments and address the practical issues facing the nation and its citizens and where we want to be in the future. They cater to the needs of the wider electorate, especially the younger generation, who are sick of hearing the same thing from old windbags banging on about ancient history, the centenary of the Republic of China and what have you.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the coming presidential and vice presidential debates centered less on the old tunes and more on novel approaches, new ideas? With the proviso, of course, that they are workable.

Ruan Ming is an academic specializing in cross-strait issues.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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