Mon, Sep 05, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Life beyond the 1992 consensus?

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

The “1992 spirit” is indeed one of the few of Chen Shui-bian’s cross-strait strategies worth talking about. However, the question remains whether the strategy is useful.

When he came up with the “1992 spirit,” Beijing still had not accepted the “1992 consensus.” What really pleased Beijing then was Chen Shui-bian’s “four noes,” one of which was “not declaring Taiwanese independence.” However, that did not mean that Beijing liked him, but it would have to listen to what he said. At the time, the three direct links were far from a concrete concept, but surprisingly, initial progress was quick.

Chartered direct flights were initiated in 2003, after Chen Shui-bian had rejected the “1992 consensus” and made his “one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait” dictum. Stranger still, between 2007 and 2008, when his approach to independence became even more radical, negotiations on chartered flights went even smoother. Even the issue of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan was successfully negotiated, which was highly appreciated by Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), who was preparing to take over as chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation.

This strange situation cannot be explained by saying that cross-strait relations become smoother the ruder Taiwan is to Beijing. However, it does show that while the rulers in Beijing ignore human rights domestically, they still basically adhere to the principle of international politics whereby states are rational in their dealings with the international community, including Taiwan.

China’s sovereignty claims on Taiwan are not rational, but even as they sometimes behave boorishly to try to achieve their goals, the checks and balances provided by the international political situation often ensure that Beijing adopts relatively rational means.

China is indeed a real headache of a country, but the rulers in Beijing are not completely irrational. However, many Taiwanese think they are, and that is why they believe war will break out if Taiwan rejects the make-believe “1992 consensus.” This view is built on the same propaganda that radical Taiwan independence advocates use: The assumption that the Chinese have a wicked side that is especially difficult to overcome. That leaves only two stark options: Surrender all the way or resist to the end.

Regardless of whether this view arises from being bullied by Beijing or from thinking frightening the public will make them oppose the DPP or from some other reason, it is unhealthy. If it is used as a basis from which to make policy decisions, this will without a doubt be detrimental to the stable development of cross-strait relations.

Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.

TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON

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