The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have been defending their respective “1992 consensus” and “Taiwan consensus” in the media. Listening to their arguments over which is better and the invective they hurl at their opponents, both sides seem to have lost any patience for rational dialogue. To remind the two parties that they should promote national interests, we propose the following views:
First, the KMT’s so-called “1992 consensus” is an international consensus, while the DPP’s “Taiwan consensus” is a domestic consensus, and as such, they cannot be compared directly. The former is an international (or cross-strait) consensus reached by the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party. A clear cross-strait consensus had not taken shape during the DPP’s eight-year rule. The “Taiwan consensus” would be a domestic consensus aimed at including voters, the legislature, the executive branch, political parties and vested-interest groups. Since one is international and the other domestic, the level and participants are different. Hence, they cannot be compared to each other.
Second, whether international or domestic, consensuses evolve with time and changing conditions. In particular, a cross-strait consensus will change as the strengths of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait rise and fall or participants change.
Take the KMT, for example. Its interpretations of the “1992 consensus” back in 1992 and after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to power in 2008 have been slightly ambiguous and different. Meanwhile, the DPP might be unable to reach a cross-strait consensus at the moment, but that does not mean it could not reach a consensus in the future. As for domestic consensuses, they normally vary according to whether the ruling party enjoys an absolute legislative majority. Therefore, a “Taiwan consensus” would change depending on the results of presidential and legislative elections.
Third, regardless of whether we’re talking about an international or a domestic consensus, there should never be only one consensus. There should be several consensuses based on the different topics at hand. For example, in terms of domestic consensuses, in addition to a democratic consensus, there are consensuses regarding national defense, environmental protection, health insurance and social welfare.
As for a cross-strait consensus, in addition to the political issue, there are also consensuses on trade, communications, finance, healthcare and many other aspects. The advantage of issue-oriented, multilayered consensuses is that a lack of agreement on one of the aspects would not affect the formation of agreement on another.
Fourth, national interests exist on the common ground shared by international and domestic consensuses. Therefore, taking an international consensus into consideration while ignoring a domestic consensus falls short of domestic expectations and might damage the national interest. On the contrary, putting too much focus on a domestic consensus while ignoring an international consensus might hurt a country’s chances of boosting the overall national interest because of excessively high domestic expectations.
The KMT and the DPP need to realize that, in the face of China’s growing strength, balancing the complementary international and domestic consensuses to maximize the national interest would be the best tactic for incumbent and future leaders.