The word “consensus” refers to “recognition and agreement.” If the Taiwanese and Chinese governments had reached a so-called “1992 consensus,” this would mean that the two governments agreed on the content of a particular agreement. Evidence would suggest otherwise.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) says the “1992 consensus” means “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.” According to this logic, Taipei and Beijing both recognize and agree on the “one China” principle, but it is up to the two governments how they interpret the meaning of “one China.” Judging from the actions taken by the Chinese government around the world, this “1992 consensus” is a complete lie.
When has the Taiwanese government ever been able to claim at international organizations or gatherings that “one China” means the Republic of China (ROC)? When has Ma ever claimed at an international setting that “one China” means the ROC? The authorities in Beijing have never agreed to Taiwan promoting the sovereignty of the ROC internationally and the Ma government has never talked about the nation’s sovereignty overseas using the national title “Republic of China.”
Just as everybody was expressing their doubts about the empty nature of Ma’s “1992 consensus” and blaming him for forcing the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) ideas about cross-strait policies onto the public, Ma said that because he was voted in as president, he had been authorized by the people to put the “1992 consensus” into practice.
However, winning an election is not the same thing as being given a blank check that can be cashed in in whichever way one wants.
Cross-strait policies involve matters of sovereignty. They are not a trivial issue; and such policies must be scrutinized and explicitly approved by the public before they are put into practice. Ma’s monopoly on power, the way he does whatever he thinks is right without showing any regard for the concerns and objections of the majority of the public, and the way he divides the public and creates social tension is putting Taiwan in a very dangerous position.
To bring Taiwanese society closer together, the nation needs to reach a new consensus on how to handle cross-strait issues. Cross-strait issues are complicated and difficult to deal with and a public consensus is necessary before any consensus can be discussed with Beijing.
The nation belongs to all its people, not just Ma and the KMT. A democratic society does not need an enlightened leader, but what it does need is a leader who respects public opinion, follows the democratic process and solves important national affairs based on a public consensus.
During her visit to the US, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that her proposed “Taiwan consensus” would be arrived at by a democratic process formed out of policy. Tsai said that if voters choose unification based on this democratic process, the DPP would respect their choice even if that is not an idea that fits in with the party’s own beliefs.
Ma should publicly declare that his government will follow the choices of the Taiwanese, even if the public chooses independence.
Allen Houng is a professor at National Yang-Ming University’s Institute of Philosophy of Mind and Cognition.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON