Sino-US “co-management” of the Taiwan Strait in a broad sense began long ago. For anyone who has read the record of the 1971 meeting between then-Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來) and then-US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the three Sino-US joint communiques, there is no better word than “co-management” to describe the two powers’ wrestling over the Taiwan issue.
According to the Chinese translation of US academic Nancy Tucker’s book entitled Strait Talk: United States-Taiwan Relations and the Crisis with China, former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) unexpected “four noes and one without” pledge in his inaugural speech on May 20, 2000, was actually drafted with the help of then-American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Raymond Burghardt.
In his New Year address on Dec. 31 that year, Chen further proposed that cross-strait integration of economies, trade and culture could “be the basis for a new framework of permanent peace and political integration.” What kind of pressure forced him to abolish the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) long-held stance?
When former US president George W. Bush took office, anti-terrorist concerns forced him to improve relations with an increasingly stronger China and he could not meet Taiwan’s need for greater international space. Later, Chen’s defensive referendum and other actions made Bush feel that Taipei had acted recklessly and embarrassed Washington. Therefore, Tucker said the lack of mutual trust was the biggest problem in Taiwan-US relations.
Former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) “special state-to-state” pronouncement in 1999 had also irritated US officials, who thought Lee was irresponsible.
Various opinions have surfaced as the DPP reviews its defeat in last month’s presidential election. I believe focusing on whether the party’s rejection of the so-called “1992 consensus” was the reason for the defeat might lead us astray. The term does not exist in historical documents, but after Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) invented it in 2000, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Bush confirmed it in 2008.
Even worse, during the election, it was manipulated as a symbol of peaceful exchanges as well as trade exchanges. Thus, opposing the consensus was made out to be equal to opposing both peaceful and economic and trade exchanges. How, then, could DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) not have lost points over this issue?
Despite the unfavorable election situation, which included the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) moving election day forward, its use of its party assets for vote-buying purposes and possible misconduct at some voting stations, the DPP performed well in terms of legislative seats and ballots in the legislative elections. One could say that it was the KMT’s playing the threat card that stopped the public from turning their support for Tsai into votes.
The current polarized debate over direction is disturbing. If people want to criticize Tsai’s line of tolerating differences of opinion while insisting on Taiwanese sovereignty, they should first pay attention to international factors. The KMT won the presidential election thanks to Beijing’s and Washington’s support. If the DPP does not want to fight a war on three fronts, they should at least start with trying to win Washington’s trust.