On Feb. 14, the council and China’s TAO each issued its own account to the international community. In terms of their structure, these accounts can be divided into two parts: the declaration of their respective stances, followed by an acknowledgment of points of consensus. China played the national card, saying that it prioritized the interests of the Chinese people as a whole, based on the idea that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait all belong to one family and made clear its opposition to Taiwanese independence as well as insisting on the so-called “1992 consensus.”
There was no clear national stance in the account given in Taiwan, merely a sentence concerning a political stance: that the “1992 consensus” was crucial and core to systematic talks and to mutual interaction between the two sides of the Strait. This, strictly speaking, is a stance with which Beijing is in agreement. The council did not even elaborate on exactly what the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) means by the “1992 consensus.”
Furthermore, in this official forum, Wang not only behaved himself by not mentioning “the Republic of China” (ROC) or terms such as freedom, democracy, rule of law or president, as he had been instructed to do, he also openly paid lip service to China’s declaration that cross-strait relations are “not state-to-state relations,” single-handedly closing off an option that should really have been for 23 million Taiwanese to decide.
This, in itself, ran counter to Ma’s campaign promises and was made without the consent of either the public or their elected representatives in the legislature. Wang admitted that the speech he had prepared for Nanjing University had been vetted by his counterpart prior to his delivery.
In terms of the respective acknowledgment of the consensus made during the meeting, the TAO announced a five-point consensus, while the MAC spoke only of a three-point consensus. Apparently, full agreement was not quite achieved on two of the points: those concerning regional economic integration and having journalists permanently stationed in the respective countries.
Notably, Wang brought up the hope that China would support Taiwan’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The council suggested attempting to do both in parallel, reasoning that this would promote Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) followup talks on trade in services and in goods, and a dispute settlement mechanism. The TAO, meanwhile, declared that there had been a bilateral agreement to push ahead with the ECFA followup talks, and only then to turn to discussions on how to address the issue of regional economic integration.
There appear to be mixed messages on this, the “facts” depending on which side you listened to. However, things did become clearer, when Ma, in his role as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, instructed his party legislators to pass the service trade pact within the next three months. Now we know which side was giving the more reliable version.
The public is only being fed a partial, incomplete account of what went on in the Wang-Zhang talks, demonstration — if any were needed — that the devil, indeed, lurks in the details. Observers looking in on the situation from afar have no way of discerning these subtleties, and this affords the powers-that-be a great deal of room in which to maneuver. Taiwanese, however, are in the thick of it, and so have a better handle on the truth.