Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) disagree over the so-called “1992 consensus.” To be fair, the central government holds the right to make decisions for cross-strait affairs, but the gains and losses in cross-strait affairs are related to the public as a whole — not to mention that the new mayor represents the most recent expression of public opinion.
Ko’s role certainly gives him the freedom to express his views on government policy. As head of the authority in charge, Wang should not threaten that Ko’s rejection of the consensus jeopardizes exchanges between Taipei and Shanghai, nor should he have said that the mayor should not make rash comments. These remarks are very serious mistakes.
This incident reveals the overall picture: Since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) suffered major defeats in the nine-in-one elections on Nov. 29, observers from all sides have been closely watching post-election effects, seeking possible political developments.
The dispute between the central government and the capital city is a sign: Wang’s quick appearance to urge that political order be maintained shows that authorities are experiencing a sense of crisis for fear of losing power following difficulties in policy implementation in the late years of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) presidency.
In the next 18 months or so, the Ma administration is likely to lose its power to dominate policy, unless there is sufficient domestic consensus behind the policy. This is something that anyone involved in politics must be well aware of.
What is the “1992 consensus?” To sum up, it is said to be a consensus between the KMT and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) within the Sino-US framework; it consists of “one China” and nothing else. The consensus was not discussed and recognized by Taiwanese in advance, and it was not endorsed by a procedure of public confirmation afterward.
Since Ma has been successfully elected president twice, he has been able to enact the consensus between the governments on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, but due to the slim support base behind the consensus, it could easily be withdrawn after Ma leaves his post — although China and the US will continue to influence Taiwan’s next presidential election through various means.
In the face of the constraint of the international structure and the damage to Taiwan’s domestic affairs over the past more than six years, this highlights that Taiwanese must choose their national leader with caution.
From this aspect, a new political situation has appeared, as new mayors and commissioners nationwide took office on Thursday last week. In terms of the issues involving the distribution of power and responsibility — as well as fiscal issues between the central and local governments — cities and counties not led by KMT members must fight the central government for their own interests, to solve the long-term problem of the centralization of power and money, while striving for balanced rule among eastern, southern, western and northern Taiwan.
They must also actively express local residents’ opinions on national issues. This is why, when Ko said that Taiwan would do better to discuss values with China rather than a consensus, he did not cross the line, but instead set an example as the mayor of the capital, and it is precisely this that was the true meaning of Taiwan’s “midterm elections.”
In order to understand Taiwan’s future direction, China sent Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) President Chen Deming (陳德銘) to Taiwan to read up on the issue, and foreign ambassadors in Taiwan have already sent information that they collected here to their governments. This shows Taiwan’s strategic role as a “global island.”
The international community is mostly focusing attention on predicting the development of cross-strait relations. This can be divided into two parts. First, there is the question of whether China will implement new political or economic measures in its cross-strait exchanges during the rest of Ma’s presidency. Second is the issue of whether Taiwan’s major political parties will take any new action in terms of their China policies. Surely these are two issues deserving of attention from Taiwanese.
Any issues involving sensitive cross-strait relations are crucial to the survival and welfare of Taiwan and its people. These issues must therefore not be decided by politicians behind closed doors; they must be discussed publicly and transparently by Taiwanese.
However, judging from Wang’s statement that Ko — as a local government leader — is in no position to comment on cross-strait policies, it seems that those in power have not learned their lesson from the election defeats. The remainder of Ma’s presidency is limited. Will he continue his black-box operations and act more arbitrarily as time pressure increases? Is there a risk of a drastic increase of his proposing irrational policies to enforce his will? If so, Taiwanese need to understand the sharpness of foreign nations’ observations.
The logic that Ko’s rejection of the “1992 consensus” will lead to the suspension of exchanges between Taipei and Shanghai implies a strong bandwagon mentality and unilateral thinking. Even before China had said anything, the Ma administration hurried to set the tone. It must not be forgotten that from now on, the KMT holds just six cities and counties, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds 13 and independent politicians control three of the remaining 16 cities and counties. Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of the public believe that another power transfer is likely to occur following the 2016 presidential election.
From a pragmatic perspective of political strength, an alliance of non-KMT local governments will be able to decide how Taiwan and China should interact. Thus, China must engage in dialogue with the local government alliance in order to understand Taiwanese public opinion.
If Beijing still attempts to handle Taiwan affairs unilaterally, according to the current KMT-CCP line, Chen’s fears of a “Moonflower (月亮花) movement” could rise someday, and that would be a serious blow to China.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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