There have been rumors that the twin-city forum between Taipei and Shanghai might be suspended, as Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) refuses to stand behind the so-called “1992 consensus,” which is regarded by the Chinese side as the basis for the forum.
Ko insisted that he would not accept the “1992 consensus” — a term former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000, referring to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides of the Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
Unsurprisingly, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) refused to recognize the existence of a “consensus” during his eight years as president. However, since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008, his government has regarded the “1992 consensus” as the single most important basis of cross-strait exchanges, attributing the peaceful and stable development of ties between Taiwan and China to it, even though, when he was serving as MAC vice chairman in 1992, Ma openly said that the two sides did not reach any consensus, especially noting that there was no agreement between Taiwan and China on the issue of “one China” at all.
Since before Ko was elected, he has denied the “1992 consensus,” leading Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong (楊雄) to call for continuous exchanges between the two cities based on the “1992 consensus.” In addition, when Ko suggested expanding the twin-city forum to involve more cities, the Shanghai Taiwan Affairs Office responded that it needed to further communicate with Taipei, leading to speculation that the annual forum, first founded in 2007, might be suspended if Ko refused to recognize the “1992 consensus.”
If the twin-city forum is to be halted because of this, so be it.
Of course it is a good thing to have a platform to enhance exchanges between the two cities, but if it has to be done under the condition that the capital give up recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign nation — and turn it into a forum between two domestic cities — then it is not worth it.
Some people might say it is practical to put political issues aside, as it is important to have exchanges for the good of both sides. Yes, that is true, but is the twin-city forum so crucial for actual exchanges between the two sides? Perhaps not — it is probably more symbolic than anything else, unable to produce real results.
Former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) pointed to direct flights between Taipei and Shanghai as an important example of what can be achieved at the forum — but the truth is, there would have been direct flights between the two cities sooner or later without it. In fact, every major issue between the two cities has to go through higher authorities anyway and smaller issues, such as cultural exchanges, could be — and often are — achieved through the private sector.
Thus, the twin-city forum is more symbolic than truly effective, and it is not worth sacrificing elements of national sovereignty over it.