Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) reiterated at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference early last week that China-Taiwan relations must be based on the foundation of the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The consensus is generally regarded as a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
If such a consensus is undermined, Xi said, “The trust between China and Taiwan will cease to exist and the cross-strait relationship will revert to a state of turbulence.”
He said that the consensus means that both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan belong to China and also berated the Taiwan separatist movement as the biggest roadblock and threat to the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.
Beijing is apprehensive that on the heels of the KMT’s crushing defeat in the nine-in-one elections in November last year, the party could lose the presidential election in January next year, bringing the pro-independence Democratic Progressive party (DPP) back to power.
To brace for the worst, Xi emphatically stated that regardless of the political party in power in Taiwan, it must accept the “1992 consensus” as the defining foundation of cross-strait relations. In other words, Xi is trying to lock Taiwan into the cage of “one China.”
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), the former Strait Exchange Foundation chairman who was in charge of negotiations with China in the 1990s, denied any consensus was reached in 1992. Moreover, Lee publicly blamed Su Chi (蘇起), who headed the Mainland Affairs Council in his administration, of fabricating the term “1992 consensus” in April 2000 and Su conceded that he invented the term.
Likewise, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who headed the council during the DPP administration and was the DPP presidential candidate in 2012, reaffirmed there was no “1992 consensus.” Lee and Tsai have both refused to submit to Beijing’s ploy to confine Taiwan to the “one China” framework.
On the other hand, a few KMT politicians have, for their own reasons, readily swallowed Beijing’s bait.
In April 2005, for instance, then-KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), who had lost the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, jumped on the bandwagon of the “1992 consensus” when he visited Beijing at the invitation of then-Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Lien also endorsed Beijing’s agenda on Taiwan, including Taiwan’s eventual unification with China.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected in 2008, he has subscribed to a new version of the “1992 consensus.” He claims that the essence of the consensus is “one China, separate interpretations,” that the governments in Beijing and Taipei have consented to such rendition and that, to him, China means the Republic of China (ROC).
Ma may be fooling himself, as Beijing has all along maintained that the ROC has ceased to exist and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is China’s only legitimate government and sole representative in the international community. On numerous occasions, Beijing has proclaimed that the “1992 consensus” means one China and repudiated the idea of “separate interpretations.”
During Ma’s tenure, Taiwan has signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and 21 agreements under the “one China” principle to promote cross-strait trade, investment and economic integration. Taiwan’s close association with, and growing dependence on China, has failed to help revive Taiwan’s struggling economy as Ma had expected; instead, Taiwan’s autonomy and sovereign rights have been compromised.