As Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) prepares to visit the US, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton has given a speech that fully shows Washington’s good faith and trust in Tsai, so half the battle is already won even before she has left Taiwan.
Thornton said that the US will not favor any of the candidates in the presidential election next year and expressed hope that the authorities in Taipei and Beijing will continue their dialogue on the basis of dignity and respect.
She also said that it is inappropriate for the US to either favor or oppose the so-called “1992 consensus” — without actually using the phrase “1992 consensus” — and expressed hope that there would be no unilateral attempts to change the “status quo” by either side of the Taiwan Strait and that the two sides would continue to work to establish a basis for continued cross-strait peace and stability.
[The so-called “1992 consensus” is a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000 that refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides of the strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.]
She added that the US welcomes Tsai’s visit and looks forward to a productive exchange, saying that “regardless of who becomes the next Taiwan president, we hope to continue our close cooperation.”
In contrast, during Taiwan’s presidential election in 2012, after Tsai visited the US, a senior US National Security Council official expressed mistrust of and discontent with Tsai’s cross-strait policy to the Financial Times, questioning whether she was both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-strait relations the region had enjoyed in recent years.
This time, before Tsai has even arrived in the US, it said that it does not take any position on the candidates, looks forward to a productive exchange with Tsai and hopes to continue close cooperation with whomever is elected, all of which shows a high degree of trust and expectancy by US President Barack Obama’s administration toward Tsai.
Even before she visits the US, Tsai’s policy communication with Washington has satisfied the US.
China warned Tsai that without the “1992 consensus,” cross-strait relations will be catastrophic, which was an attempt to coerce Tsai into accepting the “1992 consensus” to maintain peaceful and stable cross-strait relations.
After a telephone call between then-US president George W. Bush and then-Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on March 26, 2008, then-US national security advisor Stephen Hadley in a press briefing implicitly supported the idea that Taiwan and China should restore dialog on the basis of the “1992 consensus.”
However, the US takes an opposite stance this time. Thornton stressed that it is inappropriate for the US to either favor or disfavor the “1992 consensus,” which implies that the US will not team up with China to force Tsai to accept the “1992 consensus.”
Further, Thornton emphasized that “even as we discuss our abiding interest in peaceful and stable cross-strait relations with our friends on Taiwan, we also encourage Beijing to demonstrate flexibility and restraint.”
She added that it is important that both sides of the Taiwan Strait continue to work to establish a basis for continued peace and stability, and that “we encourage authorities in both Beijing and Taipei to continue their constructive dialogue on the basis of dignity and respect.”
In other words, not only does the US not endorse the “1992 consensus,” it also hopes that Beijing will not use threats to force Tsai to accept it.
The US hopes that the two sides will be able maintain peaceful and stable cross-strait relations on the basis of dignity and respect.
Thornton clearly stated that the US has an abiding interest in the preservation of cross-strait stability and there should be no unilateral attempts by either side to change the “status quo,” stressing that this principle applies to both sides.
The US’ stance echoes and even endorses Tsai’s previous remarks, when she said that the DPP’s basic principle and goal on cross-strait policies are to maintain the “status quo” and that she will run for the presidency of the Republic of China.
Before Tsai visits the US, Washington has made it clear that it does not support China’s use of coercion on Tsai; the US even echoes many of Tsai’s cross-strait policies, which shows that there should have been sufficient communication and mutual trust between Tsai and Obama’s administration.
Since the US has so much good faith and trust in Tsai, it is expected that Tsai will present a comprehensive view in her speeches in the US on how to maintain peace and the “status quo” in cross-strait relations.
The nation will be all ears.
Tung Chen-yuan is a distinguished professor in the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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