On Oct. 10, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) delivered his final Double Ten National Day speech as the nation’s leader. Looking forward to the presidential and legislative elections in January, which could bring important changes for the first time in eight years, the US and others have critical interests in the implications of Taiwan’s initiatives for security, prosperity and freedom.
While the title of Ma’s speech was “Taiwan’s Future: Sustaining Peace and Prosperity,” he actually spent the most time looking backward to review his administration’s and party’s record over the past seven years, typical of a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) stalwart. He ended with a defense of his legacy, hinged on the divisive [so-called] “1992 consensus” as critical for cross-strait peace, warning that “there will be turmoil in the Taiwan Strait” if a future leader “opposes” it.
Ma did not offer any initiatives, not even for a step toward participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), despite its conclusion by 12 nations earlier this month. As an outgoing president not running for office, Ma could be taking tough steps for Taiwan’s greater inclusion in the global economy.
Ma only alluded to the development, which was undertaken, not by him, but by Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). She attended the presidential “Double Ten” ceremony in Taipei for the first time in the past seven years. By taking this long-awaited step, the DPP gave a sign of support for sustaining the “status quo” under the rubric of the Republic of China (ROC).
The DPP is conveying the message that, if it wins the presidential election, its governance would be different from the eight-year administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), whose cross-strait policies were suspected of inching Taiwan toward de jure independence. Tsai showed up to signal that she is not “Chen version 2.0.”
Nonetheless, Ma used his final Double Ten National Day speech to raise the specter of a crisis without the “1992 consensus.”
Ma revealed his attitude, which contrasts with the more Taiwan-centric public and opposition. Although Ma first discussed the “Taiwan consensus” of a “status quo” of “no unification, no independence and no use of force,” he did not call that the “most important” factor, despite 80 percent of Taiwanese expressing support for it. He reserved as “most important” his second notion, the “1992 consensus” of “one China, respective interpretations,” reached between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which Ma admitted only had the support of 50 percent of Taiwanese.
Tsai responded that the public will decide the direction of the next administration. Many DPP supporters deny the expression and existence of the “1992 consensus.”
In the decades-long debate to discern the mysterious meaning of “one China,” Ma tries to elevate the “1992 consensus” into a catechism of perceived fundamental truths, if not a canon of Sino-centric sacred scripture. Doubting Thomases call it fake, refuting even its title.
First, critics of the “1992 consensus” are correct that there was no formal agreement to resolve the differences over sovereignty between the ROC and People’s Republic of China (PRC). The two sides’ fundamental fight remains. They refuse to recognize the reality of each other’s existence. The impasse remains irreconcilable — with the threat of PRC coercion or force to “unify” Taiwan into the motherland’s clutch — and contrasts with the German model.