Thu, Oct 22, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Reconciling cross-strait contrivance

By Shirley Kan

In the German model of “one Germany, two states” at the time, West Germany and East Germany concluded their Basic Treaty on Dec. 21, 1972, which recognized two German states in a special relationship.

A meeting for initial working-level contact between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) took place in Hong Kong in 1992. Through these quasi-official agencies, the two sides — lacking a relationship — were able to talk by exchanging faxes, and agreed to disagree on the meaning of “one China,” namely, “PRC” for Beijing and “ROC” for Taipei. This understanding was not even a joint text.

According to the SEF, on Nov. 3 a “responsible person” of ARATS said that it was willing to respect and accept the foundation’s proposal that each side “verbally states” its respective principles on “one China.” For years, this expedient rhetorical cover to allow talks without political resolution was simply called “one China, different, or respective, interpretations.”

Second, critics are correct that only later, in 2000, KMT politician Su Chi (蘇起) concocted the term of “consensus,” which the KMT then championed in a semantic crusade. In 2002, the KMT’s think tank published Su’s book entitled The Historical Record of the Consensus of “One China, Different Interpretations.”

Third, critics are correct that any agreement to disagree was reached in 1992 before full political liberalization. The KMT government was not a democratically elected representative to negotiate with the CCP.

Fourth, critics are correct about the PRC’s questionable acceptance of a “consensus.” Beijing officials often cite the “1992 consensus” without explicitly endorsing “one China, different interpretations.” In Beijing’s orthodoxy, the PRC is the only representative of China.

Fifth, critics are correct to dispute Ma’s claim of the US’ acceptance of the “consensus.” On Aug. 28, 2001, then-American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Raymond Burghardt downplayed any “consensus,” pointing out that “the negotiators decided to put aside the intractable political issues concerning sovereignty and the definition of one China in order to make progress on practical issues.”

Moreover, in an interview reported by the Chinese-language United Daily News on Dec. 23, 2010, Ma claimed that the DPP was the only one of four groups — the ROC, the “mainland” and the US being the other three — not to accept the “1992 consensus.” However, the US Department of State told the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) on Dec. 28, [2010], that “questions relating to establishing the basis for dialogue between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China are matters for the two parties to resolve. The US takes no position on the substance of such questions. Our interest is that any resolution of cross-strait issues be peaceful.”

The diametrically opposing views of believers and doubters can be reconciled to sustain stability that is significant for the US and other foreign interests and for Taiwan. The setup for talks was meant to be vague. That expedient exchange of faxes was a way to continue technical talks about pragmatic problems, not a holy covenant. Su rephrased “one China, different interpretations” to offer even more ambiguous jargon. The controversial characters of “one China” were not explicit in the new expression, presenting it as palatable to more people. Just like UN Resolution 2758 in 1971 that installed the PRC at the UN, that argument-avoidance in 1992 did not settle Taiwan’s status.

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