China’s Taiwan Affairs Office recently announced that it has halted the regular mechanism of cross-strait communication because President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has refused to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.” Tsai’s numerous expressions of goodwill toward China, including a reference to the 1992 talks in her inaugural address on May 20, her willingness to allow Taiwan’s delegation to the World Health Assembly to use the name “Chinese Taipei” and her conciliatory words to China’s leaders on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, have all been snubbed and ignored by Beijing.
However, in an interview with Voice of America, published last week, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt said that former Mainland Affairs Commission chairman Su Chi (蘇起) only started using the term “1992 consensus” in 2000.
Burghardt said that then-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) and then-Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) never used the term. Yet, despite this, China continues to demand that Tsai’s government acknowledge the wholly nonexistent “1992 consensus,” but then halts cross-strait communication when Tsai declines to do so.
China’s leaders will swear black is white to have their way.
Burghardt also said that he believed Tsai had displayed flexibility in dealing with cross-strait relations in her inaugural address. The implication is that Tsai’s China policy has not endangered cross-strait relations.
Instead, it is Beijing that has chosen to suspend dialogue with Taiwan and so Taiwan should not be held responsible. It also demonstrates that the conciliatory gestures that Tsai has made to date are sufficient and there is no need for her administration to make any further sacrifices in order to mollify Beijing.
It goes without saying that this revelation — in addition to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee both recently voting to reaffirm the Taiwan Relations Act and the “six assurances” — on the eve of Tsai’s first-ever foreign relations offensive, is making the situation in the Taiwan Strait unpredictable.
It should be remembered that, following the announcement of the result of January’s presidential and legislative elections, AIT Director Kin Moy said that the US government does not have a view on the “1992 consensus,” nor does it have a definition for the term. At the time, Moy was simply emphasizing the US’ neutral position on the issue.
Who would have though that less than six months later Moy’s superior, Burghardt, would further puncture the “consensus” by saying that Koo and Wang never talked about any “1992 consensus” and that it was Su’s creation.
Furthermore, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), during a recent televised speech to an award ceremony in Hong Kong, indulged in bombastic rhetoric, lauding the “1992 consensus” and his “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” formula. In response, Washington appears to be suggesting that after eight years, it has had enough of this man and his party’s charades. The “consensus” has fulfilled its purpose of keeping the peace on the Taiwan Strait, but we must not allow lies to be turned into truth.
First Moy, then Burghardt: Washington is using careful diplomacy to slowly unravel the “1992 consensus;” this is certainly not something that was thought up by Moy and Burghardt. It does not take a great leap of the imagination to believe that Washington’s decision to unravel the “1992 consensus” is intricately linked to the changing shape of its policies for the South and East China seas and its Asia “pivot” strategy.
After China announced that it had put a stop to cross-strait communication with Taiwan, Japanese netizens immediately congratulated Taiwan, saying that now would be an ideal opportunity to travel to Taiwan. This could indicate the start of a new trend for Taiwan and it is against this backdrop that Tsai engaged in her first foreign relations blitz.
When Tsai passed through immigration at Miami airport in the US, en route to Panama, the airport’s official Twitter page welcomed Tsai as “Taiwan’s President.”
US Senator Marco Rubio, who met with Tsai at her hotel in Miami, also gave Tsai the same title and during her visit to the Panama Canal, Tsai signed a visitor’s book as “President of Taiwan (ROC).”
A number of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators have criticized Tsai for “belittling” the nation’s official title. This is a very odd position to take indeed. In accordance with the Republic of China’s constitutional system of government, 23.5 million Taiwanese voted Tsai in as president of the nation; surely it would be strange not to call Tsai the “President of Taiwan.”
Those who think otherwise should take a trip to Miami and lodge a formal complaint with Rubio.
As for those quacks who still believe that the phrase “one China” means the ROC, perhaps they would care to explain who Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is, to whom Panama also extended an invitation. Do these KMT members mean to say that the Panamanian government should acknowledge the ROC as the legal government of China? Perhaps they wish to emulate Ma’s spiritual victory when he said: “China is the country’s official name and ‘China’ means the ‘Republic of China.’”
In 1971, UN Resolution 2758 overturned the fabrication that had been maintained since 1949 and recognized the People’s Republic of China as the legal representative of China at the UN. Although this resolution did not have an impact on Taiwan’s sovereignty, Beijing subsequently created another fabrication: that Taiwan belongs to China. This dodgy doctrine has spread like a cancer in international political circles; its apogee being the phony “1992 consensus.”
Now, the fabricated “1992 consensus” has been comprehensively rejected by Taiwanese, and Washington has even said that Koo and Wang never made mention of the phrase. This recent pattern of events tells us that change is afoot.
Having caught a sense of this change, the government should adapt its China policy, courageously shrug off the bluff and bluster from Beijing and work closely with its traditional allies to assist in their strategic adjustment. Above all, while fulfilling its responsibility to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait, the government should also strive to normalize the nation’s status on the international stage.
Translated by Edward Jones
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