Tue, Aug 02, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Exposing the ‘one China’ principle

By Tseng Chien-yuan 曾建元

Although nothing earth-shaking has happened in relations across the Taiwan Strait since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was sworn in and the Democratic Progressive Party became the ruling party, there has indeed been a tectonic shift. In order to teach Taiwanese a lesson for the choices they made in the presidential and legislative elections earlier this year, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) used Tsai’s rejection of the so-called “1992 consensus” as a pretext to discontinue all intergovernmental communication channels with the Republic of China (ROC), while also cutting down on cross-strait civil exchanges in travel and education.

As for exchanges at the local level, they are probably only continuing for the few cities and counties still governed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). There is a cold wind blowing from China, and it keeps pushing Taiwanese people’s sentiments further out into the Pacific Ocean.

The PRC felt that Tsai failed to address its idea of the “1992 consensus,” namely that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China,” in her inaugural address and it therefore found her speech unacceptable.

Believing that the political foundation of cross-strait relations — the “1992 consensus” and “one China” — has been demolished, the PRC announced that it is no longer necessary to respect the cross-strait “status quo” and all related deals and arrangements can be overturned.

In 1992, when the governments from both sides began having contacts, both of them, at China’s request, expressed verbally, and in relation to functional issues, that they advocated the “one China” principle, though what “one China” actually meant was open to different interpretations. Taiwan maintained that it had the right to interpret what “one China” meant in its own way, while China refused to elaborate on what “one China” meant in meetings dealing with functional matters.

Although the two sides had different conditions in their interpretations of what “one China” meant, they both also recognized and respected the differences between them. Experience since then shows that seeking common ground and agreeing to differ has been the rule of thumb for maintaining peaceful development in cross-strait relations.

However, what is worth noting is that both sides’ statements in 1992 about conducting cross-strait relations on the basis of “one China” were made at the level of functional matters, as at that time political dialogue and negotiations were not yet part of the cross-strait political agenda.

The shift that elevated the 1992 “one China” interpretations from the functional level to the political level did not occur until April 2005, with the publication of a media release of a meeting between then-general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and then-chairman of the KMT Lien Chan (連戰) in which they announced their “vision for cross-strait peace.”

In their joint statement, the KMT and CCP declared their adherence to the “1992 consensus,” further calling for it to be taken as the political foundation for resuming cross-strait negotiations on an equal footing and going on to negotiate for the signing of a peace accord, as well as for conducting economic exchanges.

Replacing the unilateral statements about “one China” made by both sides in 1992 with the so-called “1992 consensus” was the brilliant idea of former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman Su Chi (蘇起), whose purpose was to use a fictional consensus with ambiguous contents to replace the term “one China,” thereby circumventing the central point of disagreement between the two sides.

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