Wed, Jun 28, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Is the ‘1992 consensus’ a fantasy?

By Liou Je-wei 劉哲瑋

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) refusal to accept the so-called “1992 consensus” has drawn fire from many quarters as being the root of a variety of the nation’s problems.

Such issues include the loss of diplomatic ties with Panama and Sao Tome and Principe, the withdrawal of the Fiji Trade and Tourism Representative Office from Taiwan and Nigeria’s demand that Taiwan relocate its representative office from Abuja, as well as calls from five other countries that the names of Taiwan's representative offices be changed.

However, does such a “consensus” really exist?

The National Unification Council’s (國統會) eighth general meeting was hosted by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on Aug. 1, 1992. The resolution on the meaning of “one China” passed at the meeting states that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait insist that there is only ‘one China.’ However, the two sides have different opinions as to the meaning of ‘one China.’”

Later, between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30 of the same year, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) held a second round of talks on document verification and registered mail in then-UK administered Hong Kong. However, the SEF and ARATS actually failed to reach a conclusion on that, due to their own insistence on the “one China” issue.

On Nov. 6 of that year, then-Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) deputy minister Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) wrote in the Central Daily News, a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-run newspaper, about the failure of the cross-strait talks.

“Since the ARATS sent its representatives to Hong Kong for the talks, they should have departed from the territory after obtaining a concrete result on the issue. However, the ARATS representatives simply returned to China, despite the SEF’s request to continue the talks... The ARATS clearly knew that the two parties had no common ground on the interpretation of the ‘one China’ issue, but it repeatedly claimed that they had reached a consensus. As the ARATS’ words and actions contradicted each other, it missed a great opportunity to reach an agreement,” he wrote.

As Ma put it at the time, the ARATS was obviously aware that there was no common ground on the “one China” issue, but it repeatedly claimed to the outside world that a “consensus” had been reached.

Why has Ma now changed his mind to insist on the existence of a “consensus.”

As for the KMT’s oft-cited “one China, different interpretations,” this was rejected by Beijing long ago.

On Jan. 26, 1998, then-ARATS secretary-general Tang Shubei (唐樹備) said that such a claim by Taiwan did not correspond with reality.

The SEF and ARATS only needed to admit that the two sides belong to “one China” and did not need to discuss the political meaning of it, he said.

Tang’s remarks were posted on the ARATS’ Web site, and there they remain to this day.

Tsai has pledged to promote cross-strait relations based on existing realities as well as political foundations.

As she said in her inaugural address: “By existing political foundations, I refer to a number of key elements. The first element is the fact of the 1992 talks between the two institutions representing each side across the Strait [SEF and ARATS], when there was joint acknowledgement of setting aside differences to seek common ground. This is a historical fact. The second element is the existing ROC [Republic of China] constitutional order. The third element pertains to the outcomes of over 20 years of negotiations and interactions across the Strait. And the fourth relates to the democratic principle and prevalent will of the people of Taiwan.”

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