Sun, Dec 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Su Chi, the ‘consensus,’ and election predictions

By Francis Tsai 蔡信德

Not long ago, media outlets reported that Taipei Forum chairman Su Chi (蘇起) — the former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman who coined the term “1992 consensus” — took part in a cross-strait academic conference in Shanghai to mark the anniversary of Beijing’s 1979 “message to compatriots in Taiwan.”

At the conference, Su bluntly said that he was very pessimistic about relations between Taiwan and China in the coming year, because the international situation is full of uncertainty and the game being played is a more difficult one than he has ever seen.

The importance of the “US factor” in cross-strait relations next year would be unprecedented, Su said, adding that 2020 presidential campaigns would pivot from a confrontation between the unification and independence camps to a wrestling match between the pro-China and pro-US camps.

In terms of the election, Su said that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would undoubtedly be the greatest beneficiary of the increasing importance of the US factor.

His reason for saying so was that, as the incumbent head of state, Tsai would be better placed than anyone to make use of the US factor.

Given these favorable conditions, it would only be logical that she remain the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate.

Su could make the prediction about Tsai’s nomination with confidence because the two academics-turned-politicians used to be colleagues when they were teaching at National Chengchi University and both served as MAC chairperson, Su during the presidency of Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Tsai during the presidency of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

They know each other’s style and how they study.

Su offered a remedy for the cross-strait issue by creating the term “1992 consensus,” which was not in line with fact. Instead, it caused trouble, as Taiwan has been hijacked by China over cross-strait relations ever since.

With US-China relations at a low point, Su’s recent remarks have attracted a lot of attention, as if he was reminding his masters of the situation by issuing a warning to Beijing.

Su’s statement differs from the generalities of other commentators. He holds a doctoral degree in political science from the prestigious Columbia University and is highly versed in international relations.

Due to his concerns about Tsai being re-elected, he pointed out the confrontation between the pro-China and the pro-US camps. Over the past two years, Taiwan-US relations have gradually improved, and the interactions between Tsai and Washington show that the development of the relationship appears to be heading in a positive direction.

Faced with China’s carrot-and-stick policy, the Tsai administration has never changed its stance, thus putting Washington at ease.

From this perspective, if Washington wants a “Taiwan card” to play in the next presidential election, it might not find a bigger political star in the DPP than Tsai.

As for how the situation is likely to develop, that can be assessed by looking at the seriousness of the US-China trade dispute, just as the strategic importance of Taiwan is becoming self-evident following the US’ return to Asia.

Francis Tsai is a former secretary to the president of Kaohsiung Medical University.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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