Working to build up a Taiwan consensus

By Lin Chia-cheng 林嘉誠  / 

Sun, Oct 02, 2011 - Page 8

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has proposed using a “Taiwan consensus” to replace the fictitious so-called “1992 consensus” as the basis for future relations with China, even raising the issue of legislating such a consensus on her recent trip to Washington, but the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) raised doubts about such a consensus.

However, the KMT’s hackneyed approach does not stand up to scrutiny. For example, it promises to protect the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of China (ROC), yet it acquiesced to what China wanted at a recent WHO meeting, not because to do so was in the ROC’s interest, but because the party hopes to sign a peace agreement with China.

In addition, although the Additional Articles (增修條文) to the ROC Constitution make national unification a precondition, that is diametrically opposed to the current administration’s talk about “no unification.”

The government also says it will not broach the use of military force or seek independence. Whether or not there is war hardly comes down to Taiwan, because we will not be the ones to decide.

Taiwan is an independent, sovereign country and yet, ever since the KMT arrived, it has been consistently anti--independence. There is little room for maneuver between saying “no talk of independence” and being anti-independence.

Tsai has said that the Taiwan consensus is to be a way of reaching common ground from different positions by way of mutual compromise. For her to clarify in detail exactly what shape such a consensus is to take would involve imposing her own preferences and prejudices on what should be an open dialogue. For this reason, she has avoided making any substantive qualifications about what it may or may not entail.

That having been said, and the development of a Taiwan consensus through democratic means notwithstanding, the bare bones of what such a consensus would look like can be seen in the shape of the sixth of the six main points on how to reform Taiwan in the main outline of the party’s 10-year policy outline, A Multilateral Strategy for Stable Peace (多邊穩定的和平戰略).

This states: “In order to ensure Taiwan’s continued existence and security and to make sure our values are respected and that we continue to grow and prosper, national security strategy should be founded on five pillars: Taiwan should insist upon its own values and principles of democracy, liberty, human rights and the environment as the basis of any foreign relations or cooperation; the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should go beyond the old historical framework in search of a strategy that is mutually beneficial and look for ways that the tense situation that has been bequeathed us can be improved upon; Taiwan should establish a balanced framework, globally and regionally, for relations with other nations, a strategy to achieve such a balance, and establish direct links with the global community; any policy that involves Taiwan’s major interests, foreign relations or security policies, including options concerning Taiwan’s future development, must be decided in accordance with democratic principles and procedures, so that we can build a democratic consensus within our society; and Taiwan must strengthen the public’s security awareness and psychological defenses to establish a security defense mechanism equipped to deal with military intimidation and crises.”

These points should serve as a framework for the Taiwan consensus. The details can be filled in by the public coming together as part of a democratic process.

Lin Chia-cheng is a professor and former member of the government’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission.

Translated by Paul Cooper