The problem with Ma’s ‘one China’ concession

By Lin Cheng-yi 林正義  / 

Wed, Jul 03, 2013 - Page 8

Back in 2000, when Taiwan experienced its first change of government, former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman Su Chi (蘇起) realized that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would not accept the “one China with different interpretations” idea or Beijing’s “one China” principle.

As a result, he came up with the so-called “1992 consensus,” which diluted and blurred the lines of what “one China” means.

It refers to a tacit understanding supposedly reached between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “one China” means.

The DPP has never accepted the “1992 consensus,” and the party is even more against the “one China” framework proposed by former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) during his recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing.

By replacing the so-called “1992 consensus” with the “one China” framework, the KMT implies that it will abandon the idea of the “1992 consensus” because they believe that it does not go far enough and that an even stronger political stance such as the “one China” framework is required to satisfy Beijing’s political demands.

The KMT has tried to say that it has not discarded the “1992 consensus,” while also saying that the terms “1992 consensus” and “one China” framework can be used interchangeably.

However, Wu’s proposal of a “one China” framework in Beijing implies a fundamental change on behalf of the KMT, which, since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was re-elected in 2008, has said that it would only use the “1992 consensus” as a basis for cross-strait relations.

Before the proposal of the “one China” framework, the “1992 consensus” allowed Ma to reach 18 functional agreements with former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). There is absolutely no reason to believe that Ma would be unable to come up with other functional agreements with Xi if he insisted on continuing to use the “1992 consensus.”

Ma chose to give up on the “1992 consensus” being used as a basis for talks with China and instead made an even bigger political concession with the “one China” framework, which seriously restricts his flexibility. The “one China” framework is even closer to Beijing’s policy than either “one China with different interpretations” or the “1992 consensus,” while also being further away from mainstream political opinion in Taiwan. It will damage Taiwan’s long-term national interest.

The proposal of the “one China” framework has made Xi trust Ma even more, but it has increased the lack of trust between the KMT and the DPP. It also means that Taiwan’s two biggest political parties will have a harder time finding common ground when it comes to cross-strait policy and cooperation between the KMT and the CCP against the DPP will become even stronger.

Ma’s lack of strength when it comes to the “1992 consensus” shows that he is incapable of resisting political pressure from Beijing. Ma should know that Beijing wants to use a clearly defined “one China” to “frame” Taiwan the way it wants.

When Wu accepted the “one China” framework on Ma’s behalf, political differences within Taiwan were made even harder to reconcile than the differences that resulted from the use of the “1992 consensus.”

Lin Cheng-yi is a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of European and American Studies.

Translated by Drew Cameron