In his July 20 response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) telegram congratulating him on his re-election as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that “in 1992, the two sides reached a consensus that each side would verbally express their adherence to the one China principle.”
This is an astonishing statement.
First, the 1992 talks in Hong Kong did not establish any consensus. The truth is that the talks did not end amicably. After the talks, on Nov. 6, the Chinese-language Central Daily News published an interview with Ma, the then-deputy chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council. Ma said that “the talks in Hong Kong fell short of success at the last moment … the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits [ARATS] ignored the Straits Exchange Foundation’s requests for continued talks and went straight back to China … a lack of sincerity.”
Second, the reason the talks ended on bad terms was that the two parties were unable to reach a consensus on the “one China” principle. Ma said that “there is no agreement between the two sides regarding the interpretation of one China.”
Today, Ma is recanting what he said when he was deputy chairman of the council. That is very dishonest.
The “interpretation problem” that Ma talked about at the time was as follows:
Between November 1991 and October 1992, the foundation and ARATS held three consultations in Beijing and Hong Kong regarding issues such as the procedures for jointly combating maritime crime. Beijing insisted that the premise for the talks should be that both sides adhere to the “one China” principle, and that it be included in all documents related to the negotiation process. All three consultations ended on bad terms because Taiwan did not agree to this condition.
In August 1992, the National Unification Council approved a policy document addressing the meaning of “one China.” The document said that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait adhere to the ‘one China’ principle, but they define it differently. The communist authorities hold that ‘one China’ means the ‘People’s Republic of China.’ While it is true that Taiwan is part of China, so is the Chinese mainland.”
During the talks in Hong Kong in October 1992, the foundation submitted some suggestions in accordance with the Guidelines for National Unification. The main spirit of these suggestions was that during the process in which the two sides of the Strait were working hard together to bring about national unification, both sides would adhere to the “one China” principle, but their understanding of what that “one China” entailed would differ.
Beijing did not agree. After talks broke down, Beijing suddenly announced through the New China news agency that ARATS would accept the foundation’s suggestion that the two sides state their interpretations of “one China” verbally and that it would be willing to hold talks on the concrete meaning.
An angry Ma chastised China, saying that there clearly was no consensus and adding that “when China repeatedly tells observers that the two sides have reached a consensus, it is saying one thing and doing another.”
In 2001, Ma insisted that no consensus existed between the two sides, and on June 20, 2001, he said that “the KMT accepts that there is ‘one China’ with each side having its own interpretation, but as far as China is concerned, there is only ‘one China’ and no different interpretations.”
Who would have thought that he would one day completely abandon the view that there are different interpretations of what “one China” means? That is nothing if not a complete surrender.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Perry Svensson