EDITORIAL: Standing up to ‘consensus’ nonsense

Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 8

Beijing has been ramping up its calls for president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus,” with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politicians playing second fiddle by saying that there would be serious consequences for cross-strait relations if it is not upheld.

However, the remarks of Chinese officials show that Beijing is anxious, and Taipei ought not to bow to pressure.

Beijing has also always said that there would be repercussions — including the suspension of exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait — if Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration refuses to recognize the “1992 consensus.”

The consensus refers to an agreement said to have been reached during a meeting between Taiwan and China in 1992 that both sides recognize that Taiwan and China belong to “one China,” but each side has its own interpretation of what “China” is.

However, since Tsai’s election in January, Beijing has been eager for Tsai to recognize the “1992 consensus,” with a variety of officials and academics urging her to do so.

The DPP’s response to Beijing’s repeated calls and threats has always been that Tsai would strive to maintain the cross-strait “status quo” of peace and stability, while adding that Tsai would acknowledge that representatives from both sides attended a meeting in 1992.

China’s calls might be a sign that Tsai’s calm reaction is making Beijing anxious, as it is about to face a government with a different approach to the cross-strait relationship from that of the China-leaning KMT government it has been dealing with for the past eight years.

Beijing is anxious because it knows that Tsai will not be as “obedient” as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九); it is anxious because the DPP’s landslide victory in the presidential and legislative elections show that the direction of the Taiwan policies it has been employing during Ma’s tenure has failed to turn more Taiwanese toward the “motherland”; it is anxious because “progress” in cross-strait relations might help the Chinese Communist Party regime strengthen its authority in a fast-changing China and it is anxious because it is important for China to get Taiwan on side because of the nation’s strategic position as Beijing seeks to gain influence in the international community — especially as it faces challenges from the US and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

China has played down Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi’s (王毅) remark during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that Taiwan’s new leader should abide by the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution, which considers both Taiwan and the mainland part of “one China.” However, the remark showed that China would be willing to make some compromises if Taiwan recognizes “one China” in some way, even if Tsai is unwilling to recognize the “1992 consensus.”

Beijing’s anxiety and its increased pressure on Tsai do not mean she should submit to its wishes, and worries that cross-strait exchanges might be suspended if Tsai does not recognize the “1992 consensus” are unnecessary.

It could be said that Beijing is increasing its pressure on Tsai before she takes office because it does not plan to sever cross-strait exchanges even if she refuses to recognize the “1992 consensus.”

After all, even during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration — which was considered very unfriendly and even hostile toward China — cross-strait exchanges did not cease, and it should not be forgotten that major progress in cross-strait relations, such as direct cross-strait flights, was achieved during that period.