Thu, Sep 08, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Cables outline PRC view on ‘consensus’

WHAT CONSENSUS?Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Wang Yi told the US ambassador in Beijing in 2008 that ‘both sides essentially accept there is only one China’

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

While President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has reiterated that the so-called “1992 consensus” was reached by Taiwan and China in 1992 to the effect that each side recognizes “one China, with each side having its own interpretation,” US cables recently released by WikiLeaks show that Chinese officials and academics clearly have a different understanding on what constitutes the “consensus.”

Both the Ma administration and China have stated that the consensus has been and should remain the foundation of cross-strait relations and dialogue.

In a cable dated Dec. 11, 2007, then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma told visiting American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt that the “one China, different interpretations” rubric of the consensus would be the key to any dialogue with China, adding that the KMT would reassure Beijing that its interpretation of the consensus is “steadfastly opposed to [Taiwan] independence.”

As recently as a press conference on Aug. 28, Ma said that despite the fact that no concrete results were reached during the cross-strait negotiations in 1992, both sides agreed that each side could have its own interpretation of “one China,” adding that while the term “1992 consensus” was indeed coined later, the idea of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” did exist.

However, according to a leaked US cable dated Dec. 24, 2008, Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Wang Yi (王毅) mentioned “different interpretations” when the Chinese official discussed cross-strait relations with then-US ambassador to China Clark Randt.

“Both sides now accept and recognize the 1992 consensus, which means that both sides essentially accept there is only one China,” Wang was quoted as telling Randt, adding that in order “to solve [Taiwan’s] international space problem, the two sides must stick to the one China framework, because the improvement in cross-strait relations thus far has been on the basis of the one China principle.”

The international community accepts the “one China consensus” and UN-affiliated organizations also legally accept one China, therefore on the international stage “the rules are set and [they] cannot be changed,” Wang was quoted by the cable as saying.

Chinese academics expressed similar views in another cable dated March 21, 2008, issued by the US embassy in Beijing.

Zhou Zhihuai (周志懷), vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Taiwan Studies, was quoted in the cable as saying that the consensus is flawed because “there is too much wiggle room for interpretation and because the Taiwan position of ‘each with its own interpretation’ is tantamount to [an] acceptance of two Chinas.”

While both sides want to improve relations, Zhou said, neither side has much room to make concessions.

The cable also quoted Sun Shengliang (孫盛良), director of the same institute’s economics department, as saying the “consensus was basically invented by KMT scholar Su Chi (蘇起).”

The cable showed Randt making a side note that it was the first time his embassy had heard the Chinese acknowledge this point.

In a recent forum held in Taipei, Taiwanese academics highlighted the different views on the “1992 consensus” held by officials in Taipei and Beijing, with Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), a political scientist at Soochow University, saying: “China never talks about the 1992 consensus without mentioning its opposition to Taiwan independence.”

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