Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday brushed off an editorial in a state-run Chinese newspaper threatening to terminate the annual Taipei-Shanghai forum.
“The Global Times does not represent anything, so why would I pay attention?” Ko said, adding that he was “clear” that the newspaper’s editorial did not reflect the stance of the Chinese government.
He expressed confidence that the forum would continue, adding that as a major world power, China should be less thin-skinned in addressing relations with Taiwan.
The Global Times, published by the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, ran an editorial on Monday condemning remarks that Ko made during an interview with the US journal Foreign Policy last week about a “two countries, one system” formula to guide cross-strait relations.
The editorial said that the Chinese government should send a signal to Taipei that there would be repercussions if Ko broke with China’s “bottom line” by refusing to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus.”
Ko’s predecessor had recognized the “1992 consensus” and if the new mayor were to ignore this political bottom line, it would rob the Taipei-Shanghai Forum of the “political foundation” for continuance, the editorial said, adding that Chinese support for Taipei’s hosting of the 2017 Universiade should be decided based upon on Ko’s performance.
Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong (楊雄) has previously said that any continuation or expansion off the forum would have to be based on the “1992 consensus.”
Ko on Monday night refused to express support for the “1992 consensus,” stating instead that he was considering proposing a “2015 consensus,” to be implemented under the idea that both sides should know, understand, respect and cooperate with each other.
“Cross-strait relations should build on their existing foundation to move forward, and should not stay stuck in past labels,” Ko said. “We should continue to move forward on the existing foundation, rather than going back 23 years to hold discussions.”
There is a huge cultural gap between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, which will only lead to greater vexation if it is not closed, he said.
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Su Chi (蘇起) admitted on Feb. 21, 2006, that he had made up the term “1992 consensus” in 2000 — when he was chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council — before then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) stepped down and handed over power to his successor, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party.
Chang Wu-yueh (張五岳), director of Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of China Studies, said that Beijing was only testing the waters when it criticized Ko through the Global Times.
From China’s perspective, Ko’s remarks were a negative factor when considering whether the forum should continue, Chang said, adding that he did not believe Beijing would make a rash decision.
Ko only took office at the end of December last year and enjoys strong public support, so if Beijing were to get tough on him now, it would go against the will of Taiwanese, Chang said.
Holding the forum is not a pressing issue, the academic said.
However, a Shanghai-based academic said the likelihood that the forum would continue was low because China could not accept exchanges between “cities of two countries.”
Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies deputy director Ni Yongjie (倪永傑) said Ko’s previous remarks that he did not know about the “1992 consensus” were dishonest.
Ni said that he thinks Ko sees the concept as “two countries,” similar to the idea of special “state-to-state” relations formulated by Lee and backed by Chen.
Ko’s statement on “two countries, one system” would have a negative impact on cross-strait relations and the Democratic Progressive Party, Ni said.
The first Taipei-Shanghai forum was held in 2010.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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