New American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt might be the only US political figure who has ever expressed his opinion in public about the question of whether the two sides of the Taiwan Strait struck a consensus during their talks in Hong Kong in 1992, usually dubbed the "1992 consensus."
Burghardt, who headed the Taipei office of the AIT, the quasi-official organization that handles Taiwan-US affairs in the absence of diplomatic ties, from 1999 through 2001, once said in a speech delivered at a farewell party hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) that he personally doesn't believe in the so-called "1992 consensus."
The "1992 consensus" was said to spell out that, while China and Taiwan agree there is "one China," they each define the term differently.
In his Aug. 28, 2001 speech at the AmCham farewell party prior to ending his Taipei stint, Burghardt said after their Hong Kong talks, Taiwan and China exchanged faxes detailing their respective stances.
To the best of his understanding, Burghardt said: "[there was] some language [in the faxes] that overlapped and some language that differed." Then Taiwan and China agreed to conduct dialogue based on their statements written in those faxes.
"That's what happened. Nothing more or nothing less," Burghardt said, adding that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) called this the "1992 consensus," which was to some extent "confusing and misleading."
"To me, I'm not sure why you could call that a consensus," Burghardt said.
In the future, Burghardt continued, perhaps both sides will recognize that the most important consensus reached in 1992 was that it is in the interest of each side to engage in dialogue.
Burghardt also offered his recipe for renewed cross-strait negotiations: "If the political will were there on both sides, it doesn't have to be that complicated. Maybe all you have to do is say that an agreement [that talks are mutually beneficial] was reached ... in 1992 and that it remains in effect."
He further warned at the time that if the two sides failed to resume dialogue before Jiang Zemin (
Burghardt, currently director of East-West Seminars at the East-West Center in Honolulu, will continue to hold his Honolulu position while concurrently serving as AIT chairman.
Burghardt has previously served as US ambassador to Vietnam and director of the AIT Taipei Office.