National Palace Museum (NPM) Director Chou Kung-hsin (周功鑫) has finally completed her tiresome visit to Beijing. The museum management had never expected that in addition to the politically problematic cross-strait relationship, cultural concerns would also run into the “one China” issue.
At a press conference in Shanghai on Wednesday, Chou announced that she had reached a consensus with the Shanghai Museum on nine points, although Shanghai Museum director Chen Xiejun (陳燮君) did not participate in the press conference. The implication was that the two had not reached a full consensus because they ran into a “one China” stalemate.
Taiwanese media were first informed around 9am that the two museums had reached a nine-point consensus and that they would announce it at around 10:30am. But then, reporters were informed that a consensus could not be reached by that time, and by 11am, Chou said that the announcement could not be made until 3pm.
Reporters learned that Shanghai Museum representatives could not accept the first of the nine points, which said “the two parties should undergo substantial cooperation without mentioning name display and legal preconditions.”
Chou read out the content of the first point in a press conference that afternoon, but when Chinese media received a faxed news release from Shanghai Museum, the first point was not included.
At that time, Chou was on her way to visit the Shanghai World Expo Coordination Bureau, so she may not have been aware that the presumed consensus no longer existed.
In all fairness, the “one China” debate between Taiwan and China is not an issue that can be resolved by a cultural emissary of Chou’s rank. This is also the reason why after arriving in Beijing, Taiwan’s NPM officials refused to allow Taiwanese media to cover the story after promising them that they could. This greatly upset Taiwanese reporters, some even scuffling with Chinese police. The real reason behind the hubbub was that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), which ranks higher than Beijing’s Palace Museum and holds more political clout, became involved in the matter.
The main reason behind the impasse was that China refused to accept Taiwan’s suggestion that both sides pass legislation that prohibits the seizure of cultural relics by either side in the event they are exchanged for exhibitions.
China said such legislation was a political issue and that it was in conflict with the “one China” principle and that China would be acknowledging state-to-state relations between Taiwan and China if Beijing accepted the suggestion.