Mon, Jan 31, 2011 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Frank Hsieh explains his ‘constitutional consensus’ proposal

Former premier Frank Hsieh caused a stir with his proposal to use a ‘constitutional consensus’ as the new basis for cross-strait dialogue. In an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporters Huang Tai-lin and Vincent Y. Chao on Tuesday, Hsieh went into greater detail on his idea. This is the second part of the interview

Huang Tai-lin and Vincent Y. Chao

Hsieh: I do believe that in the 21st century, Taiwan’s national identity has already been formed. After all, more than 75 percent of people identify themselves as Taiwanese.

However, it’s important to note that I don’t believe Taiwanese national identity should be used against Chinese nationalism. Instead, as I have said before, we should use our national identity to complete our sovereignty movement and walk toward greater international cooperation.

We also hope that Taiwan can influence China to open up more internationally instead of setting a course for conflict, for us to both bring benefits for humanity. Under these conditions, [groups] from both sides can carry on a normal relationship.

Taiwanese and Chinese have no shared hatred. We have a common history experience, which is, in fact, fighting against the KMT. How many Chinese people have died in order to remove the KMT from power [during the Chinese Civil War]. Many Taiwanese people also lost their lives to the KMT in Taiwan.

So when I say that 75 percent of the people identify themselves as Taiwanese, this isn’t in contradiction to the Constitution. However, it should be noted that if, in the meantime, we still aren’t able to [move the process along], I believe that gradually fewer young people will continue [to identify themselves as Taiwanese].

TT: Given that many people around the country can already accept the Constitution’s ideas on liberties, democracy, etc, don’t you think your “constitutional consensus” is redundant?

Hsieh: Based on what I have learned, there are two main points of contention for my proposal. One is that they misunderstand the overlapping consensus and think that I am applying it to Taiwan’s relationship with China. What I advocate is the “one Constitution, two interpretations” (憲法各表) idea for cross-strait ties, there is no overlapping involved. The overlapping consensus is for Taiwanese society.

Second, critics have said that my “constitutional consensus” is useless, that Beijing won’t accept it. [As I have said], it would instead be the problem if China could accept it. No, we aren’t looking for China to accept it. What we are looking for is something that walks a fine line between what China can and cannot accept.

I’m also not out to please the deep-green sympathizers. All I’m trying to do is to find the greatest consensus that everyone in Taiwan can live by. With this in the future, we can talk with Beijing as one [Taiwan], instead of relying on the KMT to speak for us.

TT: Would you call the criticism a misunderstanding of your intentions [for Taiwanese independence]?

Hsieh: The misunderstanding is that the Constitution refers to “one China” and that Beijing will see this acceptance of the ROC Constitution as acceptance of this principle. We have to put this all in perspective. The “one Constitution, two interpretations” idea will be an improvement over the “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” (一中各表).

We can’t not forge a compromise and rule out finding middle ground, just because we can’t immediately [realize our aims] 100 percent.

This criticism doesn’t really bother me; I had already expected most of it.

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