Building a “consensus of the Taiwanese” is crucial for Taiwan to engage China with confidence, but Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “Taiwan consensus” is questionable for its “emptiness,” academics said yesterday.
“A consensus among Taiwanese is important so that Taiwan can negotiate with China with a ‘shared’ position. However, that would be a difficult goal given that national identity has been Taiwan’s ‘Achilles’ heel,’” Chao Chun-shan (趙春山), a political scientist at Tamkang University, told a seminar organized by the Taiwan Competitiveness Forum.
The seminar aimed to discuss the possibility of a “consensus of the Taiwanese,” which would be a combination of the so-called “1992 consensus” and the “Taiwan consensus,” the central theme of a recent war of words between the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Tsai, the DPP’s presidential candidate, has tried to replace the “1992 consensus” with the “Taiwan consensus,” which Chao described as “an empty initiative that no one understands,” adding that she has so far failed to convince people the DPP can come up with a better solution, he said.
Beijing will not accept Tsai’s initiative, which emphasizes a democratic process involving all parties within Taiwanese society, because her China policy has always been somewhere between “a special state-to-state relationship,” a phrase coined by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), and former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) “one country on each side,” said Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), a professor at National Taiwan University who advocates eventual unification based on a “one China, three constitutions” initiative.
Hwang Kwang-kuo (黃光國), a professor at the same school and a unification supporter, said while internal divisions did not serve Taiwan’s national interest, the January presidential election was bound to be “a duel between two consensuses.”
The “1992 consensus” that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been espousing would provide Taiwan with flexibility for future engagement, Hwang said.
He said the DPP would need to review its China policy if it lost the election.
There could be some adjustment for the KMT to make as well even if Ma is re-elected, said Chang Wu-yueh (張五岳) of Tamkang University.
Ma is unlikely to receive the same strong mandate as he did in 2008 and the KMT is expected to lose some seats in the legislature, which means the ruling party would not be able to dominate cross-strait engagement and would have to make concessions, he said.
“However, it is an open secret that there has been no dialogue between the two major political parties at all during the past three years,” Chang said.
The discussion of the “1992 consensus” is not meaningful as the true important matter was the “2008 consensus” reached by Ma and China after his landslide victory, Taiwan Thinktank consultant Chang Kuo-cheng (張國城) said.
The real question for the DPP is whether it accepts the “2008 consensus,” which represents the position of “anti-Taiwan independence and de facto one China,” he said.
Regardless of how difficult it would be, political parties in Taiwan should keep looking for common ideas to build a consensus, said Thomas Peng (彭錦鵬), a National Taiwan University political scientist.
“In my opinion, the common values could include the Republic of China [ROC], the ROC Constitution, a ‘Taiwan first’ mentality and ‘one China with different interpretations,’” Peng said.
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