Not too much should be read into Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi’s (王毅) mention of Taiwan’s Constitution, Soochow University professor and former DPP legislator Julian Kuo (郭正亮) said yesterday.
When asked about the future of cross-strait relations at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) forum last week, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) said that he “hoped and expected” that president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would “accept the provision in Taiwan’s own Constitution that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one, the same China” before taking power on May 20.
While Wang appeared to equate the constitutional provision with Beijing’s “one China” principle, his remarks drew attention because they were reportedly the first time Beijing officials have explicitly mentioned the Constitution instead of referring to “Taiwan’s laws and relevant regulations.”
They also drew notice for mentioning the “political foundation of cross-strait relations” without explicitly referring to the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The “1992 consensus,” a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Beijing that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
Wang’s remarks should not be interpreted over-optimistically, because Beijing’s position has not really shifted, Kuo said
Beijing has always said that the “1992 consensus” is a framework that has validity only between the KMT and Chinese Communist Party, and it accepts that a new frame of reference for cross-strait relations might need to be forged with the DPP, Kuo said, citing a conversation with CSIS analyst Bonnie Glaser.
According to a message passed on by Glaser in 2012, Wang said in closed-door talks that if the DPP refused to acknowledge the “1992 consensus,” China could discuss the possibility of some “new understanding,” Kuo said.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) assertion that Wang’s remarks are an official acknowledgment of the existence of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution is an example of him “hearing only what he wanted to hear” which fails to take into consideration the context of Wang’s statement, Kuo said, noting that Wang made no mention that the constitutions and leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait had equivalent stature.
In reality, Wang Yi’s remarks only added a new “bottom line” to Beijing’s existing position that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China,” and represent an attempt to seize control of the direction of cross-strait relations and pre-emptively absolve itself of responsibility for a possible gridlock, Kuo said.
China is seeking to control how “maintaining the ‘status quo’” should be interpreted and to confine the incoming administration’s ability to maneuver by equating any move away from the “one China constitution” with breaking the “status quo.”
Additional reporting by Abraham Gerber