Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (
The agreement between Lien and Hu takes the so-called "1992 consensus" and rejection of Taiwanese independence as its foundation, which is completely in line with the "one China" and anti-independence position the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council outlined in the May 17 statement. The tasks outlined by the Lien-Hu communique are: to establish a mechanism for communication between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the resumption of cross-strait negotiations to achieve peace, promoting cross-strait economic exchanges and allowing Taiwan more space on the international stage. All of these items were included in the Taiwan Affairs Office's policy statement, which actually showed more goodwill toward Taiwan.
The cross-strait problem is a conflict between sovereignties, and at its heart is the principle of "one China." The current talks have sought to replace "one China" with the "1992 consensus" as a means to open up cross-strait interaction and build a brighter future. If the conflict over sovereignty can be put on one side to allow for interaction and negotiation, there is no reason for Taiwan to object to this. But negotiations will necessarily be restricted to the economy and other functional applications, and at this time it will be very difficult to transcend the conflict over sovereignty to sign a cross-strait peace agreement or build a structure for peace across the Strait.
When it was in power, the KMT was aware that the "one China" issue could not be resolved quickly and that there was no room for compromise. In 1996, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council made a study of the "one China" principle and came to the conclusion that "those people who suggested that the Taiwan government should discuss `one China' more extensively in the hope that China would change its mind were simply engaged in wishful thinking."
Does replacing "one China" with the "1992 consensus" actually create more opportunities for cross-strait interaction and greater international space for Taiwan? If the "1992 consensus" is so efficacious, why was there no progress in establishing a cross-strait accord between 1992 and 2000, when the KMT was in power? In fact, after 1993, Taiwan became subject to constant reprimands that it was failing to abide by the "one China" principle. The cross-strait situation became increasingly tense, so much so that from 1995 to 1996 and 1999 to 2000 China threatened Taiwan militarily and conducted missile tests.
In December 2003, during the presidential election campaign, Lien said at a press conference that since China often only mentions the first part of the so-called "1992 consensus" ("one China") but not the second part ("with each side having its own interpretation") he did not want to discuss the "1992 consensus" anymore.
Now he has had the opportunity to meet with Hu for several hours, but when Lien reiterated his interpretation of the "1992 consensus" during their meeting, Hu did nothing to show agreement, nor did he respond in any way. So have the KMT and the CCP really reached a consensus on the "1992 consensus?" If they have not, then how can we expect the Democratic Progressive Party government to accept it?
And lastly, in a televised debate between the presidential candidates last year, Lien said that "the Republic of China is a sovereign and independent country, and we will not allow it to join, be annexed by, or unite with, the People's Republic of China." Could it be that this position is also part of the "1992 consensus" and the vision shared by Lien and Hu?
It is to be hoped that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will be able to communicate their problems in a straightforward manner. That would be the only way to truly resolve the issue.
Lien's visit has pioneered top-level exchanges between political parties on each side of the Strait, and that probably helps to promote mutual understanding. Lien and Hu, however, have not been able to approach the heart of the cross-strait issue head-on. The fact that the meeting between the two only amounted to an endorsement of China's statement on May 17 last year may not be a big help in solving the cross-strait issue.
Tung Chen-yuan is an assistant professor at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Ian Bartholomew and Perry Svensson
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