Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) recently said in Beijing that cross-strait relations must be based on the so-called “1992 consensus,” and stressed China’s objection to Taiwanese independence. He even issued a threat, saying that without this “consensus,” the two sides would not have this current peaceful development.
Chen made the statement in the face of continuing conflict between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over the existence of such a consensus. Obviously Chen has not learned from China’s past policy mistakes on Taiwan. The long-debated issue on the consensus also highlights the problems of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cross-strait policy.
The Chinese government has become more flexible and pragmatic in addressing the Taiwan issue after years of monitoring democratic developments and public opinion in Taiwan. These changes are based on lessons learned from the past failures of Chinese policy on Taiwan. From 1995 to 1996, Beijing tried to stop then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) being re-elected, but Lee won by a landslide despite Chinese intimidation and saber-rattling. In 2000, China issued a white paper on its Taiwan policy, saying it would not rule out the use of military force if Taiwan refused to talk about peaceful reunification. But with the US voicing its objection to a military solution, China did not dare mention the issue again.
Also in 2000, China warned Taiwan of cross-strait conflict if the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were elected president. Chen was elected, but war did not break out. What’s more, although China had said it would only agree to restart cross-strait dialogue if Taiwan accepts the “one China” principle, it changed its stance after Chen took office, saying that cross-strait economic issues did not have to be predicated on the “one China” principle, leading to the establishment of the “small three links” and the first lunar New Year charter flights.
China kept a very low profile during the presidential election in 2004 for fear of agitating Taiwanese voters. Still, it issued a statement afterwards that war could break out if Chen continued to move toward Taiwanese independence, and that only if Taiwan accepted the “one China” principle could cross-strait peace be maintained. But again, although Chen was re-elected, there was no war. Instead, Taipei and Beijing began negotiations and reached a second agreement on Lunar New Year charter flights and four other charter flight agreements. The two sides also engaged in eight rounds of talks on allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan, passenger and cargo charter flights, as well as two months of intense talks about bringing the Olympic flame to Taiwan.
Having learned from its mistakes, China adopted the ambiguous position that each side has its own interpretation of the “1992 consensus” to initiate cross-strait talks and exchanges with Ma after he became president. But contrary to the KMT government’s interpretation of the “1992 consensus” as signifying that there are two Chinas, the Chinese government says the consensus means both sides adhere to the “one China” principle. While China does not reject the KMT version that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation,” it has repeatedly stressed the importance of mutual political trust — meaning the KMT must object to Taiwanese independence and must accept the “one China” principle.
The KMT government currently only talks about the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan, but dare not mention it in China or in the presence of Chinese officials. This just goes to show that it can never enforce the “two China” policy, nor can it apply for admission to the UN or any other international organization under the name ROC. Even if Taiwan wants to participate in an international organization or event as an observer, it has to go through cross-strait negotiations to obtain China’s approval, thus showing China’s suzerainty over Taiwan.
Whenever China voices its opposition to Taiwanese independence, Ma from time to time stresses its de-facto independence. In his New Year’s speech, Ma reiterated that Taiwan’s future must be determined by Taiwanese. When China says the “1992 consensus” refers to the fact that there is only one China, Ma says the consensus means there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.” Clearly, Chen Yunlin’s talk about abandoning and opposing Taiwanese independence and accepting the “one China” principle wasn’t only a threat against the DPP, but also a warning to the KMT.
Apparently Chen Yunlin has learned nothing from Beijing’s mistakes. His provocative remarks pose yet another challenge to cross-strait peace and Taiwanese democracy. The foundation for cross-strait relations is fragile and superficial — built on China’s one-sided prerequisites and actions. Only if China gains a deeper understanding of Taiwanese public opinion and democracy and only if it is willing to resolve cross-strait conflict based on democracy, peace and equality can there be real and lasting peace and development across the Taiwan Strait.
Tung Chen-yuan is a professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies.
TRANSLATED BY LIU YI-HSIN
Over the past few years, migrant workers’ rights have improved in Taiwan, but there has not been a comparable improvement in protections for employers, who are faced with a range of challenges, such as family nurses mistreating patients or workers threatening to change brokers or demanding that employers change their jobs. Then there is the decrease in work standards. Migrant workers too often find the lure of the underground jobs market irresistible, are unaware of employment laws and regulations, or have found that National Immigration Agency (NIA) checks are lax, and as a result abscond. If this happens, what protections or
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has been giving daily COVID-19 updates for almost four months, and on several occasions when major developments have arisen, the news conferences have attracted large numbers of viewers. The entire nation is anxious about the pandemic, and interest in the latest news has become a part of daily life. Watching the center’s daily news conferences has become something of a national ritual. The pandemic has stabilized within Taiwan due to the admirable efforts of each person living in the nation conducting themselves with the utmost responsibility, and in certain cases making considerable sacrifices within their
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. In that war’s aftermath, novelist George Orwell produced two prophetic works. The first, Animal Farm, was published in August 1945; the second, Nineteen Eighty-Four, came out in June 1949. Both still ring true and cover a wide range of messages, including even how the mid-sized nation of Taiwan achieved its democracy and why it still maintains an outlier status in a COVID-19 world. With its full planetary scope, WWII left untold millions dead and injured, cities were destroyed and the future path of most nations was altered. New
United States Senator “Kit” Bond (R-MO) was a real leader on Asia policy during his time in Congress. Like most senators, he had a ready one-liner for every occasion. The one I never tired of hearing is “Well, looks like everything has been said. The problem is not everyone has said it.” It’s sort of like with US-China great power competition. There is not much new to say. This is especially true because it’s largely a story of what’s already happened: BRI, Made in China 2025, aggression in the South China Sea, provocations on the Indian border, cyber-hacks, erosion of “one country,