Taiwan’s new leader Tsai Ing-wen made a painful effort not to answer one important question in her Friday speech, whether or not to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus embodying the one China principle.
Amid diverse challenges from economic restructuring, employment of youth to reform of the judicial system, cross-Strait relations are one of the toughest and most fundamental issues for the island’s leader.
Refusing to face it will hardly contribute to the image of a problem solver that Tsai is trying to build for herself. In fact, it will cause more problems.
In her speech, Tsai said she respected the historical fact that the 1992 talks between the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) reached some common understanding. But she did not elaborate on what the common understanding was.
As the mainland and Tsai’s predecessor had acknowledged, the common understanding was called the 1992 Consensus, stating that both sides of the Taiwan Strait uphold the one China principle.
Although the two sides of the Strait have been separated since the end of a civil war in 1949, they both belong to one country, de jure and in reality. The 1992 Consensus has explicitly defined the nature of cross-Straits relations.
It was only with this common political foundation that the ARATS and SEF held a groundbreaking meeting in 1993 in Singapore and resumed their negotiations in 2008 after a hiatus of nearly ten years. Without it, there would have never been the regular communication mechanism between cross-Strait affairs authorities from the two sides nor the historic meeting between Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou in 2015.
History proved that the 1992 Consensus has been the foundation for political trust and constructive interaction between the two sides, for the progress of cross-Strait exchanges in the past two decades and the new state of ties since 2008.
It is the pillar to sustain the peaceful development across the Strait. The mainland has made it clear that only by confirming the adherence to the 1992 Consensus can cross-Strait affairs authorities continue regular communication and the ARATS and SEF carry on their talks.
Whoever leads the island has to accept this political foundation, centered on the one China principle, if they want peace and stability across the Strait. It is a question that Taiwan’s leader can not steer away from and also an indication of how much good will and sincerity Tsai is holding.
It must be noted that there is a solid reason why the mainland insists Tsai clarifies her stance. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which she leads, has not forgone the pursuit of “Taiwan independence” and Chen Shui-bian, the island’s leader from 2000 to 2008, also of the DPP, had a bad record of playing word games.
It is Tsai who should lay down the burden from her past and break the circle. Read more