The meeting in early May between Xi Jinping and Eric Chu, leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang (KMT) respectively, clearly reflected the two parties’ recognition of the 1992 Consensus as the political basis for peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. Xi’s statement on cross-Straits relations showed that any Taiwanese party that explicitly or implicitly opposes the 1992 Consensus is not likely to yield the fruit of peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. Without a clear stance on the 1992 Consensus, the future of the Taiwan Straits may be fraught with disturbances.
1. The 1992 Consensus is a political symbol for maximized interests across the Pacific Ocean and across the Taiwan Straits.
Xi has reiterated the importance of the 1992 Consensus, which he often describes as the anchor of cross-Straits relations. This shows that the mainland regards the 1992 Consensus as the most important political symbol for cross-Straits peaceful development. Chu, after assuming office as KMT chairman, also explicitly referred to the 1992 Consensus as the political basis for peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. During his recent meeting with Xi, Chu took a further step to clarify the content of 1992 Consensus, demonstrating the KMT’s recognition of and emphasis on this political symbol.
The endorsement of the 1992 Consensus as shown at the Xi-Chu meeting also sent a clear signal about the strong determination of the two main political forces to push forward cross-Straits relations and maintain peace across the Taiwan Straits on the basis of the 1992 Consensus.
2. The 1992 Consensus is the consensus of the two authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Straits and the consensus of the CPC and the KMT.
As Xi and Chu are leaders of the governing parties on two sides of the Taiwan Straits, their stance invariably represents that of the two parties. Their meeting points to the two parties’ recognition of the 1992 Consensus. At an earlier commemorative event marking the 10th anniversary of the release of the Common Vision for Cross-Straits Peaceful Development held in Nanjing, the two parties publicly declared the correlation between the 1992 Consensus and peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.
The attitude of the Taiwan authorities toward the 1992 Consensus is crystal-clear. Before Chu’s visit to the mainland, Ma Ying-jeou, the current leader of Taiwan, confirmed that the 1992 Consensus is the consensus of the authorities across the Taiwan Straits. After Chu’s mainland visit, Ma organized an exhibition on the 1992 Consensus. With historical documents and photos, the exhibition highlighted the realistic relevance of the 1992 Consensus, and illustrated its key role in promoting cross-Straits relations.
3. The 1992 Consensus is an important component of cross-Straits peaceful development.
In 2000, when the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office, the cross-Straits negotiations had to be suspended. Seven years ago, Chen Shui-bian pushed for the so-called “de jure Taiwan independence”, bringing cross-Straits relations onto a high-risk track. Since 2008 when the Kuomintang, a party that recognizes the 1992 Consensus, took office, the two sides of the Taiwan Straits have reached compromises and consensus on the “one-China” position and ushered in a period of peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. After the meeting between Xi and Chu, Ma urged Tsai Ing-wen, the chair of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to make a statement on the 1992 Consensus and pledge to develop cross-Straits relations on the basis of the 1992 Consensus. Experience shows that no one should take peaceful development of cross-Straits relations for granted. It must be based on the 1992 Consensus. To maintain the status quo of cross-Straits relations, a clear-cut stance on the 1992 Consensus must be articulated.
The DPP, however, maintains that so long as it declares its intention of promoting cross-Straits peaceful development, it will stand to yield the fruit of development even if it evades the 1992 Consensus. As a matter of fact, such thought on the part of the DPP would only result in compromising the current state of peaceful development across the Taiwan Straits and bringing instability to the region. As a key member of Chen Shui-bian’s “cabinet” in charge of cross-Straits relations, Tsai Ing-wen should be held accountable for the damaging results of Chen’s cross-Straits policies. Her reluctance to articulate her position on the 1992 Consensus gives the authorities and governing parties on both sides of the Straits ample reasons for concern. Her reluctance also implies her intention of concealing some of her negotiating chips to gain some leverage so that she can bargain as equal partner with the mainland and the US.
The governing parties and authorities across the Taiwan Straits are both worried about whether peaceful development will continue to prevail in cross-Straits relations in the coming two years. This bears full testimony to the concern of the leaders on both sides over the possible damage that Tsai Ing-wen’s election may cause to the current peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. If Tsai falls short of making a clear statement on the 1992 Consensus during her visit to the US later this year, it is likely that Xi would devote some time discussing this issue with the US leader. And that means other issues in China-US relations may be stalled because of the Taiwan question.