In his remarks regarding Taiwan during the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, President Xi Jinping mentioned the “1992 consensus” three times. From Xi to Premier Li Keqiang, CPPCC Chairman Yu Zhengsheng to those attending the two sessions, there was an impressive unanimity on cross-Straits relations. That was an important signal the central authorities on the mainland showed after evaluating the new dynamics, problems and conditions in Taiwan as well as cross-Straits ties.
First, no matter what political changes occur in Taiwan, the mainland will adhere to the “1992 consensus”, and continue to promote peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.
The Democratic Progressive Party’s impending return to power is a new development and new problem in cross-Straits relations. The DDP, which has refused to accept the “1992 consensus”, believes that with its all-round win in the elections, both the mainland and the US have to adjust their cross-Straits policies in accordance with political changes in Taiwan. Some even predict that the mainland will give up the “1992 consensus”. Xi stated in explicit terms that the mainland’s Taiwan policies are clear, consistent and will not change because of political changes in Taiwan. No matter what changes take place on the other side of the Straits, the mainland’s original intention to promote peaceful development of cross-Straits ties on the basis of the “1992 consensus” will not change. If the status quo of peaceful cross-Straits relations has to be changed, it will be caused by the Taiwan side, because not identifying with, or evading the “1992 consensus” are moves that suffice to change the status quo of peace and stability across the Straits.
Second, the “1992 consensus” clarified the nature of cross-Straits relations, and is thus key to ensuring peaceful and steady progress of such relations.
It was on the basis of the “1992 consensus” that the Communist Party on the mainland and the Kuomintang in Taiwan initiated talks on reconciliation, thereby embarking on a path of peaceful development, bringing peace and stability to the region, and practical benefits to people on both sides of the Straits. The “1992 consensus” made it clear that cross-Straits relations are internal affairs of one country, not of a state-to-state nature. This has been stipulated in legal documents on both sides of the Straits that define cross-Straits ties within each side’s “one-China” framework. It has also been a fact in cross-Straits relations that has not changed in the past 67 years. It has been on such a basis that the two sides have deepened the consensus on preserving the “one-China” framework, maneuvered the progress in cross-Straits rapport over the past eight years, and turned the Taiwan Straits from a powderkeg of East Asia into a demonstration plot of peaceful development. Only by adhering to the “1992 consensus”, can the two sides preserve the status quo of peaceful development. If Taiwan refuses to recognize the solemn pledge made by its incumbent authorities because another political party will assume leadership, it will constitute sabotage of the status quo of peaceful development, hence must bear full responsibility for all that happens subsequently.
Third, the “1992 consensus” provides direction for the DDP to honor its promise to preserve the status quo.
Xi pointed out that as long as both sides accept the historical truth of the “1992 consensus”, and identify with its core implications, they will share a common political foundation for maintaining benign interaction. There are three messages in this specific statement:
1) By employing the future tense, Xi extended an olive branch to political forces in Taiwan that have yet to identify with the “1992 consensus”. This indicates that, in order not to let down people on both sides of the Straits who want to sustain peace, the mainland is willing to retain its policy of engagement, in the hope that the DDP will be more active in seeking cross-Straits consensus and take a step forward for the wellbeing of the people of Taiwan.
2) The form of the DDP’s recognition of the “1992 consensus” can be relatively flexible, but it must cover all the substantial elements. The two substantial contents are: Recognizing the historical fact of the “1992 consensus”, not just the historical fact of the “1992 talks”; and identifying with its core connotation, i.e., both sides of the Straits belong to one China. So long as the DPP proposes a concept that contains both factors, they will have a common political foundation for benign interaction.
3. The “1992 consensus” offers a solid jurisprudential basis for resolutely containing any form of separatist attempt aimed at “Taiwan independence”. Currently, the DPP has secured the most seats in the island’s legislature and those at county and city levels as well as offices of local administrators. There are plenty of characters who had put forward “de-Sinicization” measures, as well as advocates and practitioners of “Taiwan independence”. But they have been elected in accordance with the island’s constitutional document and relevant regulations. Taiwan’s constitutional document stipulates in explicit terms that both sides of the Straits belong to one China. It is living evidence that the two sides have not been split jurisprudentially. It is at the same time solid jurisprudential evidence in support of the “1992 consensus”. Safeguarding such evidence, keeping it from being distorted by separatist elements and preventing cross-Straits relations from getting complicated, and the two sides of the Straits from being thrown back into turbulence has thus been an unshirkable responsibility for the mainland, as well as a matter all those in Taiwan who want to preserve the status quo must face squarely.
Xi’s remarks are significant in that they showed the direction for cross-Straits relations, which are standing at a historical crossroads.