Xi's '92 consensus' speech challenges status quo: pundit

2019/01/06 20:53:38 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Lai I-chung (賴怡忠, left) / CNA file photo

Lai I-chung (賴怡忠, left) / CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) Chinese President Xi Jinping's (習近平) definition of the "1992 consensus" to include China's goal of unification with Taiwan constitutes a declaration of war and challenges the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, a Taiwanese scholar said Saturday.

The statement made by Xi last Wednesday shrinks the space for free interpretation of "one China" by each side, said Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), an executive board member of Taiwan Thinktank.

In a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of China's "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan," Xi said China must be reunified and he defined the "1992 consensus" as "the two sides of the strait belonging to one China and working together to seek the unification of the nation." He further said the "one country, two systems" formula is the best approach to achieving reunification.

With those words, Xi gave the "1992 consensus" a new definition, linking it with the "one country, two systems" formula, Lai said.

Xi's definition of the "1992 consensus" was "a declaration of war against the cross-strait status quo," Lai said. Furthermore, Xi was suggesting that any opposition to unification under the "one country, two systems" model meant support for Taiwan independence, Lai said.

He said Xi's statement was meant to change the status quo and it left no room for any options other than unification or independence.

Beijing can be expected to lay down more concrete measures, including a demand that Taiwanese businesses and students in China or anyone involved in cross-strait exchanges must recognize the "1992 consensus," according to Lai.

"This is a very, very serious problem," he said, adding that the Taiwan government must make every effort to explain the issue to the international community.

If Taiwan does not speak up, it will be brought under a "one country, two systems" framework, Lai said.

He further said Xi's change of the definition of the "1992 consensus" would also change the trilateral status quo among the United States, China and Taiwan and pose a challenge to the Taiwan Relations Act and Six Assurances.

The Act and Six Assurances are the cornerstones of U.S.-Taiwan relations, including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and give the assurance that Taiwan will not be pressured into negotiating with China or formally recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, Lai noted.

If Taiwan stays mum on this vital cross-strait and international issue, "would it not mean that we've accepted China's statement?" Lai said.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit agreement reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and Chinese communist officials. The agreement has been consistently interpreted by the KMT to mean that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means.

On Saturday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said at a press conference with foreign media in Taipei that the "1992 consensus" should not be mentioned again since that phrase has been defined by China as the "one China" principle and the "one country, two systems" mechanism.

"By emphasizing 'one China' and 'one country, two systems,' particularly in the context of the so-called '1992 consensus,' China has made clear their political intentions towards Taiwan and their steps for unification," she said. Tsai called on all the political parties in Taiwan to send a clear message to reject the "one country, two systems" formula devised by China and forget about the "1992 consensus."

Huang Chieh-cheng (黃介正), an associate professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said Tsai's press conference was aimed at explaining to the international community the government's stance on the matter.

The "1992 consensus" has been defined by China as 'one China' with no flexibility for any other interpretation, particularly for the free interpretation of "one China" by each side, Huang said.

He said the "one country, two systems" approach was devised by Xi to achieve unification and was not part of the "1992 consensus."

The "one country, two systems" concept was first put forward unilaterally by China in 1981 for the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue but it has never been accepted by the people or government of Taiwan, Huang said.

(By Elaine Hou and Evelyn Kao)
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