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Yun-han Chu on the Ma-Xi meeting

Can the Next President Sustain the Cross-strait Breakthrough?

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Can the Next President Sustain the Cross-strait Breakthrough?

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Yun-han Chu, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute of Political Science of Academia Sinica, likens the Ma-Xi meeting to a pole vaulter’s pole, which the next president of Taiwan must take up to spring Taiwan towards assuming a strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Can the Next President Sustain the Cross-strait Breakthrough?

By Yun-han Chu
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 585 )

Witnessing Presidents Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping make history together, I decided to make my own version of Tang poet Li Bo’s poem, Early Departure from Baidi City:

At dawn I left Songshan in clouds aglow

A thousand miles to Singapore

Takes but a day to go.

Past choruses of monkeys along the banks

Skiffing past row upon row

Of mountains and cliffs, high and low.

The blinding speed at which the Ma-Xi meeting ascended to history’s stage and the dramatic tension carried with it is reminiscent of the late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s startling actions in 2000. Seemingly before anyone could respond, Kim made a lightning-fast visit to meet with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. The two shook hands and engaged in the first summit between North and South Korea since the two sides split half a century before, cementing the position of the South Korean leader’s “Sunshine Policy” in history.

The meeting between Presidents Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping put the political potential of the 1992 Consensus into full play. If we liken the 1992 Consensus to the pole an athlete uses in the pole vault competition, then over the past two decades and more, time after time that pole has enabled cross-strait relations to clear unimaginable new historical heights.

The 1993 Koo-Wang talks established the mechanism for regular cross-strait dialogue; in 2008 direct transportation, communication, and trade links were opened up and Chinese tourists were permitted to visit Taiwan; in 2010 the bilateral ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) was reached; and in 2014 both sides departed from the prior model of semi-official contacts via the Straits Exchange Foundation (Taiwan) and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS of the PRC), establishing the mechanism for regular meetings between the director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council (PRC) and the minister of the Mainland Affairs Council (Taiwan).

Each breakthrough implies that, bolstered by the foundation of mutual political trust in the form of the 1992 Consensus, cross-strait relations have entered a peaceful development phase, creating enormous potential.

The whole world looked on as Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping met. How their meeting plays out politically will have a far-reaching effect on the development of cross-strait relations and the changing East Asian international order going forward. For Taiwan’s future leadership, the Ma-Xi meeting could turn out to be either a huge political asset or a difficult political burden.

If Taiwan’s future leadership can continue to leverage the “pole” of the 1992 Consensus, then the Ma-Xi meeting will have proved to be able to open up a completely new path for regular in-person dialogue between the top leaders from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The future ROC president can utilize this great worldwide political stage to show his or her mettle, and make Taiwan a strategic piece in the Asia-Pacific region that no nation can overlook – one capable of asserting itself with alacrity.

If Taiwan’s future president is unable to take hold of the pole, or is unwilling to employ it, then the Ma-Xi meeting in Singapore will become a historical marker that can never be surpassed. If that should prove to be the case, not only will it put an end to cross-strait summits, but the pole that was once readily available for vaulting over political barriers will have shattered, trapping Taiwan behind an insurmountable rampart.

Translated from the Chinese by David Toman


About the “1992 Consensus”

In the early 1990s, Taiwan and China began having contact, but the two sides had to resolve how to define their respective status before engaging in pragmatic negotiations. After several meetings, it was decided in 1992 that “each side use its own oral statements to describe the ‘one-China principle.’” It was the first time common ground had been reached in more than 40 years in facing the core problem of how to define “one China.” After this consensus was reached, talks were held between Koo Chen-fu and Wang Daohan, the heads of quasi-official organizations representing Taiwan and the PRC in bilateral contacts, respectively, in Singapore in 1993. In 2000, then Secretary-General of National Security Council Su Chi described this as the “1992 consensus.” The consensus has never been recognized by the Democratic Progressive Party.

Sources: Mainland Affairs Council press releases, “20 Years of Vacillations in Cross-Strait Relations”

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