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Fang-ming Chen on the Ma-Xi Meeting

‘One China’ Gives Away Taiwan’s Position


‘One China’ Gives Away Taiwan’s Position


Fang-ming Chen, Chair Professor of the Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature at National Chengchi University and an important voice for Taiwanese independence, served as director of information for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in early 1990s. In this interview, Chen enumerates why the Ma-Xi meeting in Singapore was far from a victory for Taiwan.



‘One China’ Gives Away Taiwan’s Position

By Yueh-lin Ma
CommonWealth Magazine

President Ma Ying-jeou looked like two completely different people before and after his meeting in Singapore with PRC President Xi Jinping. Before leaving, he gave us a sense of hope and room for imagination, seemingly exuding confidence and a clear position. Yet once he got there, seeing him during the live broadcast and follow-up press conference, his manner was vastly different from the way he acted going into the historic tête-à-tête.

The main reason is that, face to face with China’s leader, he failed to keep the promises he had made before entering the meeting. For instance, he said he would touch upon the principal of “one China, different interpretations” and convey the positions of Taiwan’s democracy. On these two points, President Ma came up completely empty. As a nation’s leader, his greatest leverage comes from the strong popular support behind him, thus the democratic system is his biggest advantage. Yet he failed to make that evident during the meeting, instead appearing to accommodate Xi’s words at the most critical juncture.

Only ‘One China,’ No ‘Separate Interpretations’

Ma was especially proud of himself for mentioning the Republic of China Constitution in Xi’s presence. But when he talked about the ROC Constitution, he was doing it only to endorse the “One China” position, given that the ROC Constitution opposes “One China, one Taiwan,” “Two Chinas,” and Taiwanese independence. So while he was making use of the ROC Constitution, he was not speaking about the Republic of China, nor was he talking about how the ROC Constitution safeguards Taiwan’s democracy. No, he made those remarks for Xi’s sake, rather than speaking for the people of Taiwan. This is sorely disappointing.

The second highly disappointing aspect was, when he brought up China’s missile deployment to Xi, Ma should have mentioned the 2015 Report on China’s Military Strength released this past August by the Ministry of Defense, which states that China has 1,500 missiles arrayed along its coast aimed at Taiwan. Instead of mentioning this, he said, ‘We’re all concerned about the missile issue’; for his part, Xi said that the missile issue is part of their overall deployment, which ultimately played out as Ma taking dictation from Xi.

You are the president of a country. As president you should not just repeat what Xi Jinping said, but talk about what you have insisted on. But Ma Ying-jeou completely gave away his position. Up to this point the international media has naturally been happy to see Taiwan speak with China, especially at an international, open occasion that everyone could see. That much is certain. Yet that is the only thing worthy of praise, that the leaders of both sides were finally able to have a talk. 

The Kuomintang will have to suffer the consequences. Moreover, it could take years for us to undo the damage, since never once did President Ma say anything about “one China, different interpretations.” Okay, there is the so-called “1992 Consensus,” but I need to hear Beijing’s leadership reiterate “One China, different interpretations,” or to me your “One China, different interpretations” merely comes off as an attempt to pull one over on the people of Taiwan.

Bullish for business, but what about the people?

Moving ahead, I think cross-strait issues will only get worse. Why is that? Just look at what Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng said, that the Ma-Xi talks will be good for cross-strait enterprises. So there you have it: All this was just about financial and business conglomerates, not the all-encompassing issues on both sides. This is exactly why young people are so angry. Evidently, you have already forgotten about last year’s Sunflower Movement. What are the youths so upset about? That your Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement serves only the interests of a select few financial groups, which paints a very bleak picture of the future for the younger generation.

The situation will become even more difficult following Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election (on January 16, 2016), because you have in effect already set a trap, as we have retreated from “one China, different interpretations” all the way back to a rigid “one China” stance. Since the meeting is on the record, we are obligated to start all over from that position, rather than the position we have proceeded from since 1996 during the Lee Teng-hui era when (former Mainland Affairs Council chairman) Su Chi suddenly said, “The 1992 Consensus is one China with different interpretations,” even though he offered this explanation after the fact. But now that you have retreated to the “One China” position, you have made cross-strait dialogue and exchange even more difficult.

The new president must take on this issue first. In the past, when we went from zero to one, we were still able to progress to two; but that is no longer the case, as one has been nullified and we’ve gone back to zero – starting over. This is very dicey. If the Democratic Progressive Party ends up back in power, it should probably take a more open stance toward different sectors of society regarding this issue, gathering feedback and opinions from all sides so as to crystallize the wisdom out there in society necessary to confront the difficulties that the stripping away of the “one China, different interpretations” position has brought upon Taiwan.

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”