Friday, March 28, 2008

1992 Consensus Rises from the Grave

The Taipei Times reports on Hu Jin-tao's phone conversation with President "Not since Montezuma handed his empire to the Spanish has there been a worse leader" Bush. The key comment was in this paragraph:

In response, Hu indicated a willingness to reopen cross-strait talks on the basis of the so-called "1992 consensus," which stipulates that both sides concede separate interpretations of the "one China" policy. The "consensus" is not universally recognized as valid in Taiwan. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) admitted in 2006 that he had invented the term before the transfer of power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000.

Ma too has spoken of the 1992 Consensus repeatedly. China Daily has a backgrounder:

On Nov. 3, SEF informed ARATS of the oral expression about "one-China" it tabled being approved by the relevant leading department in Taiwan. ARATS agreed to the SEF's suggestion of stating the "one-China" attitude based on their respective oral explanations ina letter sent to the SEF on Nov. 16, but emphasizing both sides of the Straits persist in the "one-China" principle and work had to pursue reunification, without talking about the political meaning of one China in negotiations of affairs concerning both sides of the Straits. The SEF showed no disagreement in its letter of replyto ARATS on Dec. 3.

Yes, Ma and Beijing are already on-script and ready to proceed. Since Ma must have an agreement with China so he can use Chinese money to jump-start the economy -- China set up a state-run sovereign wealth fund last year that seems ideal for this purpose -- the next line in the script is obvious.

UPDATE: Kathrin Hille in the Financial Times has an interesting study of the cross-currents in the resurgent KMT, including some choice quotes:

Since then, the KMT has developed into a concoction of ideological directions and policy orientations.

Chen Chien-chung, an official at the party’s central policy committee, said; “I admit that, in contrast to the DPP, the [KMT] doesn’t really have any core values or ideological beliefs.”

In recent years, KMT conservatives favouring a return to the Chinese nationalism of the party’s founding fathers, have gained ground.

Simultaneously, KMT lawmakers concerned with building personal support bases have increasingly opted for populist posturing – blurring the party’s traditional pro-business image.

For example, Lee Chi-chu, a legislator now considered a possible choice for finance minister, took part in efforts to ground DPP attempts to privatise government banks and reform an overcrowded and underperforming financial sector.

KMT legislators have also in recent years blocked most of the government’s planned weapons purchases from the US, with one protagonist – the former general Shuai Hwa-min – seen as a potential candidate for defence minister in Mr Ma’s cabinet.

The past unruliness of the KMT has raised questions over whether Mr Ma will be able to control his party.

He is far too soft for our liking, and many of us had to swallow their hate before we voted for him,” says Chang Ling-chen, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University and a KMT conservative.

Nice work. Ma faces pressure from China, legislators in his own party who detest him, the weak presidential position vis a vis the legislature, and other issues. Sometimes you could almost believe the DPP threw this election....


阿牛 said...

Hey, I posted on this too just now after seeing it's the lead article topic at People's Daily! Ha!

Tommy said...

Yes, things are already looking shady. We may not have to wait all eight years for Ma to sign over sovereignty.

Raj said...

thomas, definitely disagree with you there.

So, if made defence secretary Shuai Hwa-min will doubtless do an about-face, announce more arms purchases and claim his administration is the most "defence friendly" since 1950 or something. :D

The comment on party splits is interesting - michael, I think you wrote on this before? Maybe everything will not be tea and cakes for Ma in government. Should give the DPP a reason to get their act together.

Michael Turton said...

Raj, I think one of the key back stories to this election was the incredible unity and organization of the KMT. Despite the fact that Ma is widely despised, nobody breathed a word of it.

I can see several possible fracture lines, ranging from the sovereignty issue to the interparty splits, but I think Ma will be able to paper everything over IF he can deliver on the economic front. The KMT is ultimately held together by flows of $$, and if Ma can't deliver those he'll be like Shaddam at Arrakis, pushed out of power by the upstart Duke because he couldn't keep the spice flowing.

And let's not forget, as you rightly note, the KMT is only half the equation. The DPP still needs to regenerate itself. If we don't see a resurgent DPP committed to a multiethnic political dream -- not a state where Taiwanese are first among equals -- with a big tent strategy and a return to the social justice movements of the 70s and 80s, well, then there won't be much point in being a political blogger here... :)


Michael Turton said...

BTW, Raj, the KMT was hinting about that about-face two years ago. I expect they will suddenly show a deep interest in US arms. The interesting question is how the US will react. Selling arms to Taiwn might be a good way to show displeasure over Tibet.


skiingkow said...

The so-called 1992 consensus is like a creationist museum brochure. It has an elaborate explanation justifying its existence, but when you actually logically analyze what it means -- it tends to lose any sense of appeal.

The so-called 1992 consensus is fraud. It is fuzzy math. It is a political tool to fool the people who cannot critically think -- not dissimilar to the creationist museum's goal.

And even if you believe that China will accept that it is acceptable for Taiwan to consider "China" as being the ROC (a fundamental question which noone has asked China...hmm) -- the fact that China believes that "one-China" means the PRC is the only thing that matters with respect to the rest of the international community. What nation will believe that "one-China" means "the ROC"? LOL!

This whole 1992 consensus is truly laughable and is a stain on anyone's intellect if you consider it a "fair" solution and a remedy for the status quo.

What a charade!


Anonymous said...

Good point about the sovereign wealth fund, MT.

Raj said...

Michael, indeed the KMT did show a change of heart as early as late 2006 on arms purchases, when they agreed to fund the purchase of the P-3C Orion patrol aircraft. But it was only recently that they agreed to big bucks for the purchase of Patriot-3 and design work for the new submarines. Now that they're in power I have a feeling they may approve the whole submarine programme (either through the US or domestically), unless it is shown to be a total failure.

It will be interesting to see the Executive Yuan's defence budget for 2009 later this year.

Anonymous said...

Since the KMT began to see the Taiwan democracy and independence movement as a far greater threat to their authority than the CCP, the party no longer has any particular intrinsic ideological motivations to purchase or upgrade weapons systems, which is one of the main reason they have blocked them for 8 years. If they now seem to push for this or that weapons purchase now that they control both the legislature and the presidency, it may well simply be an attempt to "keep up appearances" to the public at home and abroad.

Most KMT party members and supporters seem not to believe that China actually means any harm to Taiwan-- and especially not now that there will be a unified KMT government. They believe that the anger of China and the rest of the world is directed solely at Chen Shui-bian and the DPP. They think that if Taiwan's government can just behave, quietly cooperate with Beijing and give up the quest for de jure independence, that China will reciprocate by allowing Taiwan to indefinitely maintain the "status quo" of de facto independence. People voted for Ma because they mistakenly believe he is capable of indefinitely prolonging the so-called "status quo" --which in reality has never been static.

The majority of voters are apparently naive enough to believe that they can keep all of their freedoms and civil rights, while simultaneously acceeding to a gradual accomodation of the PRC's one-China ideology.

But I'm sure that the "I've been in Taiwan longer than you and I also know more-important people than you do" foreigners will be eager to tell me that I just don't understand....


Dad said...

Your post reminded me of an article in The Economist that appeared immediately after the elction.

The last paragraph in particular:
"At home, the chief challenge for the soft-spoken Mr Ma is to assert control within a party, full of political thugs, in which he lacks a powerful base. Here he may struggle. Preferring the company of scholars and a family life rich in women (mother, wife, four sisters and two daughters) but no men, Mr Ma is not cut out for strong-arming, and at the least will need loyal henchmen to help him. In the election, he showed voters his gentle, conciliatory side. Just to succeed within his own party, let alone stand up to future Chinese bullying, he will need to show his grit."

B.BarNavi said...

“I admit that, in contrast to the DPP, the [KMT] doesn’t really have any core values or ideological beliefs.”

Which probably means that the KMT - as well as a viable opposition - could very well become an American-style "big tent" party, thus shifting the face of Taiwan politics from ideological to personality-based. The KMT has already fielded strong "personalities" - let's see if an opposition can do better.

Unknown said...

I think Ma is disliked not because he's "too soft," but because he's "too" clean. He simply refuses to take or give favors, no matter how small. Nobody likes a party-pooper. Except, in this case, taxpayers.

MJ Klein said...

i think it's perfectly appropriate for China to use a fictitious consensus to support a fictitious principle.

skiingkow said...

People voted for Ma because they mistakenly believe he is capable of indefinitely prolonging the so-called "status quo" --which in reality has never been static.

They felt "comfortable" voting for PandaMa. But, Amen brother!

Tommy said...

It seems like the 1992 Consensus is in the headlines today following that meeting between Chen and Ma. I notice that Ma gets all wrong one key point.

He says that the ambiguity the US and many other countries maintain towards the existance of One China is proof that the international community already has different opinions of what "One China" means. He is incorrect.

The ambiguity the US maintains by acknowledging the existance of China's One China does not indicate that the US or any other country acknowledges that One China can be interpreted in many ways. Rather it is a simple admission that China has that One China view without indicating that the US agrees with that view or any interpretation of it.