Saturday, August 14, 2010

Beijing: Never Give an Inch

Drew and I biked in the hills above Miaoli today. Awesome views at the top of Miaoli 62, but I overheated in the brutal midday sun and had to walk most of this hill as Drew rocketed right up. We rode down the other side through some lovely farming country on 62 and 119. Best part was the people we met -- the farmer who let me use her hose to hose myself down and cool off, saying "Use more water, it's free!" and the other farmer we met who talked about his strawberry fields and gave us a delicious red prickly pear to eat. "I've got strawberry fields back there," said the farmer as he gave us his name card. "Bring your girlfriends over to pick some!" "Haha. Maybe I'll buy some land here and grow my own," I countered. "You'll need low lying land then," he said. "Why?" "Because when the girls come in the summer to pick strawberries," he explained, "they wear those short skirts and bend over...."

So here's the WSJ talking about the "1992 Consensus" in which the two sides agreed to disagree. This was much touted by President Ma early in his Regional Administratorship as the basis for cooperation between the thugs in Beijing and their new friends in Taipei.

Of course, those of us who follow the news know that a couple of years ago Ma's former NSC head Su Chi, who was in on the negotiations, said that the 1992 consensus was invented and that nothing had ever been agreed on. In 2006 Su Chi, then a legislator, said:
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) yesterday admitted that he made up the term "1992 consensus" in 2000, before the KMT handed over power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Su said he invented the term in order to break the cross-strait deadlock and alleviate tension.

"[Then president] Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was not in the know when the term was invented. Lee found out about it later from the newspaper, but he never mentioned later that it was improper," said Su, who was chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council at the time.

Su made the remarks yesterday in response to Lee who, during a Taiwan Solidarity Union seminar on Monday, said that the so-called "1992 consensus" was a fiction.

"Little monkey boy's trying to make up history," Lee said of Su, daring him to respond on the matter.

Fast forward to today. The much touted "1992 Consensus" appears to exist only in KMT heads, according to Beijing. The WSJ reported:
But whether there really was a consensus and what the consensus was became an issue this week.

It started with a senior official from China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, an organization in charge of China’s negotiations with Taiwan, talking about Beijing’s definition of the ‘92 consensus in Taipei on Wednesday, saying “Both sides insisted on the One China principle in 1992.”

Taiwan disagreed.

Taiwan’s Presidential Office and Cabinet both protested within 24 hours, saying Taiwan believes both sides agreed then that there is only one China, and that both sides are entitled to represent themselves. For Taiwan, One China means the Republic of China, the official title of the island, the two Taiwan departments said.

In 1992, both sides agreed to put aside the political disagreements on identifying each other to start nonpolitical negotiations, former and current negotiators said.

“There were agreements and disagreements in 1992,” said Jan Jyh-horng, a former Taiwan negotiator involved in the negotiation in 1992. “If there really had been a consensus, there wouldn’t have been incidents like Beijing launching missiles to the Taiwan Strait in 1996.”

Despite several agreements reached since, and other advances, such as direct flights between the two, Beijing and Taipei remain divided on the ‘92 consensus. Both sides have avoided explicitly talking about their definitions of it in the past two years.

In one major cross-Strait academic conference attended by retired ambassadors and retired military officials in November, attendees from both sides criticized each other over the interpretations. Beijing blamed Taipei for not talking about One China, and Taipei accused Beijing of not mentioning the part about both sides’ right to represent themselves.

Analysts in Taiwan believe Beijing is eager to push for political negotiations with Taiwan after both sides reached an important trade pact in June, but Taiwan’s reluctance to accept Beijing’s interpretation of the One China principle remains a key obstruction.
Some observations:

1. "Pragmatic" and "flexible" President Ma and his government won't budge on the 1992 Consensus. When the Chen Administration similarly wouldn't budge on certain core issues, it was "unpragmatic" and "provocative."

2. The 1992 Consensus wouldn't even be an issue if President Ma hadn't made it one in his campaign and post-election speeches. Further: it wouldn't be necessary to Ma and his government unless he was a True Believer in the ROC mythology. He could just quietly forget it like all his other promises.

3. It would be ironic if political talks foundered because Beijing refused to recognize the principle of some ghostly ROC sovereignty. Ironic because it is exactly analogous to Beijing refusing to talk to the Chen Administration over that Administration's insistence on Taiwan's sovereignty. But don't worry, Beijing will be blamed for this, and everyone will thank all gods that the horrible sovereignty-insisting Chen Shui-bian is out of office and "pragmatic" non-sovereignty insisting Ma is in.

4. Here is the KMT desperately trying to sell Taiwan to Beijing with a few conditions of no particular importance in the long run, and here is Beijing not. giving. an. inch. There's no percentage for them in not. giving. an. inch. But they won't. This is totally consistent with the cut-off-nose-to-spite-face behavior that Beijing always engages in. Engaging in that behavior is even more important than annexing Taiwan.

5. Damn, it was hot out there today. I'm just sayin'.

6. Of course, it may be that the KMT negotiators are out there trying to find an excuse to put off formal and open political talks. Should they engage in political talks before the 2012 election, Ma might well be toast in the 2012 elections.

7. Add your own in the comments.

UPDATE: The Ma-Su Chi version in Chinese is 一個中國、各自表述 "represent" probably doesn't quite capture its meaning (達陳) -- to express, to narrate, according to my man Feiren. The KMT always called it "one country with different interpretations."
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skiingkow said...

The more PandaMa and the KMT argue that "one China" = "ROC", the more the Taiwan position lacks credibility.

It doesn't create international leverage for Taiwan in any way whatsoever. The opposite is true.

I would argue that this does not contradict the KMT's objectives.

Don said...

The meaning of ONE CHINA appears to have changed over the years.

Originally it was a PRC slogan to counter the challenge to its international status posed by the existence of the ROC. That battle was won long ago. Today the term ONE CHINA, when China uses it, is pure orwellian euphemism for NO TAIWAN, as in: no political existence for an entity called Taiwan other than as a province of a larger entity called China.

The 1992 Hong Kong discussions reassured the CCP that the KMT was still in agreement with them on this vital point (despite a wobble starting with Chiang Ching-kuo) just as Mao and CKS had been in full agreement on this from the 1940s onwards.

In that sense, Su Chi was not wrong to retroactively badge the agreement as a "consensus".

However, it was the love that could not speak its name. The KMT was not going to commit political suicide by publicly spelling out its total acceptance of the CCP's NO TAIWAN principle, in which the word "China" (unlike in CKS's day) had clearly come to mean the PRC. And the CCP was not going to undermine the KMT (on which the entire United Front strategy for Taiwan hinged) by forcing it to declare its perfidy before the Taiwanese citizenry.

The KMT was permitted to go away and dream up whatever fudge formulation it needed to deceive voters in Taiwan, and the CCP would kindly refrain from scoffing too loudly. Meanwhile in China and throughout the international community, the plain ONE CHINA (ie NO TAIWAN) formula would apply.

It seems that in recent months CCP officials, puffed up with hubris and a sense that everything is going China's way, have been forgetting to keep their country's side of the bargain. The more they equate the "1992 consensus" with Beijing's own "one China principle" -- no matter how true this is -- the more awkward they make life for the KMT over in Taiwan.

It's possible that in the straitened mental universe inhabited by CCP groupthinkers, they don't realize what a tactical error this is .

Michael Turton said...

Yes, I agree. Many thanks, Don. Beijing's foreign policy at this point along so many fronts looks puffed up and full of hubris. This trivial nonsense is just a minor example of a growing problem.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter whether the 92 consensus is real or not. What matters is that the two countries are talking. They are, and that itself is a step forward. Peace and dialog are a lot more important than ideology.

Michael Turton said...

I'd agree with you, if I didn't know the purpose of the talks was to sell out the island. And that the sellout is the result of .... ideology.

Don said...

"What matters is that the two countries are talking...that itself is a step forward"

A couple of friendly guys with baseball bats come round to your shop, offer you the "opportunity" to invest in a special project they're putting together. A nice little earner. And by the way if you decline the offer they'll burn your shop down and kill you and your family if you try to resist. So you talk.

That's a step forward?

Anonymous said...

@don - that's not even an apples and oranges comparison. Apples and hamburgers maybe.

Michael Turton said...

Anon, don't be silly. That's exactly what is going on. Do you think that anyone would be talking to China about annexation if Beijing didn't threaten to maim and murder Taiwanese if they don't accede? As poll after poll shows, only a small minority on Taiwan want to be annexed to China.


Don said...

Apples and hamburgers. Hmm

There's no sense denying that Taiwan, in all its dealings with China, has a bayonet at its back. When a belligerent with 62 times the population of its neighbour says to that neighbour: “accept our (immoral and regressive) strategic demand or we will take military action against you” – then it's extortion.

We could picture any number of scenarios where a country like Taiwan is being lightly or heavily pressured by a country like China to settle a political difference on terms that are not obviously in the smaller country’s interest. But this is not one of those scenarios. The cross-Strait reality is pure gangland. China is literally making Taiwan an offer it can’t refuse. It’s there in black and white in the Anti-Secession Law. Hence the protection-racket analogy.

However, the picture gets muddied for some observers because Taiwan’s democratically mandated representative – the KMT government – is apparently a jolly and voluntary participant in the current talkfest. No sign of fear or shame on the faces of Ma Ying-jeou and his footsoldiers. If anything, the KMT and its moneyed pals appear to be licking their chops.

I would say that’s because the KMT, Defender of ROC, doesn’t actually represent the wishes or interests of the Taiwanese public.

Anonymous said...

Don and Michael, you both seem to overlook the fact that no one in Taiwan wants to join China AND that any unilateral changes to the constitution to enable it would require a referendum which would obviously not pass. The ONLY way China could conceivably take over Taiwan would be through war which is much less likely while dialog between the two countries is taking place than it was during the Chen administration when both sides of the Strait were to stubborn to find common ground.

Michael Turton said...

Anon, not only did I mention the lack of interest people in Taiwan have in becoming PRC subjects in my previous post and one million times on this blog, but your lack of imagination as to how the KMT can sell Taiwan to China without ever altering the Constitution is positively naive.

M said...

Anon, not only did I mention the lack of interest people in Taiwan have in becoming PRC subjects in my previous post and one million times on this blog, but your lack of imagination as to how the KMT can sell Taiwan to China without ever altering the Constitution is positively naive.

Michael - I am not that pessimistic. I remember a while ago you promised a post on how the KMT is planning to "sell out" Taiwan. Can you please give some scenarios where the ROC voluntarily surrenders its sovereignty to the PRC without the agreement of the Taiwanese people? Reunification would mean the end of the ROC, this is not something that pan-blues could accept easily either.