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Kao Koong-lian: Historical Fact of “1992 Talks” Actually a Breakdown

icon2016/05/13
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 Kao Koong-lian: Historical Fact of “1992 Talks” Actually a Breakdown

Former Deputy Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council and Deputy Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation

Source: United Daily News

May 13, 2016

How President-elect Tsai Ing-wen will describe cross-Strait relations in her May 20 inaugural address is the focus of public attention and will be an important indicator for the future course of cross-Strait relations.  As a veteran involved in cross-Strait affairs for 28 years, let’s first review the historical facts.

 

First, the “1992 Consensus” came about as the result of the fact that Taiwan disagreed with the Mainland’s so-called “one China” principle.   The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) were established in 1991 and started to engage in cross-Strait exchanges, reaching an agreement on the authentication of documents and inquiries into registered mail.  The two sides of the Strait reached a consensus with respect to the content of the agreement, but the Mainland insisted on putting the “one China” principle in the preface of the agreement, but Taiwan strongly opposed this provision.

 

The two sides of the Strait each refused to budge on whether or not to include the “one China” principle in the agreement.  By the end of October 1992, the two sides of the Strait agreed to meet in Hong Kong for another round of talks.   As to the interpretation of “one China,” the two sides of the Strait each submitted five proposals, but both sides of the Strait refused to accept the proposals of the other side.  Consequently, Taiwan submitted another three proposals, but the Mainland delegation did not respond and returned to the Mainland.  The Taiwan delegates expressed good faith by remaining in Hong Kong, but still failed to get any response from the Mainland.  Therefore, no consensus was reached during the 1992 talks as the negotiations broke down.  Tsai Ing-wen has conceded the historical fact that talks between the two sides of the Strait took place in Hong Kong in 1992, but refuses to accept the fact that a consensus was reached after the talks broke down, showing that Tsai is only willing to accept historical facts that conform to her personal political perspective.

 

The Mainland later faxed Taiwan a letter in the beginning of November 1992, stating that the Mainland accepted one of the three proposed interpretations of “one China” submitted by Taiwan and the Mainland’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) faxed a formal letter to the SEF on November 16.  In the Mainland’s fax, it stated: “During the working talks in Hong Kong, your side recommended that both sides, under the premise of mutual understanding, adopt respective verbal statements to interpret the one China principle.  In addition, your side presented concrete contents for the interpretation (See attachment), which explicitly stated that both sides insist on the one China principle, which was covered later in various Taiwan newspapers.  We have noticed that Mr. Shi Hwei-yow on November 11 issued a written public statement, expressing agreement with the above-mentioned recommendation.  On November 3rd, your side formally notified us by letter that your side had secured the consent of the Taiwan authorities, i.e., “respective interpretations by verbal statements”.  Our side fully respects and accepts your recommendation and telephoned Mr. Chen Rong-Jye on November 3rd.”        

 

The Mainland used 72 Chinese characters to describe the consensus, while Taiwan used 83 characters.  The media wanted a simple headline instead of Taiwan’s 83-character: “Although the two sides of the Strait insist on the one China principle, there are different interpretations of one China.”  Therefore, the whole phrase was condensed to “one China, different interpretations.”  The two sides of the Strait met half-way by vaguely expressing their views on sensitive issues.  Based on the foundation of the follow-up interactions between the SEF and ARATS, the historic Koo-Wang talks in Singapore in 1993 took place.

 

In April 2000, then MAC Chairman Su Chi was concerned that the incoming DPP administration might not accept “one China” in the cross-Strait consensus, so he suggested using the “1992 Consensus” to describe the exchange of letters by fax in 1992.  Some might think that it was similar to “agree to disagree” and recommend using “understanding” to replace “consensus.”  Recently, Huang Nien (黃年) from the United Daily News, wrote a commentary and recommended using “exchange of letters through fax in 1992” to replace the “1992 Consensus.” Consensus, understanding, and exchange of letters all describe the same historical fact, but the phrase the 1992 talks fails to include the fact that a consensus was reached subsequent to the talks.

 

From my personal experience, whenever the two sides of the Strait touched on complicated political issues, the best solution was to “blur clear issues and complicate simple issues” because by doing so, both sides of the Strait could find a way to shelve differences.

 

To sum up, the “1992 Consensus” was coined after the historic 1992 talks.  In a similar fashion, the “Reign of Zhenguan (貞觀之治)” was coined by historians to describe the prosperity during the rule of Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty. (Just as the term World War I was not coined until World War II broke out.)     

 

If the incoming DPP administration could come up with a new phrase to describe the core content of cross-Strait relations acceptable to both sides of the Strait, everyone would rest at ease.  We hope that the two sides of the Strait can maintain peaceful and stable relations in order to create peace dividends and allow the two sides to co-exist in the international community.

 

Editor’s note: The term “agree to disagree” must refer to a specific dispute.  For example, the two sides of the Strait “agree to disagree” on the interpretation of one China.       

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