A majority of Taiwanese people reject the '1992 consensus'

Why the KMT needs to reconsider its party platform and its approach to cross-strait relations

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File photo: KMT rally in 2012

File photo: KMT rally in 2012 (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Following the recent Straits Forum meeting by Kuomintang (KMT) politicians and representatives from the Chinese Communist Party, the Taiwan Cross-Strait Policy Association polled Taiwanese citizens on their views concerning the current cross-strait situation and the status quo.

Most notably, of the 1,070 respondents randomly polled, more than half agreed that Taiwan’s government should not accept the “1992 consensus.”

In contrast, 34.8 percent of respondents agreed with the KMT assertion that the government should accept the “1992 consensus,” in accordance with Beijing’s oft-touted “One-China Principle.”

The survey emphasizes what most observers already know, which is that the “1992 consensus” is no consensus at all, much less a genuine political agreement with any legal basis, but is rather a rhetorical device and a historical fabrication.

Former KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) has admitted on multiple occasions that he introduced the concept of the "1992 consensus" in 2000, before the KMT administration handed over power to the Chen Shui-bian administration. The idea was to suggest that the governments of Taiwan and China could both entertain their own idea of what "One China" actually means.

Throughout the intervening years the term has become fossilized in the ideology underpinning the KMT's party platform as a symbolic expression of the KMT's historical ties to China, and wielded as a political cudgel to attack the DPP.

Subsequently, Beijing took a cue from the KMT's criticisms of the Chen administration and the DPP, and seized on the "consensus agreement of 1992," transforming it further into a mantra for China's own cross-strait policy, refashioning the slogan into a "prerequisite"  that must be "honored" before meaningful cross-strait dialogue can be achieved.

All of this has developed despite the concept's origin as a political fiction.

It is often touted as though it was established policy, but in its application, it functions as little more than a rhetorical device to advance Beijing’s territorial claims over Taiwan.

The Tsai government in the past has noted that the “One China Principle” and the “1992 Consensus,” employed as they are by Beijing and the KMT, do not adequately reflect the status quo, and are intended to impose authoritarian pre-conditions for cross-strait dialogue on Taiwan’s democratic society, which the Tsai government, in agreement with most Taiwanese people, considers entirely unacceptable.

The KMT in Taiwan continues to support their own version of the “1992 consensus” ignorant of the dialectical tactics with which Beijing employs the slogan.

However, based on the results of the most recent survey, most Taiwanese people are in agreement with the current administration’s position that there is no historical basis for, nor any need to promote the fabricated “1992 consensus” as a prerequisite for bilateral negotiations between the two countries.

In late May, the current head of Taiwan’s MAC, Chen Ming-tung (陳明通) remarked that “it won't work even if Taiwan accepts the consensus,” because China will never respect any deviation from their idea of “one China.”

Unfortunately, the KMT is unable to recognize that their own insistence on the “1992 consensus” as a core aspect of the party’s platform, is increasingly alienating them from the mainstream of Taiwanese society.

The KMT would likely be a much more effective political party if it abandoned its stubborn insistence on the “1992 consensus,” because to most objective observers the platform makes them increasingly appear as a junior confederate of the Chinese Communist Party.

That does not earn them much respect with most of the Taiwanese electorate, and given the KMT’s historical legacy as some of the staunchest anti-communists in the 20th century, their current political stratagem of essentially seeking to accommodate the CCP’s designs for Taiwan, should be a cause for self-reflection on the part of the KMT.

At the opening ceremony of the recent Straits Forum meeting with top CCP officials like Liu Jieyi (劉結一), KMT Vice-Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said that relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should move from being “like one family” to “becoming an actual family.”

A majority of respondents to the survey, 52.4 percent, said they disapprove of Hau’s statements, while 37.3 percent expressed approval, reports CNA.

Similarly, KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) recently said that “the eventual goal of the two sides of the strait is national unification.” Asked about their agreement or disagreement with the statement, 61.3 percent of respondents expressed their disagreement, while 37.3 percent expressed approval for the statement.  

While the numbers of the current survey do indicate that the KMT still retains a considerable level of support, they are far from a majority, especially in regards to the “1992 consensus.” If more than 50 percent of the Taiwanese population disagrees with the premise and implications of the concept, how can anyone reasonably, and honestly continue to call it a “consensus”at all?

The KMT might reply that it was a consensus reached by themselves and the Chinese Communist Party a quarter of a century ago, in which case, even if there was a tacit, undocumented agreement,  they should still consider whether their insistence on that "consensus" genuinely reflects the views and aspirations of most Taiwanese people currently.

To stubbornly claim that the "1992 consensus" remains a legitimate basis for cross-strait policy, not only misconstrues the fundamental meaning of a "consensus," but also dismisses the interests of the majority of the Taiwanese electorate out of hand.

Whether that is done out of blithe ignorance or an attempt at cunning strategy, is secondary to the point that such behavior is not befitting of a political party that consider themselves as honorable custodians of a genuine republic.

In view of the support which the KMT still possesses and the benefit they can still potentially serve for their constituents and Taiwanese society as a whole, it seems now is a good time for the KMT party, especially younger, forward thinking members of the party, to consider a new approach to cross-strait relations.

It is probably in the best interests of the KMT and Taiwan, if the party abandons the worn-out sloganeering, nostalgia, and campaigning for the tired sinking ship that is the "1992 consensus."