Survey shows Taiwanese have no consensus on definition of '1992 consensus'

The Diplomat's survey shows Taiwanese have many different interpretations of '1992 consensus,' but few agree with China's version

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(Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Now that at least two newly-elected Kuomintang (KMT) mayors in Taiwan have started to dredge up the "1992 consensus" mantra, Taiwanese voters have been scrambling to Google the mythological agreement, and a survey on its meaning held by the Diplomat before the election is proving to be prescient.

Immediately after winning their mayoral races, both Kaoshiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and Taichung mayor-elect Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) pledged allegiance to the "1992 consensus" to curry favor from Beijing. By 3 a.m. Sunday morning, Taiwanese netizens began frantically searching for the term "1992 consensus" (九二共識) on Google, with IP addresses in Kaohsiung and Taichung being the largest sources by far.

On Nov. 10, two weeks before Taiwan's nine-in-one elections were held, The Diplomat released the results of an internet survey carried out on 1,001 Taiwanese respondents, aged 20 and over. Held from July 3-5 of this year, the survey was sponsored by the Global Taiwan Institute and implemented by a polling center inside National Chengchi University.

The survey gave four different options including "the propaganda of Chiang Kai-shek," the KMT's definition, "a plainly wrong answer mentioning that the Consensus refers China and Taiwan being two different countries," and the interpretation of China's Communist Party (CCP). The following is the full text of the questions with the results in parenthesis:

1. On international affairs, both ROC and PRC claim to represent the whole Chinese people including both mainland and Taiwan. (17 percent)

2. ROC represents Taiwan, PRC represents the mainland, the two governments belong to the same country waiting for unification. (34 percent)

3. ROC represents Taiwan, PRC represents the mainland, the two governments belong to two different countries. (33 percent)

4. PRC represents the whole Chinese people including both mainland and Taiwan, and ROC is the local government. (5 percent)

The largest group (34 percent) chose the KMT's definition and the second largest group chose the third option, which creators of the survey asserted was a "plainly wrong answer," but given the fact that this is an amorphous, contrived "agreement" any answer could seem plausible.

The authors of the survey came to the conclusion that "Taiwanese people have no consensus on the definition of 1992 consensus." What is clear is that a majority, 67 percent, chose options in which Taiwan and China currently have separate governments and are not yet "unified" as one country.

In a follow up question, the survey asked respondents if they would "support the government to accept the 1992 consensus," if they were only given one of the four options for its meaning. As a result, 75 percent favored an option that listed Taiwan and China as separate countries. Less than half (48 percent) favored the KMT's version and only 10 percent favored Beijing's version.

The conclusion of the authors of the study was that the definitions of the supposed agreement used by the KMT and CCP is out of touch with the sentiments of Taiwanese, who consider the two countries separate. Therefore, the authors concluded that China's pressuring of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to recognize the "1992 consensus" is counterproductive, because "it does not truly reflect public perception of cross-Strait relations."

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 been 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.

When Tsai took office in 2016, she refused to recognize the "1992 Consensus," and only acknowledged that the 1992 Taiwan-China talks were a "historical fact." In response, China has been seeking to punish Taiwan by excluding it from international organizations, stealing away diplomatic allies, and intimidating government bodies and corporations, such as airlines, to de-list Taiwan as a country.

In a poll recently carried out by the Taiwan Cross-Strait Policy Association on 1,070 respondents, more than half agreed that Taiwan’s government should not accept the “1992 consensus.” The survey emphasized what most observers already know: 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.