The China Post news staff
Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party and presidential candidate, finally came up with a great idea on how to continue grappling with China if she were elected come Jan. 14. She would form a cross-party working group for dialogue across the Taiwan Strait to pave the way for “formal” negotiations, while not ruling out the possibility of political negotiations. What exactly the task force Tsai wants to create will do is unknown, of course. But what she means — she often says what she doesn’t mean and means what she doesn’t say — is that the ad hoc group is to make preparations for launching a poorer replica of the National Unification Council that former President Lee Teng-hui created and his successor Chen Shui-bian tried to terminate but was forced to make simply cease to function. Lee called a cross-party conference to formulate guidelines for the government to deal with the People’s Republic of China before creating the Council, which had the Executive Yuan adopt the Guideline for National Unification. But Chen made the Guideline cease to apply.
The Democratic Progressive Party, which was in opposition then as it is now, boycotted Lee’s national conference, and there is no guarantee that the Kuomintang headed by Ma Ying-jeou and James Soong’s People First Party would do the same if would-be President Tsai were to try and form her cross-party working group for cross-strait dialogue. Even with their participation, could the task force fashion an adroit strategy to pave the way for “formal” negotiations, eventually including political dialogue? Don’t be silly. What Lee — Tsai’s mentor and benefactor — could do, and did, she can’t. Lee was a powerful president, with the backing of his Kuomintang that controlled a more than two-thirds parliamentary majority. So, without participation of the then-tiny opposition party, Lee could easily launch the Council, publish the Guideline, and form the Straits Exchange Foundation to bring about a brief easing of relations between the two sides of the Strait. The only tell-tale hint Tsai has made at how she plans to get her cross-party group under way is that she would include the Kuomintang’s “1992 Consensus” and Soong’s “eventual unification” with China in her “Taiwan Consensus,” even though few know what it actually is. Ma’s consensus is a tacit pact reached in 1992 under which both Taipei and Beijing agreed there is but one China, whose connotations can be orally and separately interpreted. It worked while Lee was in office and has greatly improved cross-strait relations since Ma was inaugurated as president in 2008. The eventual unification with China was the Kuomintang’s ultimate aim while Soong was its secretary-general. Tsai didn’t elucidate on her Taiwan Consensus at their first TV debate on Saturday, and even denied that there is an agreement named the “1992 Consensus.” Is it possible that she can tolerate Soong’s persistence in eventual Chinese unification? Lee’s Council and Guideline made it possible to find a modus vivendi in the “1992 Consensus,” which worked wonders in getting dialogue started between Taiwan and Beijing simply because it did titillate the appetite of Beijing leaders for an eventual Chinese unification. Tsai’s denial of that consensus, which she wishes to amalgamate in her Taiwan Consensus, has shot down her cross-party group before it could ever be made to take off. To tell the truth, Tsai’s cross-strait dialogue working group is little more than her usual campaign gobbledygook to patch up a faulty China policy she might have to adopt were she elected.