What is Mayor Ko’s ‘2015 Consensus’?

By Joe Hhung

Professor Ko Wen-je said last Monday, three days before he assumed office as mayor of Taipei, that he could not understand what the ��Consensus of 1992�� is, and proposed a ��2015 Consensus�� to supercede the one reached 22 years ago as a modus vivendi for the conduct of relations between Taiwan and China. Perhaps he honestly does not understand the ��way of life�� that has laid the legal foundation for the peaceful development of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait since President Ma Ying-jeou came to office in 2008. There isn’t a Consensus of 1992 (�E�G�@��) as such. It’s a term used by Su Chi, the then-chairman of the Council of Mainland Affairs, to describe an arrangement that helps countries work together peacefully even though they do not agree with each other. Such an arrangement is called a modus vivendi, which is binding, signed or not, in the conduct of foreign relations. Under the Consensus, which was not signed, both Taipei and Beijing are agreed that there is but one China, whose connotation can be separately and orally enunciated. That is why it is commonly referred to as the ��One China with different interpretations�� (�@���U��) principle.

Then, what is Mayor Ko’s 2015 Consensus? It is just an idea, which the people of Taiwan have to talk about to reach consensus in the year 2015, in Professor Ko’s own words. It will be based on four ��mutual understandings�� between Taiwan and China. They are mutual learning, mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual cooperation. Ko’s consensus is much the same as the ��Taiwan Consensus�� Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, advanced in the run-up to the presidential election of 2012. Both of them are just as ambiguous as the Consensus of 1992. But the former differs from the latter in that they are nothing but ideas that have yet to be formulated through public discussion as an agreement on cross-strait relations. Probably for this reason Professor Ko names his arrangement the 2015 Consensus, which has to be agreed upon by the people of Taiwan next year. You do not know what it is going to be until after it is made. Nor will you know if the people will agree. On the other hand, the Consensus of 1992 is an agreement between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China that the people on both sides of the strait are one nation and the political entity on each side can disagree with the other as to its sovereignty. To put it simply, there is but one China, though Taipei and Beijing can claim respectively that China is the Republic of China or the People’s Republic. On this basis Taiwan and China had experienced a brief detente before Chen Shui-bian was sworn in as president and have continued to develop their relations peacefully since 2008. The Consensus is a tacit agreement even President George W. Bush acknowledged in a telephone conversation with Chinese President Hu Jintao immediately after Ma was elected more than six years ago as the basis on which to improve cross-strait relations after the eight years of President Chen’s rule of Taiwan.