EU confident in Taiwan’s system of governance

The European Parliament is pictured in this Dec. 12 photo amid reports that it adopted a resolution Wednesday that includes a provision encouraging the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume their dialogue. (Courtesy of EP)

Brussels (CNA) — The European Union (EU) reiterated on Jan. 3 that it will continue to develop relations with Taiwan and support the shared values that underpin Taiwan’s system of governance, following a recent speech in which Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said China retains the right to use force to achieve reunification with Taiwan.

“The EU has a strong stake in the security, peace, and stability of Asia, including across the Taiwan Strait,” a EU spokesperson said in an email response to CNA on Xi’s speech on cross-Strait relations Wednesday. “We support the constructive development of relations between mainland China and Taiwan as part of the peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific region,” the spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately, cross-strait relations have remained frozen in the past two years,” the spokesperson said, adding that it is important to maintain the status quo, to restart cross-strait dialogue and to exert restraint. “Initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue, co-operation and confidence-building between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are to be encouraged,” the spokesperson noted.

Reiterating the EU’s “One China” policy, the spokesperson said: “We are committed to continuing to develop our relations with Taiwan and to supporting the shared values underpinning its system of governance.” Xi said in a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” on Wednesday that Taiwan “must and will be” united with China.

He also said that over the past few decades, China has promoted the “1992 consensus,” which he said was reached by the two sides of the strait on the basis of the “one China principle” and the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences.

In his speech Xi defined the “1992 consensus” as “the two sides of the strait belonging to one China, and working together to seek the unification of the nation.” He attributed the beginning of cross-strait negotiations to the consensus, which is interpreted differently in Taiwan. Xi said China is willing to talk with any party in Taiwan to push forward the political process as long as it accepts the “one China principle.”

However, “we will not renounce the use of force or give up the option of using all necessary measures” to serve that end and crack down on Taiwan independence, he noted. In response, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) stressed she will never accept the so-called “1992 consensus” because it is tantamount to the “one China, two systems” formula devised by China to bring Taiwan under its control.

Tsai stressed Taiwan will never accept that formula and that the vast majority of Taiwanese people are firmly opposed to such an approach devised by Beijing. The “1992 consensus” refers to a verbal agreement reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) administration and Chinese communist officials.

This agreement has been consistently interpreted by the KMT to mean that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is only “one China,” with each side free to interpret what “China” means. However, Beijing has never publicly voiced support for the second part of this KMT interpretation.

Tsai and the Democratic Progressive Party have never accepted the consensus. That stance led Beijing to halt dialogue with Taipei, freezing cross-strait relations after years of improvements under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT from 2008-2016.

Taiwan’s representative office in the EU and Belgium has conveyed to the European External Action Service (EEAS) Tsai’s comments and the objection of the Taiwanese people to Beijing’s “one China, two systems” formula, according to sources familiar with the matter.

By Tang Pei-chun and Elizabeth Hsu