Vice President Lai hits back at ex-president’s warning of war

Vice President Lai Ching-te/ CNA photo Aug. 24, 2020

TAIPEI (CNA) — Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) on Monday accused former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of “creating divisiveness and fear” with his argument that the current administration is pushing Taiwan to the brink of war with China.

Speaking before an activity of the Transitional Justice Committee, Lai said Ma should realize that to Beijing the so-called “1992 consensus” is the same as the “one China principle,” which leaves no room for the survival of the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan’s official name.

At the same time, the “one country, two systems” framework is dead, judging from what happened in Hong Kong, and most Taiwanese people reject the framework anyway, Lai said.

“Therefore, Ma should not keep on creating divisiveness and fear among Taiwanese. This is worse than a war,” Lai said.

The 1992 consensus refers to what Ma’s Kuomintang (KMT) describes as a tacit agreement reached in 1992 between the then-KMT government and Chinese officials in Hong Kong, under which the two sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is only “one China,” with each side free to interpret what “China” means.

Lai’s Democratic Progress Party (DPP) has never accepted that such a consensus existed.

Meanwhile, the “one country, two systems” framework was designed by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) as the system under which to unify Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan with China.

Lai’s DPP has equated the “1992 consensus” with “one country, two systems” since 2019, but Ma did not advocate “one country, two systems” for Taiwan in the comments Lai criticized nor did he do so when he was president from 2008 to 2016.

What Ma argued Saturday at a forum on Taiwan Strait security was that Taiwan risked getting caught in the middle of the power struggle between the United States and China, and that by siding with Washington against Beijing and rejecting the “1992 consensus,” President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was pushing Taiwan to the brink of war with China.

Responding to Lai’s criticism, Ma’s office said in a statement that Ma’s assessment was accurate, citing the Brussels-based International Crisis Group’s (ICG) listing of the Taiwan Strait in July as a region where the security situation is deteriorating.

In July’s edition of CrisisWatch, the ICG mentioned several factors behind the tensions in the Taiwan Strait, including Taiwan’s live-fire war games, and Chinese military planes entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

It also cited U.S. approval of the sale of PAC-3 air defense missile system upgrades to Taiwan, and the U.S. Congress’ introduction of a bill that authorizes the U.S. to use military force if China were to attack Taiwan as contributing to tensions.

Ma’s office urged the public to think about whether Taiwan’s true situation was as good as the Tsai administration claims and what the impact would be if Taiwan were to absorb “first strikes” from China.

A good president should lead the country away from war, which should be the real issue behind the current verbal sparring, the statement said.

Before Lai, spokespersons from different government agencies, including the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), and Tsai herself, had criticized Ma over his accusations that the administration was leaning too closely to the U.S.