1992 Consensus shows political wisdom

Key witnesses have recalled the political wisdom and flexibility displayed by both sides of the Taiwan Strait two decades after the birth of the “1992 Consensus.”

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the agreement, and Tang Shubei, now 81, was one of those who witnessed the historic event.

He was deputy president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), founded in late 1991 and entrusted to engage with Taiwan counterparts on cross-Strait talks.

Exchanges between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan had stalled since the Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan in 1949 after being defeated in a civil war.

In the early 1990s, the mainland and Taiwan decided to entrust non-governmental organizations to begin cross-Strait talks but they would need a shared political foundation, Tang said at a recent seminar marking the 20th anniversary of the consensus.

“We held meetings in Hong Kong with our Taiwan counterparts from the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) from late October to early December in 1992. The two sides exchanged a number of telegraphs before settling the consensus,” he said.

The common understanding, later named the “1992 Consensus,” refers to the agreement between the ARATS and SEF that each of the two organizations should verbally acknowledge that “both sides of the Taiwan Straits adhere to the One-China Principle.”

The “1992 Consensus” displayed the high-level political wisdom of Chinese across the Strait, Tang said, adding that the two sides set an example of settling cross-Strait issues in a creative way.

“The consensus laid a clear political foundation for cross-Strait exchanges and opened an age of systematic consultations across the Strait,” he said.

According to Chiu Chin-yi, then SEF vice chairman and also a key witness, the foundation had proposed that in the process toward reunification, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait would stick to the one-China Principle but have a different understanding of the definition of “one China.”

According to Chiu, on Nov. 16, 1992, the ARATS responded with a telegraph stating that both sides of the Strait should adhere to one-China Principle and seek to realize the reunification but in talks on routine affairs they shall not touch the issue of political definition of “one China.”

He said, “The telegraphs were important evidence for the 1992 Consensus.”

The consensus paved the way for the historic meeting between Wang Daohan, then ARATS president, and Koo Chen-fu, then SEF chairman, in Singapore in April 1993.

Current Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou was a deputy head of the island’s mainland affairs department in 1992 and had taken an important part in reaching the consensus.

At a seminar in Taipei on Nov. 9, Ma said that the “1992 Consensus” was not political jargon but a historical fact.

It embodied the mindset of shelving differences and facing up to reality as well as a pragmatic attitude on cross-Strait issues, he said.

The validity and value of the “1992 Consensus” should be properly acknowledged and it should be regarded as the foundation for cross-Strait exchanges and mutual trust and a key to ensure peaceful development across the Strait, he said.


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