Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, has decided to keep the 1992 consensus on “one China” as part of its cross-strait policy, a move that is certain to please Beijing, which sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory.
The vague agreement was reached by unofficial representatives of Beijing and Taipei in Hong Kong nearly three decades ago – that there is only one China, but each side can have its own interpretation of what constitutes “China”.
For the KMT, it is the Republic of China – Taiwan’s official name for itself. In a meeting on Wednesday, the party said it would uphold the agreement, which was based on the ROC’s constitution, to maintain exchanges with mainland China.
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“The 1992 consensus, with separate interpretations recognised by the KMT during its time in government [2008-16] was based on the ROC constitution,” the party said in a statement. “It successfully allowed the two sides to find common ground while setting aside their differences, and for this [we should] continue to use this to extend cross-strait exchanges.”
Those exchanges have stopped and relations have soured since Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president in 2016 and refused to recognise the agreement, saying Beijing no longer acknowledges that the two sides can have their own interpretations.
This was based on statements made by mainland Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping, who no longer mention this aspect of the consensus, only referring to the one-China principle.
Xi went further in January last year, calling on the two sides to hold cross-strait unification talks under a “one country, two systems” model like the one in Hong Kong. Anti-government protests in the past year against a perceived erosion of freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong have given Tsai a boost, prompting many Taiwanese to back away from supporting the consensus.
Against this backdrop, the KMT has come under pressure from its younger party members to reform and abandon the consensus, and it was prompted to review the party line and structure as it seeks to return to power after a landslide defeat in January’s presidential election.
It has held 25 panel discussions in the past two months, and after a lengthy meeting on Wednesday the KMT Central Standing Committee decided to keep the consensus in its policy, and that the party must use it to “seek cross-strait interactions in line with the trends”.
Observers said it appeared there had been strong pressure from the old guard to stick with the agreement.
“[Party chairman] Johnny Chiang is still too young to deal with the old guard, who still wield strong influence within the KMT,” said Wang Kung-yi, a political science professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei.
Chiang was elected earlier this year after Wu Den-yih stepped down as chairman after the KMT’s election defeat. The new chairman has pushed to change the KMT’s position on the consensus to something more palatable for the majority of Taiwanese to boost the party’s chance of being elected.
“Obviously the strong influence of the old guard forced Chiang to compromise,” Wang said, adding that he had apparently failed to offer a new position to replace the consensus.
At the meeting, the KMT leadership outlined the conclusions from its review of the party’s cross-strait policy, including to keep the consensus, to use the ROC constitution as the legal basis for cross-strait exchanges, to insist that Beijing must respect the existence of the ROC and to resolutely oppose the “one country, two systems” model.
The KMT policy also stresses that Beijing must renounce the use of force against Taiwan, maintain peace and stability across the strait, and protect the personal freedom of Taiwanese people on the mainland, while Taiwan should promote exchanges and cooperation with both the United States and the mainland.
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This article Taiwan’s opposition KMT to uphold ‘one China’ consensus as part of cross-strait policy first appeared on South China Morning Post