President Ma’s speech seeks to consecrate the ‘1992 Consensus’
President Ma Ying-jeou’s speech delivered yesterday at the Mainland Affairs Council ( MAC) was on the surface a recounting of his administration’s efforts to turn a new leaf in relations between China and Taiwan. An examination of the speech’s contents yielded nothing new in terms of ideas and vision, but rather a move by Ma to preserve the “1992 Consensus” as the standard for future interaction with China.
Pundits and analysts earlier in the week tried to pin down the abrupt nature of Ma’s planned visit to the MAC. Commemorating the 22nd anniversary of the “Koo-Wang talks” (the first meeting between Taiwan and China’s officials after WWII) seems like a stretch for the reason behind the president’s trip to the MAC and so was a trip down memory lane to visit a former post, where he once served as vice chairman.
Some say Ma was trying to regain leadership and initiative in cross- strait relations ahead of the meeting between Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. Following the KMT’s drubbing in last year’s elections, Ma’s administration has been relegated to caretaker/lame duck status, and yesterday’s speech was widely interpreted as the president’s fight to regain some momentum.
In using the “1992 Consensus” — in which both sides agree to disagree on the interpretation of “One China” — 30 times within his speech, Ma attempted to discount any alternative model to govern cross-strait relations in the coming years. While acknowledging Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and other opposition leaders’ attempts to create alternative means of consensus, Ma argued that these forms fell short of expectations both at home and abroad. Ma twice urged caution in “deviating” from the “1992 Consensus,” which he argued was the cause of a “lost decade” in crossstrait ties and increased political tension in the region.
What Kind of Consensus?
Ma asked Tsai: “What
is the ‘status quo’ that is to be maintained?” In addition, he implored Tsai to elaborate on the contents of the status quo and asked “how should it be maintained?” But by already largely dismissing frameworks outside the last seven years of Ma’s administration, the president continues to advocate an “economics first, politics later” cross-strait policy, a pattern of thinking that has caused social friction as evidenced by studentled protests in 2014.
A Continued Economizing of
The track record of the last seven years of cross-strait relations under the “1992 Consensus” has been to depoliticize the issue of political sovereignty in order to promote investment on the island as a regional economic hub while connecting continued economic prosperity on stable relations with Beijing. What remains to be seen and deserves increased scrutiny is whether or not Ma’s successor will continue to deny the political nature of the status quo, and seek to address the limitations of the consensus’ ambiguity while in office.