1992--The Consensus That Never Was

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Sunday May 25, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." These words of Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister for Adolph Hitler come to mind each time someone mentions the 1992 Consensus, the alleged agreement between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This agreement holds that there is one China open to different interpretations; it implies that Taiwan is part of that one China. The '92 Consensus has been bandied about since Su Chi, then a KMT Straits Exchange Foundation official invented it in 2000. The most recent use of this made-up term came in the inaugural address of Taiwan's newly elected president Ma Ying-jeou. Why Ma still clings to this fabrication speaks volumes on his character, his lack of courage and leadership, and his modus operandi.

The 1992 Consensus is just what was stated, a fabrication, a ploy, a sham. Su Chi who admitted to making it up is now the secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC). When he constructed the term he saw the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was gaining the power of the presidency in 2000 and he wanted to perpetuate the KMT spin on Taiwan's history. Some may find it disturbing that Taiwan's secretary-general of the NSC is prone to make things up to justify KMT actions, but that is perhaps what Ma liked about him when he made the appointment.

The '92 consensus dates back to what are known as the Koo-Wang Talks when Taiwan's Koo Chen-fu, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) met with Wang Daohan chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) to work out solutions to problems in cross-strait commerce. No papers were signed indicating the consensus, and China did not acknowledge this fabrication until it saw it could work in its favor in pressing unification. Koo and Wang are now both dead and dead men tell no tales. Hence Su Chi has had carte blanche to make up what he wanted; the more important issue remains however, why do people and in particular, Taiwan's new president want to perpetuate this fabrication.

One could claim that using this phrase is an attempt to establish a common ground from which to work future negotiations, but why go to a fabricated past? Why not simply have the courage to start from the present and say we will begin negotiations based on mutual respect and the fact that there are many areas where we agree to disagree. Lee Teng-hui who was the president of the Republic of China in 1992 recently stated that he directly told Ma Ying-jeou that there was no 1992 Consensus. At that point, Ma was silent taking what might be called the stance that, "my mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts."

The real first clue may be in the fact that the alleged '92 consensus happened before Taiwan had become a full-fledged democracy. All dealings were done between the KMT and the CCP and the KMT and CCP would rather return to those party-to-party days. What Ma's insistence on preserving the fabricated '92 consensus also points to is the KMT's continuing propensity to fabricate the past. Look at how long the KMT fabricated reasons for why it lost the civil war; look at how long it justified its one-party state days with the fabrication that it was the legitimate ruler of China and was going to retake the Mainland.

What does make Ma Ying-jeou seek to find a legitimacy of the present from the past; a past that never was? Where is the courage to say, now that I am president, I will forge a new policy and we will take responsibility for it? One China, two interpretations? If there ever was any alleged agreement on different interpretations of what China was, it blew up when President Lee Teng-hui called China's bluff and presented his interpretation. Lee's interpretation was that all relations should be done on a state-to-state basis. Case closed. Before his election Ma claimed he would defend Taiwan's sovereignty to the end, does he now lack the courage of his words?

In his inaugural address, Ma further ironically stated "what matters is not sovereignty but core values and way of life," from this he went on to emphasize Chinese ethnicity. Contrary to DNA and history he likewise spoke of Taiwan as only belonging to the ethnic Chinese. Why then dispossess the Taiwanese and aborigines? Look again at Goebbels words in their continued context. Goebbels went on, "The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

What is the truth of Taiwan's ethnicity where 85 per cent of the people have aboriginal blood? Certainly there are of course numerous diehards in the KMT who still want to see Taiwan and China as a Sino-centric KMT and CCP party-to-party, civil war matter. In this civil war, the KMT had dispossessed Taiwan's people when the KMT came from 1945 on and these diehards want to continue to do so even though Taiwan had won its democracy from them. There are also numerous KMT who have vested money interests in China and they feel these are better protected if all future dealings remain on a party-to-party Sino-centric basis.

Ma is not using force to repress dissent; he is more subtle. By seeking the legitimacy of a fabricated past and by his appeal to Confucian core values he follows the same route taken by Chiang Kai-shek. Who more than Chiang Kai-shek mouthed the Confucian core values to legitimize and cloak the condescending chauvinist elitism of the KMT? Ma whether purposely or not is choosing Chiang as a mentor and he uses the same method to link Taiwan with China while belittling anyone who is not KMT.

The '92 consensus and shared core values? What core values did the KMT practice during the White Terror and martial law? Anyone who knows the detailed history of that period can ask where were benevolence, righteousness, honesty and generosity. Were these the values that drove Ma as a campus spy?

What core values are shared with China? Are these the values that drove the Cultural Revolution? Can anyone point to benevolence, righteousness, honesty and generosity in the way China has treated Tibet, in the way it has treated the Falun Gong, in the way it has suppressed and sought control over all religions, in the way it has kept most of its people in the dark because there is no freedom of the press, and scant rule by law? Does anyone see benevolence, righteousness, honesty and generosity in the way China has continually striven to marginalize Taiwan from even participation in the World Health Organization and World Health Association (WHA) now and when SARS was rampant? Ma states that sovereignty is not important. Is Taiwan to trade sovereignty for this?

Ma's critics contend that he has long possessed the ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth. Not long ago Yu Wen took the fall for Ma's profits in using the "state affairs" fund and Yu sits in jail. Now safe from any further appeal by prosecutors, Ma with presidential immunity attempts to perpetuate a Mr. Clean image. We are asked to believe that a touted Harvard educated lawyer could watch his personal bank account increase by over a half million US dollars and not know it and conveniently never ask why. We can wonder how long it will be before Ma rewards Yu with a presidential pardon. Should we call that benevolence or righteousness?

Ma's reliance on the lie of the past follows another lie that is perpetuated by the People's Republic of China (PRC) from the Shanghai Communiqu? In that communiqu? the US acknowledged that China had its own view of one China. The PRC then changed that and began saying that the US agrees with and accepts China's interpretation of one China as the correct one. That lie has been told so often that even many in the US State Department either willingly or unknowingly accept it.

So now when you hear someone mention the phrase, the 1992 Consensus, simply think to yourself, Paul Joseph Goebbels is alive and well and living in Taiwan.