Taiwan's Real 1992 Consensus

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Tuesday December 15, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

With the coming January elections, Taiwanese are taking serious stock of which path they wish their nation to follow. Fresh in their minds is Ma Ying-jeou's so-called "Singapore moment." It was a moment clearly crafted for posterity by both Ma, as lame duck ROC president with little to show for eight years in office and by Xi Jinping, the PRC president in need of a distraction from China's faltering economy.

There is no question that the handshake of these two leaders generated its share of hoopla, both real and imagined. Yet despite that hoopla, the bloom and glow of the Ma-Xi meeting is already starting to fade. Granted, pundits will continue to try to find some way to talk about it; nevertheless, depending on their persuasion and allegiance, their statements will basically vary in range from claims of "breakthrough" to cries of "sell-out." But for Taiwanese, they need to look much deeper here and be ready for what already is following.

What will follow? Despite any other thoughts and ideas expressed and not expressed at the meeting, one sure thing that is to follow is the renewed claims from the Ma camp on the importance of the bogus 1992 consensus. Yes, that infamous fabricated 1992 consensus, something that now is allegedly claimed to have taken place when the two Chinese political parties, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) met in 1992. It is a consensus that is still absolutely denied by the Lee Teng-hui, the KMT president of Taiwan from 1988 to 2000.

Since Ma and the KMT party are once again dredging up the 1992 Consensus, the question that Taiwanese must ask is why do they resort to this continued fabrication and what did Taiwanese actually give consent to in 1992?

--Looking back at those early years of Taiwan's democracy, a number of very important things did actually happen in 1992, things that were both crucial and which Taiwanese can be proud of.

---Taiwan's real 1992 consensus had its breakthrough moment with the Wild Lily Movement protest in 1990. That protest took place when Lee Teng-hui was about to be inaugurated for an upcoming six-year term as president. The protest militated against the fact that Lee had been elected solely by the 671 members of the then existent National Assembly, an assembly made up of KMT members.

At that time, those in the Wild Lily movement were very well conscious of the previous year's Tiananmen Square Massacre in the nation on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. As Taiwanese could well sympathize with those in China that suffered under the CCP's one-party state crack down since they had similar experiences from their 2-28 and White Terror crack downs under the one-party state KMT.

Nonetheless these protestors were unafraid to risk all. In the end, Lee promised that in the 1996 election, it would be the people and not the National Assembly that would elect Taiwan's president.

Two immediate spin-offs followed the 1990 meeting between Lee with the protestors. In 1992, Lee forced the retirement of the "iron rice bowl" KMT legislators who had been elected in China in 1947 and enjoyed the privilege of never having to run for office again. Thus the first major cornerstone of Taiwan's 1992 consensus is that the Taiwanese would hereafter be able to freely elect their legislators under a multi-party system--The second crucial cornerstone of Taiwan's 1992 consensus is that the Garrison Command was disbanded; the Garrison Command was basically the cadre of military police that under the KMT one-party state rule could arrest, imprison and try anyone with very little recourse.

Other contributing factors like the lifting of the national black list etc. took place but the above two made up the two key points of Taiwan's 1992 consensus. Four years later, Taiwan's 1996 consensus followed and in that consensus Lee Teng-hui kept his promise to allow Taiwan's president to be freely elected by the people.

Interestingly enough, Lee Teng-hui won that election in 1996, and then went on to serve another four years, giving him an unusual 12 years of the presidency. All this is part of the factors that make up the bedrock foundations and the guarantee of Taiwan's democracy

Since this is what really happened in 1992 and afterwards, the question must be asked, why then did Su Chi fabricate the KMT version of the 1992 consensus? The answer is simple. Due to a split in the KMT vote, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party had unexpectedly been elected president of Taiwan in the 2000 elections. Chen's victory came as a complete surprise and by a slim margin namely his 39 per cent of the vote to James Soong's 36 per cent and Lien Chan's 23. It was a legitimate election and the KMT lost the presidency for the first time. In shock, many KMT party members were worried that the DPP being in power and sought a way to preserve the party-to-party discussions that the KMT had begun with the CCP in 1992.---These are the two different versions of the 1992 consensus that the Taiwanese need to contrast. And this brings us back to the present, where current KMT president Ma Ying-jeou with his dismal record and dismal approval ratings as a lame duck sees his power slipping away; Xi Jinping also realizes that his chances of hoped for unity are slipping away as he will never have another Quisling like character as Ma to negotiate with on the opposite side of the Strait. It is a desperation move to try and lock Taiwan into a state of party-to-party negotiations between the Leninist based parties, the KMT and the CCP.

--In contrast therefore when Taiwanese hear the phrase 1992 Consensus in the future and they will; they can actually respond with pride and say, yes we definitely do have a 1992 Consensus. It is not the 2000 fabricated version, but one that was agreed upon by all Taiwanese and is a crucial part of Taiwan's democracy. Any future talks between Taiwan and China must therefore take this consensus into consideration.