Taiwan Needs a New Consensus

  Previous  |  Next  

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

There's good consensus and then there's bad consensus; similarly there's true consensus and then there's false consensus. And so in past weeks, as ripples of tension and division have been building up in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Taiwanese have no doubt: the trip wire that opened that flow gate is none other than that battered, old canard, the so-called "1992 consensus."

KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin started it all by resurrecting a false premise. He emphatically said that that "1992 consensus" had to be an "indispensable precondition for a cross-strait peace agreement."

However, with trepidation he went no further.

KMT Chairwoman, Hung Hsiu-chu, who has been getting ready for a potential future meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, quickly rose to defend her interpretation. For her, the KMT agreement on "one China" already contains within it the implied sense that each side can have its own interpretation. For her, the party did not need to spell it out.

However, former vice president, Wu Den-yih, who was aware of how all this would sound to Taiwanese voters, adamantly retorted. For Wu, the emphasis that each side had its own interpretation was something that could not be omitted.

This repetitious volleying back and forth in discourse has many levels within and outside the KMT. First, for the KMT, it reflects the positioning of the various candidates for the obvious upcoming struggle over who will be the next KMT chairperson. That is its main purpose.

On a different level, and going outside the KMT, there is a changing attitude among the general populace in Taiwan. There a contrary attitude is developing, one that is reflected in the growing number of people who are saying: "If I hear someone mention that worn-out, fabricated term, '1992 Consensus,' one more time I will scream!"

These people have already seen through the canard and identify it for what it is, a KMT effort at applying Joseph Goebbels (purported) "big lie" theory, where Goebbels (supposedly) said that if you tell a lie "big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it."

They have heard the lie once too often, and no, they don't believe it.

Then there is the media. The media is also getting tired of the canard. Each time it is mentioned, they must devote space and time to explain how Su Chi admitted in 2006 that he invented the term in 2000 when the KMT lost the presidency. If more space and time are available, additional details will follow explaining that former president Lee Teng-hui, continues to declare that it all remains a "fabricated bunch of malarkey."

From the standpoint of the outside observer, this repetitious clinging to a fabricated consensus adds one more piece to the puzzle of the alternate reality that the KMT continues to create. The KMT challenge remains: How to both salvage its mock sense of identity, destiny and entitlement while still holding to the grand paradigmatic vision of "one China."

Unfortunately, that one China continues to be in the hands of Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

How can a party lose the Chinese Civil War and be driven into exile but still pretend it isn't so? How does a party admit it lost a continent but still envisions itself as the rightful ruler of that continent? That is a challenge.

However, all this begs one deeper and much simpler question. If the 1992 consensus did not happen but the idea that this consensus continues to be one that it is the "indispensable bedrock of future peace," why does the KMT not replace it? Since the past alleged consensus existed only between the two parties, why not make a new "2016 consensus" between the KMT and CCP? That would eliminate any doubts. Yet this is apparently unchartered territory beyond the great lie that no KMT person dares to enter. Instead they all continue to try and justify their position of the bogus credentials of a bogus past.

The pivotal years of opportunity were from 2008 to 2016, when the KMT had eight years with former president Ma Ying-jeou at its helm, and a majority in the legislature but they did not want to touch a new consensus at that time. Why?

The KMT remains caught in a time warp. For the KMT, the "1992 Consensus" is its attempt to claim a modern day version of the Donation of Constantine, where in medieval times a struggling papacy sought false credentials from the Roman Emperor Constantine to legitimize its temporal power over the papal states.

In the matter of "one China," it is false to think that China will change; but the KMT persists. The CCP will only accept simple recognition that it is master and its interpretation is reality. The KMT, of course, wishes to keep it vague, dwelling in a never-land where its members could eventually return as prodigal sons and daughters. Or should they be quislings?

However, for Taiwanese, who are outside this alternate reality, there is another and better option. Taiwan can forge a true consensus and it need not be made with China.

Taiwan's future consensus could be made with Japan, a nearby neighbor and the only nation that historically had control over all of Taiwan. Democracy is a crucial element in both nations' identity and given the geographical position of both nations on the periphery of China, both share a mutual dependency in protection from China's hegemony.

What consensus should these two nations reach? It need not be that complex; it can simply be that they will respect and protect each other's democracies. If these two nations wish to go further, they may even consider making a mutual defense treaty, but that need not be done immediately.

What should be the timing of this consensus between Taiwan and Japan? This year has almost past. I suggest next year as more appropriate. Ironically and perhaps symbolically, next year also marks the 20th year of China's broken promise to the people of Hong Kong by which they could have free elections.

Thus when the old canard of the "1992 consensus" surfaces again, and it will, the people of Taiwan can now have an answer: "We do not believe in that made up fairy tale of 1992, however, we do have a consensus, the 2017 consensus, one that we entered into knowingly and willingly with Japan."