Deconstructing the Fake 1992 Consensus

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Thursday October 17, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

In his retirement speech to the US Congress, US Army General Douglas MacArthur is remembered for quoting the well-known line from an old army ballad: "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."

However, when it comes to old politicians in Taiwan, that same line neither applies nor holds true. Instead of fading away, they continually try to find ways to stay in the game.

One recent example is former president Ma Ying-jeou's speech at a seminar on national security.

First, Ma had his usual laundry list of reasons why President Tsai Ing-wen was doing a bad job: She relied too much on the US for Taiwan's security; she lost too many of Taiwan's diplomatic allies; she let talks with the US on bilateral trade falter, etc.

However, and more important, at the heart of Ma's discourse was how he once again felt obligated to drag out the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) canard, the so-called "1992 consensus."

He further took issue with Tsai's refusal to recognize all the "special ties and agreements" that the KMT claimed to have established by it with the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1992.

It is common knowledge that in 2006, former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi, admitted that he made up this fictitious phrase and claim in the 2000. And yet, Ma, as if ironically trying to bring a dead horse back to life, continued to chastise Tsai for not accepting this lie.

There is no need to go through all the details on how the only real agreements made in 1992 were that the two governments on each side of the Taiwan Strait agreed to recognize the other's university degrees and to allow letters, correspondence and other materials to be exchanged.

That said, what is more important for Taiwanese is to ask why did Su Chi feel obligated to fabricate this claim, especially when it was eight years after the alleged fact?

Then, they must further ask why do Ma and so many of the KMT continue to try to propagate Su's fabrication?

In answer to the first, 2000 was the first time that the KMT lost Taiwan's presidency. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Chen Shui-bian won after the KMT's then vice president Lien Chan and independent James Soong split the KMT vote.

It was with that loss that the KMT sensed that the hand was writing on the wall and that it was losing its claim for any future legitimacy in Taiwan.

The KMT needed its version of the "Donation of Constantine," a famous middle-age forgery by which the Roman Papacy claimed spiritual and territorial power from the 4th Century Roman Emperor Constantine. Su Chi provided that fake legitimacy with the "1992 consensus."

The next question is more difficult and probing. If the claim to the "1992 consensus" is false, why then do the KMT and Ma, in particular, keep insisting on this falsehood? This answer has several parts.

The basis of the fake consensus is that both sides of the Taiwan Strait agree that there is only "one China." They differ only in that each side has its interpretation of what that "China" means and who is its legitimate ruler.

Essential to each side's interpretation is that Taiwan is simply a province of China no matter who rules it.

The KMT makes the further claim that the reason for its agreeing with the PRC that there is only "one China" along with Taiwan as part of that one China is that this keeps the PRC from declaring war on Taiwan. That claim is false.

The PRC does of course threaten war if Taiwan mentions independence, as it threatens sanctions and war in its usual bully fashion whenever it wants to get its way.

Its generals have even at times threatened to bomb the US west coast. What really keeps the PRC from declaring war is more its concern that the cost might be too great and who, like the US or Japan, might support Taiwan.

Further, even if there were a promise to avoid war, the situation in Hong Kong has revealed that the PRC does not keep its promises. It only bides its time weighing its strength and any advantages and opportunities.

However, there is more here than simply PRC threats and promises.

Taiwanese should first review the changing KMT presidential attitudes towards the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

During the one-party reign of Chiang Kai-shek, the KMT conducted regular covert military operations against the CCP. During the rule of Chiang Ching-kuo, there were the three noes: no contact, no compromise, and no negotiations.

Under former president Lee Teng-hui, change came and there was Lee's "special state to state" model of relations. Finally Ma came up with his own "three noes": no declaration of independence, no unification, and no use of force"—an apparent bland, do-nothing statement.

Why then, would Ma support the fake "1992 consensus?"

It is in the fakery, that the separate and more hidden reasons behind Ma and the KMT's support of this consensus are exposed.

If the KMT can limit Taiwan to being a province of "one China," no matter who rules it, then the KMT can legitimize many of its past atrocities which were done to deny Taiwanese any claim to independent sovereignty.

A sovereign Taiwan has always been possible under the UN's principle of self-determination, but the KMT has always denied it.

Return to the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed seven years after the end of World War II. That treaty only stated that Japan would surrender Taiwan; it never stated any recipient, even though the KMT like a squatter had occupied Taiwan. That fact has always left the option that by self-determination the Taiwanese could claim their own territory.

If Taiwanese have a right to their own territory, and the KMT does not, it then follows that all the acts that the KMT perpetrated from the 2-28 Incident on through the White Terror and Martial Law were illegitimate.

The KMT must be further recognized as a government-in-exile. The KMT refugees are diaspora, driven from China after losing the Chinese Civil War. In short, they are the beggars that took over the temple of Taiwan.

More follows. The Republic of China (ROC) Constitution and name must be changed. They are false credentials, falsely imposed on Taiwanese. The stolen state assets must be returned. Transitional justice must be carried out. All this will take time, but it must first be fully acknowledged and restoration begun.

This is the bitter truth behind the fake "1992 consensus" that denies this to Taiwan and which delegates it to being a province of China.

Therefore, it is important for Taiwanese to continually ask Ma and the KMT, why does they support the fake "1992 consensus?" What is Ma's real interpretation of "one China" and how does Taiwan fit into that picture?

Ma and the KMT are feathering their own future nest in dealing with the CCP. They would rather consort with the enemy as then-Zhejiang governor Chen Yi, did, than stand up for Taiwan's rightful claim to sovereignty.

There is one additional deeper answer here. To admit that the consensus is a lie, Ma would also have to admit to the decades of KMT deception and pillage. That would leave him totally out of the game of Taiwan's future politics.

Hong Kong has shown the true face of the CCP, where just like Mao Zedong's deceptive slogan, "let 100 flowers bloom" and the eventual murders at Tiananmen Square revealed: The CCP only accepts a one-party autocratic state.

Further, Taiwanese must realize that it was the "representatives of Chiang Kai-shek" and not Taiwanese that were tossed out of the UN back in 1971; if Taiwan wants to get back into the UN, it must do so under a different name, one that demonstrates that Taiwanese are not the followers of Chiang Kai-shek.

Therefore the basic question returns: How do Ma and the KMT interpret "one China" and in that interpretation, do they see Taiwan as a province of China?

Ma will no doubt continue to beat the dead horse of the "1992 consensus," but it is time for the Taiwanese to recognize that all dead horses and parties must be buried. The coming election is the best time to begin that process.