Forget the 1992 Consensus. What matters is substance, and Tsai Ing-wen has promised it
With Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) well ahead in the polls and a sustained negative campaign by the incumbent Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) failing to influence the numbers, Taiwan’s ruling party has shifted gear in the past week by fanning the flames of fear. From the unsubstantiated claim that Taiwan stands to lose as many as 18 diplomatic allies if the DPP were elected on Jan. 16 to warnings that tensions could return to the Taiwan Strait after eight years of relative stability, the message is clear: If the DPP wins, the sky’s going to fall. And today Beijing joined the chorus of fear-mongers by threatening the total collapse of bilateral talks if Ms. Tsai doesn’t recognize a “consensus” that may or may not exist.
China’s intervention was ostensibly sparked by remarks by Ms. Tsai during a televised debate between Taiwan’s three presidential candidates on Sunday to the effect that the “1992 consensus,” the framework under which Taipei and Beijing have held negotiations since 2008, was only one of many options.
Beijing has long insisted that adhering to the “1992 consensus” was a precondition for talks, and the KMT under President Ma Ying-jeou, who will be stepping down in May next year after serving two four-year terms, was happy to oblige, if only because doing so presumably gave it an edge over the DPP, which refuses to recognize the consensus due in large part to the “one China” clause at its core — not to mention the fact that the very existence of the “consensus” is under question.
My article, published today in the China Policy Institute blog, continues here (photo Xinhua).