KMT's Strategic Clarity Tests Relationship with Communist China
United Daily News Commentary, March 27, 2023
Intensive discussions have been taking place within the Kuomintang (KMT) about a new cross-strait narrative, which will still be based on the "1992 Consensus" but will no longer emphasize "One China with different interpretations." Instead, the KMT will actively advocate the position that "One China is the Republic of China" under the 1992 Consensus. The presidential election next year may be the factor looming large here, which is causing the KMT to shift to strategic clarity and proclaim the de facto existence of the R.O.C. This is an attempt to reduce the strength of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) attacks and to gain more support from swing voters. However, as with any cross-strait narrative, another consideration must be whether the new narrative will be accepted or at least tolerated by the Chinese mainland without disrupting the foundations of KMT-Communist Party relations.
In February this year, Chairman Lai Ching-te of the DPP stated that, the "1992 Consensus," as defined by the Beijing authorities leaves the R.O.C. with no room for survival. The KMT rebutted Lai’s statement, clarifying that the 1992 Consensus was originally reached by including "different interpretations" and that only the DPP is advocating Beijing's unilateral definition.
In fact, since the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou from 2008 to 2016, the KMT had articulated the “1992 Consensus” as “one China, different interpretations” and that “One China” is the Republic of China. However, from recent internal discussions, KMT may maintain that the “1992 Consensus is the R.O.C.” from the original articulation, omitting “one China, different interpretations” and even “One China is the R.O.C.” On the one hand, this is a response to the DPP’s attacks and demonization of the "One China with different interpretations” articulation. On the other hand, it seems to declare the KMT's firm stance on proclaiming the existence of the R.O.C. to Beijing. This change in the KMT’s articulation of the 1992 Consensus may be caused by the diminishing support in Taiwan for the “different interpretations” narrative after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the “One Country, Two Systems” formula for Taiwan in January 2019 which caused widespread furor in Taiwan.
However, while the KMT’s “1992 Consensus is the Republic of China” formulation may gain a high degree of acceptance with the people of Taiwan, and the DPP may not find an easy point of attack in regards to this particular stance, mainland China may oppose this formulation. According to Ma Shao-chang, the late former vice chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, mainland China thinks that general affairs negotiation between the two sides have nothing to do with the definition of "One China," mainland China recognizes the 1992 Consensus as "One China, with no other definition."
In the past, regardless of whether the Kuomintang was in power or not, the political basis of the interactions between KMT and the Communist Party was based on not only the 1992 Consensus and opposition to Taiwan independence, but also "seeking common ground while reserving differences" and "gathering common ground to resolve differences." The "differences" here refers to the interpretation and understanding of "One China" in the 1992 Consensus.
For Beijing, although the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are not yet able to deal with more difficult issues such as the meaning of "One China" through political dialogue, there is room for interpretation under the umbrella of the "1992 Consensus" resulting in both sides being able to sit down and talk with each other.
Su Chi, former secretary-general of the National Security Council, said recently at a forum organized by the Global Views-Commonwealth Publishing Group that the 1992 Consensus represents a kind of ambiguity between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as goodwill. For cross-strait peace, we need to have room for ambiguity. Otherwise, "the more explicit the definition, the more dangerous it may become."