Cross-Strait Dialogue and One China
Until 1999, there was little disagreement between the Mainland and Taiwan over the meaning of One China. In fact, in 1992, a loose understanding was reached – essentially to allow each side to form its own definition of One China – that became the basis for the so-called 1992 consensus and also paved the way for a series of official talks in the 1990s between the two sides. This all ended in 1999 when then Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui proposed a “two-state” theory for cross-Strait relations.
And in a renewed effort to marginalize President Chen and highlight the ruling party’s rejection of One China and the 1992 consensus, Beijing recently put on a red-carpet welcome for the leaders of Taiwan’s opposition parties, Lien Chan and James Soong, who support eventual reunification.
This has put President Chen in the increasingly difficult position of trying not to be outflanked on the right by the opposition parties with regard to cross-Strait policy initiatives while not losing his pro-independence base on the left.
Unfortunately, as long as policy setters on both sides remain rigid in their views on the One China issue, the chances for a resumption of dialogue seem remote.
Nevertheless, I believe a compromise could be found that would allow both Beijing and Taipei to return to the table under no preconditions if talks could be arranged at the lower-levels between interlocutors in the Communist and DPP parties.
I actually offered to facilitate similar, discreet discussions between then Deputy Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office Zhou Mingwei and his counterpart Dr. Tsai Ing-wen from the Mainland Affairs Council after meeting with them in April 2002. While Taiwan agreed to the offer, the Mainland chose to demur.
Hopefully, at some point, the new leadership on the Mainland will be willing to come to the table without any preset conditions – possibly in exchange for a tacit agreement by President Chen to hold discussions based in principle on 1992 consensus framework and the Chen-Soong 10-point agreement.