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  • President Ma delivers address at symposium on "1992 Consensus"
  • Date
2012/11/09
President Ma delivers address at symposium on "1992 Consensus." (01) President Ma delivers address at symposium on "1992 Consensus." (02)

SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane,
SEF Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian,
Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi,
Colleagues from the SEF,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning!

I'm really happy to be here once again at the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) for this symposium on the 20th anniversary of the "1992 Consensus," and to meet with all of you at the C. F. Koo Hall, which is named after Mr. Koo Chen-fu, the first SEF chairman.

A. How the "1992 Consensus" came about
Holding this symposium to mark the 20th anniversary of the "1992 Consensus" is a matter of threefold significance. First, it sets the historical record straight regarding how the "1992 Consensus" came about, and correctly evaluates it. Second, it confirms that the "1992 Consensus" has provided the foundation for the current mutual trust and interaction achieved between the two sides. And third, the holding of this conference declares that the "1992 Consensus" is the key to peaceful cross-strait relations.

In 1987, Taiwan began allowing its citizens to visit relatives in the Chinese mainland. Over the subsequent four years, the ROC government began working to reform its system of constitutional government. Some aspects of this effort had a connection with cross-strait relations. There was the termination of the "Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion," for example, and the repeal of the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion." Also, with regard to the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, our government clarified that under the ROC Constitution there is "one Republic of China, with two different areas." Thereafter, each side established entities to handle cross-strait affairs. Taiwan, for example, set up the Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation, while the mainland set up the Taiwan Affairs Office and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). As a result of exchange and dialogue, and in response to changing international conditions, cold war across the Taiwan Strait came to an end. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait embarked upon a process of engagement.

The "1992 Consensus" came about against a specific set of historic circumstances. Twenty years ago, in my capacity as vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, I personally took part in and witnessed the entire process, and still recall the events vividly. The initial impetus for the "1992 Consensus" arose during the course of negotiations between the SEF and the ARATS, which were disagreeing over how to handle the "one China" principle. In 1992, when the newly established SEF and ARATS began discussing how to handle document authentication and the delivery of registered mail, the ARATS requested that a note setting out the "one China" principle be included in the foreword to the agreement that the two sides were negotiating. The SEF had reservations regarding this request. As of October 28, 1992, when the SEF and the ARATS decided to meet for talks in Hong Kong, no further action had been taken on the matter.

Prior to that, on August 1 of that year, then-president Lee Teng-hui, who was also the chairman of the National Unification Council (NUC), presided over a meeting of the NUC where the participants adopted a resolution on the meaning of "one China." Because Taiwan was preparing to engage in talks with mainland China, before discussing the "one China" principle with the other side, it had to clarify its own stance on the matter. The resolution stated as follows:

"The two sides of the Strait have different opinions as to the meaning of 'one China.' It should mean the Republic of China (ROC), founded in 1912 and with de jure sovereignty over all of China. The ROC, however, currently has jurisdiction only over Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.... Since 1949, China has been temporarily divided, and each side of the Taiwan Strait is administered by a separate political entity. This is an objective reality." This resolution was adopted on August 1, 1992 at the Office of the President at a meeting of the NUC. The meeting was chaired by then-president Lee Teng-hui. I was present at that meeting along with several dozen other people, including Premier Hau Pei-tsun, Kaohsiung mayor Wu Den-yih, and Mainland Affairs Council chairman Huang Kun-huei.

During the talks that took place in late October of 1992, the two sides each put forward five proposals on the matter without reaching a consensus. Our side, with the government's authorization, then put forward three more proposals on October 31. The mainland side acknowledged receipt of these three proposals and returned to the mainland on November 1.

On November 3, the ARATS announced in a press release issued by the Xinhua News Agency that it was willing to accept one of the proposals, which was for each side to release an oral statement setting out its own interpretation of the "one China" principle. The ARATS also suggested separate talks on the actual content of the two sides' oral statements. Our government then authorized the SEF to issue a news release on that same day and send a formal letter notifying the ARATS that our authorities had agreed to have each side "release an oral statement setting out its own interpretation of the 'one China' principle." Deputy Secretary-General Sun Yafu of the ARATS on that same day telephoned Secretary-General Chen Rong-jye of the SEF to say that the ARATS "fully respects and accepts the suggestion put forward by the SEF." The ARATS provided a 72-character description of the oral statement it would use to state its one-China position, and also provided an attachment setting out the 83-character letter that it had received from the SEF. In other words, the "1992 Consensus" was actually set down on paper between the two sides. It is a fact of history.

This is how the SEF and the ARATS worked out a consensus 20 years ago. You can read all about it in newspapers published in Taiwan that year on November 4 and 17. They used various different headlines, such as "Two Sides of Strait Agree to Release Oral Statements With Separate Interpretations of 'One China' Principle" (China Times and others), "One China, Respective Interpretations" (United Daily News), and "One China, Each Side Talking Past the Other" (Commercial Times). In April 2000, because ruling power in Taiwan had just changed hands in the previous month's presidential election, then-Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi released a statement intended to ease fears about the impact of the election upon cross-strait ties. In his statement he referred to the consensus in short form as the "1992 Consensus," and subsequently this became the most commonly used term in society at large. The term "1992 Consensus" was thus coined by then-chairman Su of the Mainland Affairs Council, but he certainly did not fabricate its content from thin air. The consensus grew out of talks between the SEF and the ARATS.

B. The basis of cross-strait rapprochement, consultations, and exchange
I am very pleased that the SEF is holding this symposium today, and am quite happy to be able to have a serious conversation with all of you about the "1992 Consensus" at a time when there is no election campaign going on. I was involved in the making of plans to establish the SEF 24 years ago when I served as chairman of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) and concurrently as the executive secretary of the Executive Yuan's Mainland Affairs Task Force. SEC Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian, who is with us here today, was then the vice chairman of the RDEC and the deputy executive secretary of the Mainland Affairs Task Force. When the SEF and the ARATS reached the "1992 Consensus" 20 years ago, I was a participant in and witness to the process. Of course, there's no way I could have known then that 20 years later I would be running for re-election to a second term as president, or that the "1992 Consensus" — which is a key to defining the nature of the cross-strait relationship, and constitutes the basis for cross-strait talks — would become a major focal point of the election campaign, and one of the main topics of debate between the blue and green camps.

Because the opposition parties have raised questions about the "1992 Consensus," now that the election is over, as president of the ROC I feel the need to set the historical record straight by telling the entire nation that the "1992 Consensus" is not a political symbol, but a fact of history. The "1992 Consensus" is the crystallization of some very sophisticated political wisdom. It is the "creative ambiguity" that people talk about. It embodies the spirit of "facing reality and shelving controversies," and the attitude that problems should be resolved pragmatically. And most importantly, the content of our statement on the meaning of "one China" is completely consistent with the provisions of the ROC Constitution as well as the spirit of the National Unification Council's "Resolution on the Meaning of 'One China.'" And the consensus amply reflects the government's principle that the parties to negotiations must interact as equals and treat each other with dignity.

After sending its November 16, 1992 letter affirming that a cross-strait consensus had been reached, the ARATS then, without waiting for a reply from the SEF, sent another letter on November 30 requesting that the two sides arrange a meeting between the leaders of the SEF and the ARATS. On December 3, the SEF responded by letter, indicating that it welcomed the suggestion made by the ARATS. The so-called "Koo-Wang talks" between SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu and ARATS chairman Wang Daohan took place in Singapore from April 27 to 29, 1993. This represented the first contact between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait after a hiatus of nearly a half-century. The talks attracted intense international scrutiny, resulted in the signature of four agreements, and brought about the establishment of a system for communications and meetings between the SEF and the ARATS. In effect, the Koo-Wang talks represented an early-stage platform for institutionalized cross-strait consultations. Had there been no "1992 Consensus," there could have been no Koo-Wang talks.

However, despite achieving the "1992 Consensus" and carrying out the Koo-Wang talks of 1993, the two sides were still only just beginning to establish contact, so mutual trust was rather fragile, which is why the relationship came in for some rough times after 1995. In particular, after ruling power in Taiwan changed hands in 2000, mutual antagonism generated strong tension and Taiwan came to be regarded within the international community as a "troublemaker." In the years since then, the two sides of the strait have learned that by engaging in a standoff, we just wasted time, money, and resources, and missed an opportunity to create a win-win situation. And more importantly, both sides have come to understand the important significance of the "1992 Consensus." That is why, as mayor of Taipei 10 years ago, I began calling on the two sides to "simultaneously" return to the "1992 Consensus." I also wrote several articles in support of this idea. When Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan went to the mainland in 2005 to meet with Hu Jintao, the general secretary of the Communist Party, he stressed that the "1992 Consensus" should serve as the basis of cross-strait relations.

Four days after I was elected on March 22, 2008 as president, General Secretary Hu held a phone conversation with President George W. Bush of the US, and the latter, according to a news release issued by the Xinhua News Agency, stated the following: "He (Hu Jintao) said it is China's consistent stand that the Chinese Mainland and Taiwan should restore consultation and talks on the basis of 'the 1992 consensus' which sees both sides recognize there is only one China, but agree to differ on its definition."

This English-language quote was carried in Xinhua's English news release, and it has also been posted to the website of mainland China's permanent mission to the UN.

On May 26, 2008 — the sixth day of my presidency — the SEF held an extraordinary joint meeting of its boards of directors and supervisors and selected Chiang Pin-kung and Kao Koong-lian as the SEF chairman and vice chairman. That very same day, the SEF sent a letter to the ARATS to request resumption of talks on the basis of the "1992 Consensus." On May 29, the ARATS responded by letter, indicating its agreement to act as soon as possible to resume contacts and negotiations between the SEF and the ARATS on the basis of the "1992 Consensus." In this letter, the ARATS also invited Chairman Chiang to lead a delegation to Beijing from June 11 to 14 to discuss cross-strait weekend charter flights and travel to Taiwan by tourists from the Chinese mainland. This was the first session of the "Chiang-Chen talks," and was completed before the end of my first month in office. Before the end of my second month we had approved the launch of direct cross-strait charter flights and visits to Taiwan by mainland tourists. The two sides were able to quickly establish contacts of historic significance and make up for lost time precisely because they had agreed to return to the "1992 Consensus."

Thanks to a joint effort on both sides of the strait, in just four short years we have carried out the "Chiang-Chen talks" eight times. These have yielded 18 agreements and two points of consensus covering a wide range of issues pertaining to the economy and people's everyday lives.

On December 16 of 2011, when presiding over a meeting commemorating the 20th anniversary of the founding of the ARATS, Jia Qinglin, the chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, stated that "in 1992, the ARATS and Taiwan's SEF were given authority by their respective governments to reach a consensus in which both sides embraced the one-China principle, but with different interpretations to be explained in separate oral statements. This is what today is referred to as the '1992 Consensus.' That consensus laid the political foundation for cross-strait talks and facilitated the holding of the 1993 'Koo-Wang talks,' and constituted an important step forward in the history of cross-strait relations." Yesterday, in an address at the opening ceremony of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Hu Jintao officially referred to the "1992 Consensus."

Ladies and gentlemen, in the four-plus years since I took office, I have issued remarks on the "1992 Consensus" and "one China, respective interpretations" at nine important events, including twice in my two inauguration addresses, four times in addresses delivered during National Day celebrations, two times in addresses delivered on New Year's Day, and once during the 18th Kuomintang National Party Congress. I've done this because the "1992 Consensus" is now the most important basis of cross-strait relations.

It would have been hard for any of us to imagine 20 years ago that today there would be 558 direct flights between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait weekly, or that Alishan and Sun Moon Lake would be swarming with people from the mainland, who now account for over two million visits annually. Each year, over 10,000 students from mainland China come to Taiwan to study. Some come seeking degrees, while others come as exchange students, and they engage in spirited discussions with local university students in a free exchange of ideas. Law enforcement authorities on the two sides are cooperating in the fight against crime, and over the past three years have arrested 4,210 persons involved in scam operations. In the process, they have reduced scam crimes by 41%, and the amount of money swindled from the public has been cut by 67.7% to NT$10.2 billion. Interactions of many different types have lessened the feeling of "otherness" between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. It would be fair to say that the vigorous state of cross-strait ties has come about because the two sides have returned to the "1992 Consensus" and shelved controversies.

C. Working for the people's welfare, creating a peace dividend
The "1992 Consensus" is of great significance and far-reaching impact. In addition to easing cross-strait tensions, it has also improved Taiwan's international relations, because cross-strait relations and international relations reinforce each other. Gradually, we have moved away from our former "vicious cycle" and are turning it into a "virtuous cycle." As a result, Taiwan has been transformed from a "troublemaker" into a "peacemaker."

Taiwan-US relations, for example, have made great strides forward recently. When mainland leader Hu Jintao visited the US last year (2011), President Barack Obama publicly praised Taiwan for its pursuit of cross-strait dialogue and rapprochement and the signing of the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked during last year's APEC meetings that Taiwan is an important security and economic partner of the United States.

The facts show that improvements in cross-strait relations have gradually brought increased breathing room for Taiwan in the international arena. The number of jurisdictions around the world that provide visa-free courtesies or landing visas to ROC nationals has increased to 129 from only 54 when I took office in 2008, and the ROC is the only nation among the 37 in the US Visa Waiver Program that does not have official diplomatic ties with the US. Quite clearly, seeking good relations with the mainland and with the international community is not an either/or proposition. Our government has successfully turned a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle. In terms of participation in international organizations, this year the ROC attended the World Health Assembly as an observer for the fourth consecutive year, and dispatched former vice president Lien Chan to take part in the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting for the fifth consecutive year. In 2009, moreover, we joined the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Government Procurement, and we have now taken part in the annual assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency for two straight years as an observer. These achievements were beyond our reach in the past. As for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), mainland leader Hu Jintao stated to Lien Chan during the APEC meetings this past September that the two sides could discuss the possibility of letting Taiwan participate appropriately in ICAO activities. All these breakthroughs represent peace dividends generated by cross-strait rapprochement.

D. Looking back, gazing forward
Looking back on the past 60 years of history, we discover that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can opt for either war or peace. We can choose strife, competition, or mutual isolation. Or we can choose to interact. It's all a matter of what we're looking for, and it's up to the two sides to exercise their wisdom and make a choice.

Life in modern, free, democratic, and prosperous Taiwan is good, but we must not forget the harm that civil war in the previous generation caused to the nation and its people. We have a responsibility to heal the wounds. ARATS chairman Chen Yunlin led a delegation to Taiwan in September of this year, and the last stop on their itinerary was the offshore island of Kinmen. From the perspective of cross-strait history, this was an extremely significant visit. Beginning on August 23, 1958, the mainland suddenly started pounding the islands in Kinmen with artillery. Three shells on average fell on every square meter of land there, 3,228 civilians and ROC soldiers were injured or killed, 4,594 dwellings were entirely destroyed, and 4,459 dwellings were partially destroyed. Fifty years later, the Taiwan Strait has been converted from a battlefield into an avenue of peace. Although the bloody episode of the bombardment is now a thing of the past, we nevertheless must not forget it, because only by drawing comparisons with that period in cross-strait relations can we truly understand the precious value of today's cross-strait rapprochement and peace. And only in this way will we realize just how important it is to preserve what we've achieved.

The "1992 Consensus" in and of itself is not enough. There are three more things the government still must do. First, it must seek to expand and enhance cross-strait interaction. Second, the SEF and the ARATS must each establish representative offices on the opposite side of the strait. And third, the ROC must thoroughly review and make appropriate revisions to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. These measures are intended to elevate ties between the two sides to a new level and create a long-lasting foundation for the peaceful development of relations, so that people on both sides will have a peaceful and prosperous future. The people and governments on both sides have learned an important lesson over the past 20 years: If we are to build a strong, sustainable peace, we must shift from confrontation to consultation, and cooperate to create a win-win situation.

Thank you, everyone! Best wishes to all of you!
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