The 92 Consensus in 1992

I’m pretty fed up with claims that the 92 Consensus is historically based and claims that it is a fiction invented a decade later. Personally, I think the important point is that the KMT and CCP have found an idea they can agree on; whether or not it is based on something that happened in 1992 is not that critical. They could call it the “Super Awesome Neato Arrangement Sponsored by Samsung and Coca-Cola” for all I care. Diplomatic-speak makes me yearn for the relatively straightforward and honest rhetoric of election campaigns.

Still, I thought it was about time I went back and looked at newspaper reports from 1992 to try to sort out what was said. I could have just read the Wiki page which basically covers all the main points, but instead I dove into old United Daily News stories. Here are a few of the important ones:

海峽兩會對「一個中國」問題無共識
文書查證協商告中挫
【記者何振忠香港卅日電】
經過延長半天的討論,海基會與海協會的文書查證協商仍然無法對「一個中國」問題達成共識,協商再告中挫。

海基會提出新的方案建議,界定為「屬於兩岸中國人的事務」,但並未獲得海協會的同意。雙方約定以適當方式聯絡,再行磋商。

儘管海協會主談代表周寧數度宣稱已經結束廿八日、十九日兩天的「工作性商談」,但兩會今天下午仍在海基會人員下榻的港麗酒店延長會商。海基會在此首次提出我方對「一個中國」原則的表述方式:「事務性協商應屬於兩岸中國人的事務」,但並未獲對方同意。

(記者白富美─台北)

行政院陸委會副主任委員馬英九昨(卅)日指出,政府已充分授權海基會就兩岸文書驗証與大陸海協會進行協商,希望雙方可以在這次的香港會談中完成草簽,同時海基會和海協會的人員可以繼續留在香港就「辜汪會談」展開磋商預備會議,以便辜汪會談可以儘快舉行。

【1992-10-31/經濟日報/02版/要聞】

In this story, the two sides have not reached any consensus on One China. The ROC side has tried to avoid the question by suggesting that “negotiations on practical matters are a matter for Chinese people on both sides,” but the PRC side rejected this. At this point, they are both still insisting that there is One China, and that One China can only be represented by their own government.

海協會同意口頭表述「一個中國」
我方協商代表許惠祐 將再停留香港等候回覆
【記者何振忠╱台北報導】
兩岸文書查證協商出現突破性發展。大陸海協會昨天以電話通如及透過通訊社發佈新聞表示,該會決定尊重並接受海基會的建議,同意以口頭聲明方式處理表述「一個中國」原則的問題:至於表述內容,將再另行協商。

海協會副秘書長孫亞夫昨天上午大約十點半左右以電話通知海基會秘書長陳榮傑,告知海協會經過研究之後,決定尊重並接受海基會的建議,以口頭聲明方式表述「一個中國」的原則;至於具體表述內容,將再協商而定。這項新的發展,昨天傍晚並透過新華社及中新社發佈新聞。

海協會這項決定可說是作了一個關鍵性的讓步,使陷於僵局的文書查證協商,再度出現轉圜的機會。海基會在獲得這項訊息後,立即告知陸委會等有關單位,陸委會高層在經過短時間協商後,仍決定依前晚確定的原則,去函海協會表明我方希望在草簽協議後,立刻續談辜汪會談預備性磋商的立場。據瞭解,海基會曾以電話向海協會表明,希望能在今天上午十點以前,也就是許惠祐等人返台之前,獲得答覆。

兩岸文書查證協商之所以遲遲無法突破,就在於中共方面始終堅持要把「一個中國」原則納入協議文字當中。

但是,口頭表述究竟是雙方共同說一套表述內容,或是雙方各以自己的表述內容「各說各話」,海協會昨天並未明確答覆。這一點將是雙方未來協商的關鍵所在。

根據研判,中共方面在「一個中國」問題上作此妥協,在接下來的協商地點上,可能會堅持在北京或台灣進行會商。至於我方是否接受,有待進一步觀察。

記者何振忠/台北報導

海協會昨天表示願意接受以口頭聲明方式表達「一個中國」的原則,陸委會與海協會連夜會商決定,責成我方代表許惠祐等人在香港多停留一至兩天,希望海協會在五日中午以前作成決定回覆我方。同時,海基會發表聲明指出,口頭聲明的具體內容,我方將根據國統綱領及國統會今年八月一日對「一個中國」涵義所作決議,加以表達。

惟據瞭解,海協會同意再度南下香港協商的可能性極低。

【1992-11-04/聯合報/01版/要聞】

This is the critical report, since this is the compromise the 92 Consensus is supposedly based on. On November 3, the SEF proposed that the two sides would each orally state the One China principle, and ARATS agreed to this procedure. As to the content of what each side would say, they would continue to negotiate.

In other words, the two sides did not come to any consensus about One China at this point. The agreement was simply to avoid the topic by not writing anything down. Both sides (presumably) continued to insist on their previous position, and both sides could continue to insist that the precondition of the meeting was met because they had stated their version of One China and the other side had not walked out or registered a formal objection. Since there would be no written record, there was no way to prove that the other side did not accept their version.

This is quite different from the 92 Consensus, in which the two sides actually agreed to the wording of “One China, Each side with its own interpretation.” (Even if China never states the second half of the 92 Consensus, it also does not openly object that the second half does not exist.) In the 1992 bargain, there was no actual agreement on content, and the PRC did not (even tacitly) admit that any other legitimate interpretations might exist. That agreement simply allowed the two sides to sidestep the One China question and move on to practical matters.

The 92 Consensus is seen as a framework that allows the two sides to negotiate on other matters without worrying about One China at every step. The 1992 agreement did not achieve that, as this story from Nov. 18, 1992 suggests:

「一個中國」兩岸表述有異 雙方漏列「和平統一」問題
若先解決事務性問題 有助打破不接觸僵局
【丘宏達】
中共對台各種聲明或說明中,一再說任何事只要坐下來談就可以解決,但我方真正派人去談的時候,卻又提出一些所謂「原則」問題,使談判無法進行。海基會成立以後,派人去了大陸多次,但一件事都談不成,因為中共突然提出要先解決「一個中國原則」問題,這就將問題複雜化。由於中共一再主張「一個中國」就是「中華人民共和國」,台灣包括在內。海基會一則無權討論這種政治性極高的問題,二則我方政府也不可能給千這種授權,因為這牽涉到變更國體,而必須由國民大會通過才行。

【1992-11-18/聯合報/02版/焦點新聞】

Here, Taiwan’s government complains that China says they are willing to talk about anything, but as soon as Taiwan sends negotiators, China always bogs things down by insisting that they should talk about One China first.

I couldn’t find any UDN stories about exactly what happened with regard to One China in the Koo-Wang meeting in Singapore on April 27, 1993. However, about a week later, Premier Lien Chan stated that the government’s position had not been changed at all because of the summit. (Just to bewilder future readers, Lien also complained that the mainland had “malicious intent” 敵意 toward Taiwan and hadn’t renounce the right to use force. Also Huang Kun-hui 黃昆輝 was then head of MAC and nominally committed to unification. Today, he is head of the TSU and not so much in favor of the same position. His deputy was Ma Ying-jeou. I wonder how tense their working relations were.)

連戰重申‘一個中國’立場
答覆立委質詢指中國分裂狀態是無法視而不見的事實
【記者馬道容/台北報導】
行政院長連戰上午在立法院指出,「辜、汪會談」不會影響政府「一個中國」的立場,一個中國是所有中國人共同的理念,目前中國處於分裂狀態是不容忽視的事實,未來政府將站在對等、分裂、分治的基礎上持續發展兩岸關係。

連 戰上午答復立委呂秀蓮質詢時做以上表示。連戰說,大家必須以務實的角度討論中國的前途問題。中共這個強大而有敵意的政權,不僅要貶抑我為地方政府,且無視 於我國在國際間應享的國際地位,更不肯正面明確表示,願意放棄以武力犯台。連戰強調,今日中國處於分裂狀態是無法「視而不見」的事實,這是中共與我方都必 須面對的事實。立委呂秀蓮上午針對「辜、汪會談」後的兩岸關係與我國重返聯合國等問題向行政院提出質詢。呂秀蓮說,「辜、汪會談」之後,一個中國的神話已經被打破,演變成在台灣的中華民國,在北京的中華人民共和國,還有一個兩岸要統一建立虛幻的中國,形成「3個中國」的新局面。

記者陳敏鳳/台北報導

陸委會主委黃昆輝上午表示,整個辜、汪會談的利弊得失仍在作評估中,但至少有兩項優點,一是創造兩岸兩會和平理性對等、互惠原則、開創先例,二是完成陸委會指定的任務。

黃昆輝是在立法院答復立委呂秀蓮質詢有關行政院對辜、汪會談的利弊評估時作上述表示。

【1993-05-04/聯合晚報/03版/話題新聞】

Overall, the claim that there was a consensus in 1992 is misleading. There was an agreement to avoid the topic, but the “each side with its own interpretation” was more a statement of behavior than of content. I can see why the KMT today feels comfortable in tracing the 92 Consensus to 1992, since it is roughly a description of what happened. That is, each side actually gave its own interpretation, the other side pretended not to hear it, and no one wrote anything down. However, they never actually agreed on “One China, each side with its own interpretation.” After the meeting, the ROC government didn’t seem to think it had changed its policy, and China felt the need to continually raise the One China question because it did not seem to feel that a consensus existed.

7 Responses to “The 92 Consensus in 1992”

  1. taiwanben2000 Says:

    “Personally, I think the important point is that the KMT and CCP have found an idea they can agree on; whether or not it is based on something that happened in 1992 is not that critical.”

    I agree with your sentiment and if Ma and the KMT had presented their post-2000 framework of cooperation as something new without trying to legitimise it via the Koo-Wang talks then they wouldn’t have left themselves open to charges of fabrication & historical revisionism. So why choose the 1992 Consensus? I hazard a guess that they felt it would have more legitimacy, and be less contentious, in the eyes of Taiwanese than if they had based it on say a formally announced United Front cooperation consensus. Plus, the timeline is quite important. As you note from the news clippings at the time (including Ma’s own scathing denunciation of China’s obstructionism and obstinacy at the time) there simply was no practical consensus at all. Then in 2000 Su Chi claims there was which in turn provides one of many foundational stones for Lien to visit Beijing in 2005 to cement KMT-CCP cooperation on shared objectives. The comes Ma’s obsessive repetition of the so called consensus which his Govt then uses as a get-out-jail card to justify all types of exchanges, educational, cultural, cross-strait business, party to party, SEF-ARATS, or MAC-TAO etc Now if the KMT had just said “We want to end this cross-strait impasse and we are going to discuss ways to do it without negating the sovereignty and independence of the ROC” (and refrained from making absurd claims to PRC territory / SCS islands) then they might not have created this millstone around their necks. But they didn’t. They blatantly fabricated a basis for their ‘cross-strait detente’ and thereby left their entire China policy open to charges of deception, black box dealing, and hypocrisy.

    The problem here is that the things that everyone knows the KMT and CCP agree on is that a) Taiwan is part of China and b) Taiwan must move towards unification (CCP&KMT differ on conditions under which that would happen) and most Taiwanese really disagree if not with a) then definitely with b). It is the KMT’s pretence or avoidance of openly admitting that b) is not on their agenda which I think upsets many Taiwanese because they feel they are being patronised, tricked, and betrayed by a KMT which only twenty years previously had told them they would never surrender to the CCP. So, yes, it wouldn’t be important if the KMT had not made it so.

    • frozengarlic Says:

      Sure, I understand that we have to argue about what happened in 1992 because the KMT chose to give it that label. I also understand that the 92 label has important undertones. On the one hand, it uses LTH to legitimize the consensus — if even LTH supported it, it can’t be considered as selling out Taiwan. On the other hand, it writes out the rest of the LTH and CSB eras as an aberration, a mere wrong turn on the longer (and inevitable) path to unification. Still, by arguing about what happened in 1992, we (including me in this post) are all getting bogged down in a secondary consideration. The most important things are that the KMT has insisted on the One China principle, that it has silently sat by as China consistently ignored the second half of the formula, and that it has decided to pursue cross-straits relations largely as a party to party exercise.

  2. Tim Maddog Says:

    馬英九打臉自己 當年稱九二會談「功虧一簣」
    http://m.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/1307678

  3. Michael Turton Says:

    Of course the key point is that the CCP and KMT have something they can agree on. That does not mean it was not something invented later, as both Lee Teng-hui and Su Chi have publicly stated. The fact that it was invented later is useful to the KMT, it means the Consensus means whatever they say it means, since China doesn’t accept it anyway. It’s the usual KMT/CCP history twisting to put the DPP in a cage.

    Michael Turton
    (finally got the comments to work)

    • frozengarlic Says:

      You’ve had trouble with the comments function on my blog? That’s ironic since I’ve had trouble with the comments function on your blog. I’m afraid WordPress and Blogger are in cahoots to suppress discussion about Taiwanese democracy!

  4. Three reporters | Frozen Garlic Says:

    […] also to bolster his ideological position. (I wrote about the UDN’s reporting of events in 1992 here.) The UDN eagerly soaked up this blatant flattery, publishing this story basking in the enormous […]

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