Catherine Hsu is director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Toronto
This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a commemorative speech on the 40th anniversary of the so-called "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” and proposed a Taiwan model of “one country, two systems” for China’s eventual unification. The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, responded to Mr. Xi’s speech immediately, stressing that democratic values are the values and way of life that Taiwanese cherish. She called on China to bravely move toward democracy – for only in this way can China truly understand Taiwanese people’s ideas and commitments.
In the speech, Mr. Xi said that on the basis of the “one China principle,” the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have reached the “1992 Consensus,” assuming that both sides belong to “one China” and will work together to seek “national unification." He also touted the “one country, two systems” model seen in Hong Kong as the lone path to unification.
In her response, Ms. Tsai clearly emphasized that “we have never accepted the ’1992 Consensus.' The fundamental reason is because the Beijing authorities' definitions of the ’1992 Consensus' are ‘one China’ and ‘one country, two systems.’ The speech delivered by China’s leader has confirmed our misgivings.” Ms. Tsai reiterated that “Taiwan absolutely will not accept 'one country, two systems.’ The vast majority of Taiwanese also resolutely oppose ‘one country, two systems,’ and this opposition is also a ‘Taiwan consensus.’"
The opposition party that accepts the “1992 Consensus” also rebutted Mr. Xi’s remarks, saying that the Taiwan model of “one country, two systems” proposed by Mr. Xi is not the connotation of the “1992 Consensus” the opposition party believes. It should mean “one China, with respective interpretation,” and for Taiwan, “one China” refers to the Republic of China (Taiwan). This demonstrates the fact that refusing the “one country, two systems” proposal is a common position of the Taiwanese government and the opposition and therefore is a “Taiwan consensus.”
In response to the cross-strait negotiations proposed by Mr. Xi, Ms. Tsai replied that Taiwan is willing to engage in negotiations. At the same time, she also reiterated that her “four musts” proposal is the most basic and crucial foundation that will determine whether cross-strait relations develop in a positive direction:
“First, China must face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and not deny the democratic system that the people of Taiwan have established together;
"Second, China must respect the commitment of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freedom and democracy, and not foster divisions and offer inducements to interfere with the choices made by the people of Taiwan;
"Third, China must handle cross-strait differences peacefully, on the basis of equality, instead of using suppression and intimidation to get Taiwanese to submit;
“Fourth, it must be governments or government-authorized agencies that engage in negotiations. Any political consultations that are not authorized and monitored by the people cannot be called ‘democratic consultations.'”
The people of Taiwan believe that the future of the country should be decided by its 23 million people. However, Mr. Xi in his remarks insisted that Taiwan’s only future lies in unification. The difference between the two sides is due to the very fact that democracy exists only on one side of the Taiwan Strait. This is why Ms. Tsai said that what the two sides of the Strait really need is a pragmatic understanding of the fundamental differences in the values we espouse, our lifestyles and our political systems.
In addition, Mr. Xi in his speech expressed his intention to achieve unification in a peaceful manner, but he did not promise to renounce the use of force, retaining the option of taking all necessary measures. It is hard to imagine how military force can co-exist with peaceful means. Under no condition and circumstance should force be involved, whether it is in any form or against any object.
Adopting a democratic and peaceful way to resolve the differences between the two sides of the Strait and to explore reality-based models for the two’s positive interactions should be the right approach that meets international norms, and is in line with Canada’s core values.