STELLA CHENG WRITES – When news broke that Taiwan had not been invited to a United Nations meeting on civil aviation last month, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen expressed strong dissatisfaction and regret.
Since Tsai was inaugurated in May, relations with mainland China have grown more ambiguous, affecting the smaller country both at home and abroad — from not being invited to international conferences to a fall in domestic tourism. It also corresponds with Beijing’s renewed emphasis on its One-China Policy, something Chinese leaders have called on Tsai to address immediately.
The policy stems from a 1992 meeting between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in mainland China and the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan. Both sides agreed there is only “One China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means. China and many people around the world (the U.S. in particular) are waiting to hear Taiwan’s version of the so-called 1992 Consensus.
In her inaugural speech, Tsai only mentions “1992 talks” instead of the 1992 Consensus as a whole. She stated that she will “maintain the status quo” with China without addressing whether she will accept the One-China Policy as China sees it.
During an interview with Washington Post after she first took office, when a reporter asked her about her stance on the 1992 Consensus, Tsai emphasized that the Taiwanese government will only listen to the voices of the people when it comes to the cross-strait relationship. She did not give a solid answer on the Consensus itself.
Tsai’s uncertainty on the 1992 Consensus has not only impacted Taiwan on an international level, but it has been hitting the country’s tourism industry, leaving participants anxious about the industry’s future.
According to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, the number of Chinese tourists in Taiwan fell 12 percent from May to June 2016. Taiwan tourism is heavily dependent on China, as Chinese visitors have been the single biggest cohort since 2010. Tsai’s uncertain cross-strait policies have hurt her domestic support, with polls showing a 14-point drop since May.
Furthermore, Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying Jeou, worked hard over the past eight years to offset the “pro-Taiwanese independence” ideology that previous administrations had established.
In November 2015, former president Ma made an unprecedented breakthrough in the Cross-Strait relationship since its conception in 1949. Not only was he pursuing rapprochement with China, but he also promoted peace, stability, and trade relations in the Cross-Strait relation. He improved Taiwan’s employment rate, economic growth, and national healthcare system, as well as raised Taiwan’s profile to international levels.
After years of Ma’s progress in building China and Taiwan’s relationship, Beijing is now getting impatient with President Tsai and her avoidance of the One-China Policy. Since unification has always been one of the top five issues in China, Beijing certainly does not want to see their years of effort put into Taiwan vanish.
The National Day of the Republic, also referred as “Double Tenth Day,” is coming up on October 10. This will be a prime opportunity for her to address the 1992 Consensus formally and publicly. If she does address the issue, it will be a significant moment in the Cross-Strait relationship.
So, Miss President, now is the time to give your answer and the world is waiting for you.