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Cross-Strait peace serves US interests

Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen Photo: AP

When Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou reiterated the 1992 Consensus during their historic meeting on November 7, Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Tsai Ing-wen poured cold water on the meeting, saying it “harmed Taiwan democracy.” What is Washington’s perception?

The 1992 Consensus endorses the one-China principle and based on the tenet of seeking common ground while maintaining the differences. The consensus paved way for “Wang-Koo” talks in 1993 and Hu Jintao-Lien Chan meeting in 2005. Since 2008, the two sides across the Strait have been on the track of peaceful development.

But the DPP has turned a blind eye to the consensus. On cross-Strait relations, Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo. Her recent defiance to the Xi-Ma meeting created doubts that she doesn’t accept the 1992 Consensus. How can you maintain the status quo by undermining the cornerstone of the cross-Strait relations? Washington doesn’t like strained cross-Strait ties.

During the cold war, Taiwan played a crucial part in America's containment policy toward China. It is still crucial to America’s “Asia Pivot” strategy, but has played a lesser role since the change in the cross-Strait relations. China has emerged as an increasingly important “stakeholder” of US interests and some Washington observers have suggested “giving up Taiwan.” But the Obama administration wouldn’t give up Taiwan in its bid to rebalance the Asia-Pacific.

The US has adopted “offshore balancing” strategy on cross-Strait relations. Washington takes a “frenemy” type of attitude toward cross-Strait relations so that Taiwan would continue to rely on US military power and US could benefit from cross-Strait checks and balances. The former Taiwan leaders who defied the 1992 Consensus like Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian were poisonous to the US.

In 2011, Tsai touted her “Taiwan consensus” to the US but drew criticism because it threatened to harm the cross-Strait ties. The setback also led to her failure in the 2012 election.

Defying the 1992 consensus, to the US, is nothing less than resorting to the use of force on Taiwan and consequently hurting US interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, Washington never cedes any chance of helping beef up Taiwan’s military power in attempts to counter China. But the Xi-Ma summit lifted cross-Strait relations to a new height, which is to the US delight.

The White House greeted Tsai with a high-level reception during her trip to the US in May, showing its tacit support to Tsai’s bid for election. But Washington will also be wary of Tsai’s “disappointment"  with Xi-Ma meeting. For the US, it would be disastrous to support someone who denies the 1992 Consensus. The US was kept on tenterhooks during Chen Shui-bian’s pro-independence campaign. To take precautions against Taiwan’s possible misstep after the 2016 election, the US has to rectify Tsai’s stance on the consensus.

The reason why the consensus can maintain cross-Strait peaceful development is that Taiwan, Chinese mainland and the US all approve it. As time goes by, an undated consensus will adapt to the ever-changing international order and cross-Strait ties. But its core, which is one-China principle, will never change. Any missteps will escalate tensions or even derail the cross-Strait peaceful development, which the US hates to see.

(The article is translated by Wu Jie.)

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