Taiwan Review offers a review of China-Taiwan relations over the years….ending with a comparison of the respective positions of Chen and Ma on cross-strait relations….

In April, President Chen Shui-bian met with Kuomintang Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou at the Office of the President to exchange opinions on various subjects. Excerpts of their views on cross-strait policies follow:

Chen: The major difference between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is their political systems. All people and political parties in Taiwan share the same belief that Taiwan’s sovereignty belongs to the 23 million people of Taiwan and that the anti -secession law China just passed is unacceptable. The decision to cease the functioning of the National Unification Council [NUC] and the application of its Guidelines means to return to the people the right to make the ultimate decision.

Ma: On cross-strait relations, we believe that it’s best to maintain the status quo. In addition to my “five noes,” which are actually the “four noes and one not” Mr. President brought up, we believe that there should also be “five wants.” These are: to reopen cross-strait dialogues on the foundation of the “1992 consensus”; sign a 30-to-50-year peace agreement including military confidence-building measures; normalize economic and trade ties; establish a modus vivendi for Taiwan’s participation in the international community; and to greatly expand cultural exchanges.

The “1992 consensus” is the foundation on which to reopen cross-strait talks. The consensus was that both sides accept the “one China” principle, but each side has the freedom to interpret what “one China” means. What’s important about the “1992 consensus” is the content, not the term. It’s not written down in any official and formal way, but nevertheless served as the most important basis for later dialogue between the two sides of the Strait. If there hadn’t been this consensus, there wouldn’t have been the Singapore dialogue in 1993.

Chen: I’ve personally checked with people who were directly involved with the 1992 Hong Kong meeting. The fact is that the term “1992 consensus” doesn’t exist. There was no consensus on allowing “different interpretations.” For China, the “1992 consensus” refers to its “one China” principle, where Taiwan is seen as its province. It’s totally different from the KMT’s perception that each side can retain its own interpretation of “one China.” It’s difficult to use a non-existent consensus as a foundation for dialogue.

The “four noes and one not” in my inaugural speech were conditional upon China’s having no intention to use military force against Taiwan. The situation has now changed. China’s missiles targeting Taiwan have increased from 200 in 2000 to the current 784 and are still increasing. This is not a friendly gesture but a preparation for war. Intelligence has shown that China has even set a timetable for taking Taiwan by force. We cannot simply pretend that we see nothing and hear nothing.

The core value of my “four noes and one not” policy is not to protect the policy itself but to protect Taiwan’s democracy, freedom and human rights. Therefore, the true “four noes and one not” are that Taiwan should not be downgraded, not be treated as a local government, not have its government downgraded, not see its sovereignty diminished and that there is no such thing as the “one China” principle.

A cross-strait peace agreement implies the coexistence of the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China, some thing to which the PRC, based on its one-China principle, would not agree. Even former US President Bill Clinton told me that he did not agree with the naive idea of signing a cross-strait interim agreement proposed by one of his staff members.

Putting sensitive political disputes aside, we have been actively negotiating with China on cultural and economic exchanges such as direct charter flights and allowing tourists from China. Considering our national security and the interests of the Taiwanese people, however, I believe we have to be very careful in handling these issues.

Ma: Our interpretation that “one China” is the Republic of China is based on the former conclusion of a National Unification Council meeting. The key is that each side doesn’t deny the other, though they don’t recognize or agree with the other. On his visit to China in April 2005, former KMT Chairman Lien Chan met with Hu Jintao and they agreed on seeking the possibility of signing a cross-strait peace agreement–but there was no mention of unification. China has been deploying more missiles, and Taiwan is also buying more defensive weapons, but an arms race is not the solution. The ability to defend our nation is important, but political negotiations are also necessary to solve disputes.

I understand the precondition of the “four noes and one not” policy, but don’t agree with your using China’s increase of its missiles and the passing of the anti-secession law as excuses to announce the cessation of the functioning of the NUC and its Guidelines. The anti-secession law was in place for a year and the missiles have been increasing all the time prior to your announcement. In fact, the NUC had not met since you took office. It was really not necessary to make a formal announcement that provoked China and jeopardized the mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States.

Chen: The NUC was established in 1990. It was set up by a decision of the KMT rather than by legislative resolution, and is therefore without any legal basis. The Guidelines, as drawn up by the NUC, are merely generalized, principled political statements. They weren’t enacted by a legitimate body empowered by the law to do so, nor were they legally binding. Clearly, they do not accord with the democratic system nor the rule of law in today’s Taiwan. In addition, setting unification as the ultimate goal of our national cross-strait policy clearly ruled out other possibilities. Taiwan is shared by its 23 million people, and only they may decide its future.

Pursuant to Chen’s claims, the GIO hosts the 2006 National Security Report here.