The Buzz

Can the One China Policy Survive the Kenya Incident?

The Chinese Nationalist Party (the KMT, or 中國國民黨) has continuously put the ‘One China Principle’ (一中原則) forward as the basis for which relations between Taiwan and China must be conducted, without which peace in the Taiwan Strait would be severely jeopardised. The Ma administration has touted its adoption of the “1992 Consensus” (九二共識) as the primary reason behind Taiwan’s current stable and peaceful status quo and has stated that it has afforded Taiwan greater freedoms and respect amongst the international community. These claims may have some truth to them, but what Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) and his party have failed to address is that in actuality these accomplishments have only been achieved as a result of Beijing feeling adequately appeased. There is no parity in the relationship, and China can change its mind at any point—most recently demonstrated by China resuming diplomatic relations with Gambia despite a supposed truce in taking the other’s official diplomatic allies. Realistically, the only thing that such agreements accomplish is ceding aspects of Taiwanese sovereignty without any guarantee that China will abide by its end of the bargain; this is especially true when it comes to the 1992 Consensus.

The Kenya incident has brought to the forefront the inherent contradiction in the One China Policy, in a way that the Ma administration has up to this point not had to face in practical terms. On April 8 Taiwanese nationals were forcibly deported from Kenya to China after Chinese diplomats allegedly pressured the Kenyan authorities to hand them over to Chinese custody despite being found innocent on the charges against them; a further fifteen Taiwanese nationals will be deported to China after being tear gassed for resisting. To add insult to injury, those being held were denied access to a Taiwanese representative. The events in Kenya demonstrate vividly not only the One China Policy’s irrationality but also its dangers.

When discussing the One China Policy, at least in Taiwan, it is often paired with the 1992 Consensus. However, it must be made clear that in the year 1992, when talks between China and Taiwan took place, no such announcement of a consensus was made, and certainly no agreement was signed. Indeed, Chinese Nationalist Party politician Su Chi (蘇起) confessed to fabricating the term in 2000; furthermore incumbent president at the time Lee Teng-Hui (李登輝) denied any such consensus being reached, denouncing it as “utter rubbish” (嘐潲話—台語). This is coupled with the fact that such a consensus wasn’t even recognised by Beijing until 2008, some sixteen years after it was supposedly agreed upon; it has also never conceded the “different interpretations” so often referenced by Ma.

According to the Ma administration the 1992 Consensus is the shared belief between China and Taiwan that there exists only one China, however each side has its own interpretation of what that China is; China takes ‘One China’ to mean the People’s Republic of China, whilst Ma takes it to mean the Republic of China—Taiwan’s official name. Included in this is the stance that the Republic of China still has sovereignty over the entirety of China; as well as some other territories no longer a part of the PRC, such as Mongolia. In essence, the 1992 Consensus amounts to a type of political jargon used by the Chinese Nationalist Party to veil the One China Policy from a population that by large identifies solely as Taiwanese and not Chinese.