Taiwan politics
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Tsai Ing-wen

Taiwan’s teen pop star Chou Tzu-yu: how a wave of a flag caused a great flap in China

Storm over teenage singer’s use of Taiwanese flag stems from Beijing’s hardline stance and mainland public’s lack of understanding of 1992 consensus: experts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 11:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 11:11pm

The recent incident of Chou Tzu-yu, the Taiwanese teen pop star who had to apologise for waving the island’s flag on a TV show, reflects the mainland public’s lack of understanding of the meaning behind the 1992 consensus, according to cross-strait experts.

Analysts say the misunderstanding stems from differing official discourses of the consensus between the mainland and Taiwan, as well as Beijing’s refusal to treat the island as an equal political entity and grant it international space.

Chou, 16, issued a video apology last week for waving a flag of the Republic of China – Taiwan’s official name – on a TV show. Her apology came on the eve of the island’s presidential election, after mainland internet users slammed her for supporting Taiwan independence.

READ MORE: Teen pop star Chou Tzu-yu’s apology for waving Taiwan flag swayed young voters for DPP

Chou’s apology sparked a backlash in Taiwan as the angry Taiwanese public said the 1992 consensus was “a mere outline” and that the mainland had never recognised the existence of the self-ruled island.

The consensus is a tacit understanding between the mainland’s Communist Party and Taiwan’s Kuomintang that both sides will recognise only one China, but that each side has its own interpretation of what it stands for.

Yang Lixian, a researcher at Beijing’s National Society of Taiwan Studies, said the incident would not have occurred if the mainland authorities in charge of Taiwan affairs had had a solid understanding of cross-strait policies and properly educated the public on the issues.

“Most of the public don’t know the meaning of the 1992 consensus. Their understanding of it is very shallow,” Yang said.

Debate has continued over the interpretation of the consensus, despite its straightforward definition. To Beijing, “one China” refers to the People’s Republic of China, while for Taiwan, it refers to the ROC.

The two sides have been governed separately since the KMT fled to the island in 1949 after being defeated by the Communist Party. Taiwan calls itself the ROC and claims the mainland as its territory, while the mainland considers Taiwan a renegade province to be retaken by force if necessary.

READ MORE: Who is 16-year-old girl Chou Tzu-Yu at the centre of a political storm ahead of Taiwan’s presidential poll?

Beijing focuses only on the “one China” principle but highlights its “strong opposition to Taiwan independence” in public discourse. Taiwan’s KMT, on the other hand, emphasises the “respective interpretations of the ‘one China’ principle”.

An article published on Sunday on a social media account affiliated to party mouthpiece People’s Daily, tried to soothe the mainland public’s anger over the Chou flag-waving saga by saying that under the 1992 consensus, the ROC’s existence should indeed be accepted as it complied with the “one China” principle, and that recognition of the ROC did not amount to a “pro-independence” expression.

Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the saga showed Beijing had never viewed Taiwan as an equal political entity. Beijing still saw the island as a subject awaiting “liberation” and still held a hostile attitude towards it, he said.

“[Beijing] holds a way of thinking that resembles traditional patriarchy, treating Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong and Macau, as how a father treats a child,” Chen said.