In other words: Taipei mayor Ko Wen-jo calls for new way to say ‘one China’

  • Ko says ‘1992 consensus’ and ‘one family’ are politically charged and a more neutral term should be found to describe the policy and improve cross-strait ties
  • He says he discussed proposal with the head of Shanghai’s Taiwan Affairs Office, who is in Taipei to attend a forum
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 9:15pm

Taipei’s mayor has called on Beijing to find a more neutral way to describe cross-strait relations that is acceptable to both the self-ruled island and the mainland, in a bid to improve strained ties.

Ko Wen-je said the terms frequently used to describe the one-China policy had become highly politicised and he believed a change in language could help to ease tensions.

He said he had discussed the proposal with Li Wenhui, head of Shanghai’s Taiwan Affairs Office, who is part of a delegation from the mainland city visiting Taipei for a cross-strait forum.

“Both the ‘1992 consensus’ [on one China] and ‘the two sides are one family on each side of the Taiwan Strait’ have become highly sensitive political labels,” Ko told reporters after the opening session of the Taipei-Shanghai Forum on Thursday.

“It has become necessary to find a new term that’s acceptable to both sides” if they are to resume official talks, he said.

Cross-strait ties were better when Ma Ying-jeou, of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang, was Taiwan’s president from 2008 to 2016. Ma supported the 1992 consensus, an understanding that there is only “one China”, though each side could have its own interpretation of what constitutes “China”.

But when Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016 and refused to accept that principle, relations soured. And Beijing – which sees Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary – suspended all official talks and exchanges with the island.

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Ko has attempted to maintain ties, at least on a city-to-city basis between Taipei and Shanghai, using mainland President Xi Jinping’s line about the two sides of the strait belonging to “one family”.

While that statement is acceptable to Beijing, Ko’s use of it has upset the DPP government and the pro-independence camp, who have accused him of kowtowing to Beijing in pursuit of individual interests.

Ko said he would continue to use the “one family” idea until the two sides could agree on a more neutral term, because it would mean his city could keep up official exchanges with the mainland.

“It continues to be my belief that the two sides should ease tensions and reduce conflict,” Ko said, adding that as head of a city government, he had to consider the interests of the majority.

But after the opening session of the one-day forum, Shanghai Vice-Mayor Zhou Bo said the 1992 consensus remained the basis for the peaceful development of cross-strait ties and official exchanges.

“Shanghai is willing to cooperate with Taipei and any other Taiwanese cities as long as they clearly recognise the 1992 consensus and the ‘one family’ idea,” he said.

Zhou signed three agreements with Taipei – on sports, cooperation between the two cities and broadcasting exchanges – during the morning session of the forum, which has been held annually since 2010.

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Meanwhile, the Taipei mayor dismissed the suggestion that he might run in the island’s 2020 presidential election, as some media have reported.

Ko has been seen by both US and Taiwanese media as having a good chance to win the top job in the next election given his more pragmatic approach, compared with Tsai, to managing cross-strait ties.

Separately, Chen Yunlin, former chairman of the mainland’s Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, travelled to Taipei on Thursday to pay his respects to his Taiwanese counterpart Chiang Pin-kung, who died in the city on December 10 aged 85. As head of the Straits Exchange Foundation from 2008 to 2012, Chiang was the island’s top negotiator with the mainland.

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