Beijing has accused Taiwan’s new head of cross-strait affairs of deliberately distorting the context of the 1992 consensus in an attempt to lay the blame on the mainland for their deteriorating relationship. Chiu Tai-shan’s appointment as head of the island’s Mainland Affairs Office was seen as an effort to ease tensions with Beijing, which regards acceptance of the consensus as a prerequisite for the resumption of talks. But his remarks on assuming the post at a ceremony on Tuesday drew a sharp response from Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, who described them as “unacceptable”. “This man deliberately mixed the 1992 consensus with “one country, two systems’ … in an attempt to distort it and create confusion,” Ma said. The consensus – an understanding between the two sides that there is one China, but each can have their own understanding of what that means – was rejected by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, leading Beijing to suspend official exchanges and step up military and diplomatic pressure on the self-ruled island. Two years ago, Tsai’s government claimed President Xi Jinping had linked the consensus with one country, two systems – the model adopted for Hong Kong and Macau – in his 2019 new year message in which he proposed that Taiwan follow the Hong Kong model for unification. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province, to be returned to the mainland by force, if necessary. In his remarks, Chiu said Beijing’s “new interpretation” of the consensus had left the island with little room to manoeuvre and made it difficult for the Taiwan public to accept. He also said the two sides needed to find a way to address the issue. But Ma said the consensus and one country, two systems were two different things. While the former was the political basis for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, the latter was a proposal, raised to resolve the cross-strait unification issue. In his 2019 address, Xi had called for the two sides to hold talks based on the one-China principle of the consensus and proposed the one country, two systems model as an option for talks, Ma said. If Taiwan really wanted to resume talks with the mainland, “it should go ahead and accept the consensus instead of denying it” he said. Ma also dismissed as “sheer fabrication” Taipei’s accusation that Beijing had pressured German pharmaceutical firm BioNTech over a deal to supply the island with 5 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine.