China Huffs and Puffs After Tsai Ing-wen WaPo Interview

China Huffs and Puffs After Tsai Ing-wen WaPo Interview
photo credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

The Chinese side accuses President Tsai of officially denying for the first time the existence of the '1992 consensus.' Taipei denies she did such a thing.

A Washington Post interview with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) published this week has predictably drawn criticism from Beijing, which claims that Tsai's remarks were the first time she had officially denied the existence of the so-called 1992 consensus, a construct that China maintains is a prerequisite for communication between the two sides.

At the heart of Beijing's bluster today was the following exchange in the interview:

Washington Post: Some academics say Xi has a certain deadline by which he wants you to agree to the ’92 consensus. Is that right?

Tsai: It isn’t likely that the government of Taiwan will accept a deadline for conditions that are against the will of the people.

In response, China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) said today that the will of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait is to communicate with each other peacefully. However, its added that underlying all communications is the acceptance of the "1992 consensus." Only when the two sides agree with this political basis – which means supporting the concept of "one China" – will communications continue, it said.

Separately, China's state-run Global Times quoted Zhang Wensheng (張文生), director of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, saying that Tsai's comments were her first "official denial" of the 1992 consensus. Moreover, it revealed Tsai's support for Taiwanese independence, he said.

Zhang warned that if Tsai uses the terms "people's will" or "the value of democracy" to antagonize China, neither the Chinese government nor the 1.3 billion Chinese people would be able to tolerate that.

Meanwhile Yongping Wu (巫永平), vice director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Tsinghua University, said that Tsai was continuing to speak in vague terms. However, on the so-called will of the people, Wu said the will of both Chinese and Taiwanese should be taken into consideration.

In response to China's criticism, Alex Huang (黃重諺), spokesman for the Presidential Office in Taipei, clarified Tsai was only referring to President Xi Jinping's (習近平) alleged deadline and not the "1992 consensus" itself.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole