China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper is a legal-political examination of two of the most consequential elements in contemporary relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC)—the controversial “92 Consensus” and the remarkable cross-strait agreements that the ROC and the PRC have concluded, especially the 23 made between 2008 and 2015 when then President Ma Ying-jeou’s Nationalist Party governed Taiwan. Political developments have inextricably interlinked these two elements, leading to the present crisis in cross-strait relations that developed when the ROC’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, led her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to electoral victory in 2016. Tsai has refused to endorse the so-called “92 Consensus”, a strategic political formula that implied that Taiwan is part of China. The PRC’s response has been to suspend all official contacts with the new ROC government, to cease or limit implementation of many of the cross-strait agreements and increasingly to mobilize pressures designed to coerce the DPP administration to adopt the “92 Consensus”.
This paper seeks to clarify the nature of the parties’ momentous dispute and to evaluate their respective positions. We question whether there ever was a genuine “92 Consensus” and whether it should be regarded as a binding legal commitment. We argue that all the cross-strait agreements that have been formally authorized by each side should be deemed legally binding. We then recommend some modest steps that can be undertaken by the ROC toward diminishing the crisis and promoting a rule-based, sustainable cross-strait order.