Beijing said Taiwan’s entry to a regional economic framework advocated by the mainland is being delayed by independence-leaning Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen’s reluctance to explicitly recognise the 1992 consensus, but that the One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative remained open to Taiwanese businesses.
The comments came amid a spat over armoured vehicles seized in Hong Kong last week en route from Taiwan to Singapore, fuelling new cross-strait tensions.
“Taiwan’s participation in regional economic integration is based on the 1992 consensus. We are willing to explore ways to incorporate cross-strait economic cooperation into regional economic development,” said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, on Wednesday.
“The cross-strait situation changed after Tsai became president. The mutual trust between Beijing and Taipei will be gone if the 1992 consensus cannot be upheld, and the institutionalisation of cross-strait economic cooperation will be delayed as well. It will adversely affect Taiwan’s accession to the RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership].
“As to the One Belt, One Road initiative, we have said repeatedly that we welcome Taiwan’s participation,” Ma said.
Ma also said that Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the consensus unilaterally damaged the political groundwork of cross-strait peace, disrupted mutual communication and cooperation in various fields and hurt the fundamental interests of people living on both sides.
The 1992 consensus was a cross-strait agreement that there is only one China, but each side can have its own interpretation of what that means.
Concerning Taiwan’s coastguard staging a drill off Taiping Island in the South China Sea on Tuesday, Ma said both Taiwan and the mainland had the responsibility to protect territorial sovereignty.
Analysts say Beijing is now seizing the initiative to force Taiwan to recognise the 1992 consensus, given its huge regional economic leverage.
“If Taiwan wants to participate in the RCEP, it must have cordial relations with Beijing, so it cannot evade the 1992 consensus,” said Liu Xiangping, a Taiwan specialist at Nanjing University.
“Tsai will suffer if Taiwan’s economy does not develop, because the swing voters and voters who attach importance to economic growth will likely vote for others.” said Liu Jiayan, a Taiwan affairs analyst from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
But the controversy over the 1992 consensus was likely to continue, said the former deputy head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, Chang Hsien-yao, in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
He said that unlike Taiwan’s last independence-leaning president, Chen Shui-bian, “Tsai is not an opportunist. She sticks to ideals and never compromises.”
Chang said the “grey area” around the 1992 consensus was shrinking, which meant that if Beijing and Taipei did not overcome their impasse soon, it would become increasingly difficult to do so in the future.