Jia Qinglin, chairman of China's top advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said at a recent cross-Taiwan Strait economic and cultural forum that at core of the one-China framework is that the mainland and Taiwan belong to a single country.
Such unprecedented rhetoric caught the attention of local pundits and lawmakers of different political stripes.
We need to ask what Jia meant by "a single country?" Did Jia's statement imply that "one China is the People's Republic of China (PRC)"?
Or did he mean that "a single country refers to the PRC"? We don't think so, nor do we believe so. Such discourse is not correct and unacceptable to Taiwanese people at the moment and in the foreseeable future.
It would also mark a reversal in Chinese President Hu Jintao's efforts to promote peaceful development of cross-strait ties over the past four years by shelving disputes and seeking commonalities.
Such rhetoric would also leave the Hu administration with a flawed legacy.
Therefore, we think it was most likely a slip of the tongue. A clarification from Wang Yi, the director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, that Jia's statement did not deviate from Beijing's basic cross-strait policy could support our view to some extent.
Over the past four years, cross-strait relations have been developing on the basis of a March 26, 2008 hotline conversation between Hu and then-U.S. President George W. Bush, in which Hu said the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will resume negotiations on the term of the 1992 Consensus.
Under the 1992 Consensus, the two parties acknowledge that there is only one China, but agree to define the term "one China" in their own way.
While "one China" refers to the PRC for Beijing, it refers to the Republic of China for Taiwan.
Such discourse is the Hu administration's biggest contribution to the development of cross-strait relations.
We hope Hu will uphold the consensus to the end of his term and avoid going the wrong way in the final days of his reign. (Editorial abstract -- Aug. 27, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)