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Lai's address consistent with Taiwan's stance on China: Cheng

05/21/2024 03:29 PM
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President Lai Ching-te during his inauguration on Monday. CNA photo May 20, 2024
President Lai Ching-te during his inauguration on Monday. CNA photo May 20, 2024

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) Former Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) has defended President Lai Ching-te's (賴清德) inauguration address after it was criticized by an opposition party and the People's Republic of China (PRC) as an attempt to promote Taiwanese independence.

Cheng, who will head the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in the new Lai administration, said Tuesday in Taipei that Lai reaffirmed in his speech Taipei's willingness to engage in dialogue with Beijing and uphold the status quo based on the country's Constitution.

Lai also reiterated the stance that the Republic of China (ROC) -- Taiwan's official name -- and the PRC are not subordinate to each other, Cheng said.

The main points in Lai's speech on relations with China, Cheng said, were that China cannot avoid dialogue with Taiwan's elected government, and that it should choose "exchange over containment, and dialogue over confrontation" in dealing with Taiwan.

The new president's cross-strait rhetoric was in line with that of many former presidents, including Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), with the only exception Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who upheld the so-called "1992 consensus" in engaging with the PRC, Cheng argued.

Cheng was responding to criticism of Lai's speech by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the PRC government.

KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) expressed concerns that Lai "made the 'two-country doctrine' conspicuous," which Chu described as different from Tsai's emphasis on the ROC Constitution and the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, the local law dealing with exchanges with the PRC.

Ma's foundation also issued a press release arguing that Lai's inauguration speech violated the ROC Constitution by declaring the PRC as another country.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), meanwhile, criticized the speech for containing "separatist fallacies" and attempting to "incite division" among people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The TAO blamed Lai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the current tensions between Taipei and Beijing as the party has "refused to acknowledge the '1992 consensus' that embodies the one China principle."

The consensus has been described by the KMT as a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between Taiwan's KMT government and the Chinese government. It has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as an acknowledgment by both sides that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means.

The DPP has never acknowledged the "1992 consensus," arguing that Beijing allows no room for the interpretation of "China" as the ROC, and that acceptance of the consensus would imply agreement with China's claim over Taiwan.

Cheng made his comments at a seminar held Tuesday to discuss Lai's challenges as the new Taiwan president.

At Tuesday's seminar, Stanley Kao (高碩泰), Taiwan's top envoy to the U.S. from May 2016 to July 2020, said Lai's inauguration address was reassuring to the U.S. and international community because it was "calm, steady and predictable."

Former DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), agreed with Kao, and also said that because the military balance in the Taiwan Strait is tilting in China's favor, Taiwan needs to invest more in its self-defense.

That may be harder for Lai to do, however, because the ruling DPP no longer has an absolute majority in the Legislature, and the KMT and Taiwan People's Party, which now control it, are likely to oppose Lai's arms deal proposals.

The SEF is a semiofficial organization set up by the ROC government to handle technical and/or business matters with the PRC.

Its counterpart in the PRC is the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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