The 92 Consensus is a face-saving agreement reached in 1992 between China and Taiwan—technically still at war—in which both entities acknowledged the “one China” principle, but with different interpretations of how that principle would be defined. The consensus is the foundation for all negotiations between the two governments.
The 92 Consensus is an agreement that addresses the principle by which the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) believe that only one China exists: Mainland China and the Republic of China on Taiwan agree that both belong to the same China but agree to disagree on the definition of that one China. The 92 Consensus allows the two countries to negotiate even though they are technically still at war as a legacy of the Chinese Civil War (1945–1949) that followed the 1945 surrender of Japan, which ended World War II.
The agreement’s name refers to a 1992 meeting in Hong Kong between unofficial representatives of both governments during which both sides came to their “one China” consensus. Although this debate may seem purely semantic, the 92 Consensus remains the foundation for all relations between China and Taiwan, and when its premise was questioned during the presidency of Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan, China refused to negotiate with representatives of the Taiwanese government.
The groundwork for the 92 Consensus began after Taiwan and China established respective semiofficial organizations to negotiate with each other in 1991. Taiwan organized the Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF), and China organized the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). Immediately thereafter the two sides began to negotiate technical matters, such as extradition policies for criminals, registration of professional and business licenses, and recognition of college degrees. However, talks stalled because China insisted that Taiwan accept the “one China” principle as a precondition for further negotiations, and Taiwan refused. Finally a compromise was reached at a meeting in Hong Kong on 30 October 1991.
Under this compromise both sides agreed that there is but “one China” while acknowledging that two political entities exist under the “one China” principle. This oral agreement was to be submitted to their respective governments in Beijing and Taipei for final approval.
On 3 November 1991 China’s ARATS sent a cable to Taiwan’s SEF stating that ARATS would “respect and accept” the Hong Kong oral agreement with the provision that certain points could be renegotiated in the future. This cable was published by Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
In response Taiwan’s SEF in 1992 published its own reply in a press release disseminated by media outlets in Taiwan: “We (the SEF) will express the concrete content of the oral statement (on one China) in line with the ‘Guidelines for National Unification’ and the resolution on ‘one China’ adopted by the National Unification Council [under the President’s office] on August 1 of this year (1992)” (Su Chi and Cheng An-kuo 2002, 92). All Taiwanese media publicized this reply as the “92 Consensus.”
Of course, Taiwan considers the “one China” as its Republic of China on Taiwan, whereas Beijing regards the “one China” as its People’s Republic of China. However, based on this agreement to disagree, the chairmen of ARATS (Wang Daohan) and SEF (C. F. Koo) held their first meeting in Singapore in April 1993 and negotiated several binding agreements. Thus they were able to lay the foundation for future cultural, economic, and other peaceful exchanges between the two sides for a number of years until Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian openly repudiated the 92 Consensus. As a result the PRC immediately canceled all meetings between ARATS and SEF.
However, after winning the election in 2008 Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou accepted the 92 Consensus, and both sides resumed negotiations, resulting in the establishment of offices of ARATS and SEF in each other’s capital to conduct official business more efficiently.
Although the 92 Consensus may seem convoluted from a Western point of view, it allows the two governments effectively to “save face” so that they can negotiate peacefully in spite of the fact that they are technically still at war.
Things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme.
Wù jí bì fǎn
Source: Chai, Winberg. (2009). 92 Consensus. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1613–1614. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.
92 Consensus (Jiǔèr Gòngshí 九二共識)|Jiǔèr Gòngshí 九二共識 (92 Consensus)