On the basis of the one-China principle, let us shelve for now certain political disputes and resume the cross-straits dialogue and negotiations as soon as possible. On the premise of the one-China principle, all issues can be discussed. We may discuss how to end the cross- straits hostility formally. We may also discuss the international space in which the Taiwan region may conduct economic, cultural and social activities compatible with its status, or discuss the political status of the Taiwan authorities or other issues. We are willing to exchange views with all political parties and personages of all circles in Taiwan on the development of cross- straits relations and the promotion of peaceful reunification.
We look forward to and call on Beijing to face the reality of Taiwan-China relations. We hope that they will resume the dialogue with us as soon as possible and strengthen exchanges on the basis of parity. In this way we can build mutual faith and confidence, set the stage for higher level talks, and allow both sides to rise above the current disputes and deadlock.
After over 50 years of no official friendly contact between Taiwan and China a face-to-face negotiations process was begun. The first meeting, which initiated the process, occurred on September 12, 1990 when the Red Cross Societies of each side met and reached an agreement, known as the Jinmen Accord. The agreement was about the repatriation of individuals, criminals and suspects who illegally entered the territory of the other side.
From that point on there has been an ongoing negotiations process.466 The process so far has been practical and designed mostly to resolve issues that emerge as the citizens of each side come into contact with each other. It has not been able to make any political progress toward a formula for unification primarily because the two sides have had different agendas for the process as explained in the previous chapter. The process has had its ups and downs and has been completely sidetracked by extraneous issues that have been used as a pretext for interrupting the effort.
This chapter will describe the structure of the negotiations process and a brief chronological accounting of the key contacts between the two sides that have taken place.
Prior to 1987 Taiwan's official policy toward China was the "Three No’s" (No contact, no negotiations, no compromise). While both sides had bureaucratic structures that focused on the other side, there were no organizations specifically designed for negotiations. As the necessity for formal negotiations emerged, both sides had to make bureaucratic adjustments. Both sides were hampered by the inability to agree on Taiwan's political status. Since China did not recognize Taiwan as a nation state it would not be possible to establish formal organizations within the established bureaucracies. Since Taiwan desired to be treated as a nation state, it refused to negotiate political party to political party. The result was that both parties had to create quasi-official organizations that were responsible to official organizations.
The basis for the Chinese side began on September 9, 1988, when the Standing Committee of the Politburo established a working organization in the State Council. In March, 1991 that organization was formalized and the Taiwan Affairs Office and the Taiwan Work Office of the Chinese Communist Party were born.
The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the State Council under the Premier, where cross strait policy is developed, is the primary organization responsible for Taiwan policy. While there is also a higher level "Taiwan Affairs Leading Small Group" (in 1996 composed of Jiang Zemin (General Secretary of the Party), Wang Zhaoguo (a Politburo member and director of the Party's
Taiwan Work Office-(TWO)), Qian Qichen (Foreign Minister), and General Xiong Guangkai (Deputy Chief of the PLA General Staff.).467 It is obviously a very powerful leadership group. There is also a parallel Taiwan Work Office in the Chinese Communist Party organization, The TAO is
the key organization for developing policy related to Taiwan. It also supervises the implementation of that policy. The "leading group" provides some general direction to the TAO through advice and suggestions. Some members of the TAO, including the director, are concurrently members of the Party Taiwan Affairs Office. When they meet as the Party TWO, their responsibility is to make sure Taiwan policy is consistent with Party doctrine.
On December 16, 1991 the Taiwan Affairs Office established the quasi-official Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS)(海峡两岸关系协会). Mr. Wang Daohan, a respected former mayor of Shanghai (1980-1985) and very senior official, was appointed to head the association.
Figure 6—1 China Cross Strait Organizations Taiwan
Taiwan’s effort to establish a contact organization began with the National Affairs Conference on June 29, 1990, when it was proposed that an organization in the government and a quasi-government organization be formed to handle cross strait relations.468 Prior to that time there existed a "Planning Commission for the Recovery of Mainland China" in the Office of the
President. Just the name tells the story of the changes that needed to be made. In 2000 the President's office also created the "President's Advisory Group on Cross-strait Affairs". The purpose was to "forge consensus among the general public, promote social harmony, maintain security in the Taiwan Strait and improve cross-strait relations."
The first official organization to be formed to handle the increasing number of contacts between the two sides was the "inter-agency Mainland Affairs Committee" in the Executive Branch of Government (August 1988). On October 7, 1990 the National Unification Council under the Presidential Office was set up. Its task was to formulate general “Guidelines for National Unification.” Then on January 18, 1991, the Legislative Branch approved the “Organic Statute for the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC)” as an operational organization in the Executive Branch responsible for planning and coordination of all policy related to mainland affairs. The MAC was formally established on January 28. The MAC is the functional equivalent to China's Taiwan Affairs Office. The next month, on February 19th, the MAC, as one of its first acts, established the Straits Exchange Foundation
(SEF) (海峽交流基金會 or -海基會) as the quasi-government organization to handle direct contacts with China and appointed Koo Chen-fu, a native Taiwanese business tycoon and roving ambassador as Chairman.
Figure 6—2 Taiwan Cross Strait Organizations
The MAC is further organized as shown in Figure 6-3.469 The MAC is lead by a chairperson, and three vice chairpersons, one of whom is a political appointee. The organization also has a secretary general who manages seven departments and three administrative offices. In addition to the regular government staff members of MAC there are 17 to 27 council members who are either appointed or selected by the Premier. The council members meet monthly. The MAC also meets monthly for "policy planning, reviewing laws, and coordinating work among government
The MAC functional departments have seven key areas of responsibility:
(1) Policy research and planning (2) Establishing legal mechanisms (3) Encouraging cultural and educational exchanges (4) Promoting economic and trade ties (5) Handling disputes and emergencies (6) Strengthening ties with Hong Kong and Macao (7) Building public consensus
Figure 6-3 Mainland Affairs Council Organization471
The two operational organizations, SEF and ARATS, can be said to have at least four levels involved in the contacts. At the highest level is the Chairmen of each. The second level is the Vice-Chairmen and Secretary Generals. These two levels are considered “responsible person” levels and have the power to sign agreements. The third level includes the deputies and assistants, the department chiefs (like the legal departments), and other key staff members. This is the level that makes initial contact and prepares the sides for responsible person meeting. Finally, both sides allow “consultants” to participate in the meetings to provide appropriate expertise. These persons are not employed by the two organizations, but may participate in delegations or meetings. Other citizens are often involved in the process as members of delegations traveling to the other side on fact-finding missions.
The negotiations process has occurred using a wide variety of communications means – face to face meetings at different levels and in different locations, an exchange of letters, faxes and phone calls. In some cases the two sides communicated through public announcements to the media. The most important contacts have been two meetings between the Chairmen, Koo Chen- fu and Wang Daohan, in Singapore (1993) and Shanghai (1998). But there is a lot of critical activity at lesser levels. The first three levels, Chairmen, Vice-Chairmen and Secretaries General are all considered responsible persons and can sign agreements. Department heads and staff personnel work to prepare for meetings by arranging administrative aspects as well as the agenda and substance of the talks.
After the initial meeting between the Red Cross Societies, the two key organizations (ARATS and SEF) began immediately to prepare for formal meetings. The process began with a letter from ARATS to SEF on January 8, 1992. That was followed by exchanges of letters leading to the first functional meeting at the working level on October 28-29, 1992. The first series focused on the time, place and agenda for a meeting between the Chairmen of the organizations. They also began to discuss two substantive issues: the verification of cross-strait certificates and the problem of registered mail.
That first meeting was hailed as successful and useful and was followed by another series of letter exchanges and some phone calls. During the first meeting the substantive topic of “one China” emerged and the two sides agreed to state the principle verbally and negotiate the details later. It meant that, for the time being, each side could interpret “one China” in its own way. This became known as the “1992 consensus.” But by December 22, 1992 ARATS Vice Chairman Tang Shubei noted that the idea of “two political entities,” which was mentioned in Taiwan’s 1991 Guidelines for National Unification, was “not helpful for improving the cross-strait relations.” That was the beginning of the formal debate on the one China principle and it was to the media outside the negotiation process, not to the other side.
During March and April 1993 both sides were very active on two fronts: finding consensus on substantive agreements and preparation for a meeting between the Chairmen in Singapore. A 6-man delegation from the SEF’s Department of Legal Services traveled to Beijing on March 25- 27 to work out the details of the two issues already identified (certificate verification and compensation for registered mail). They made enough progress for the Vice Chairman and Secretary General of SEF to travel to Beijing on April 7-11 to sign a draft agreement. This was also considered the first formal preparatory meeting for the “Koo-Wang Talks” to be held in Singapore at the end of the month. At this meeting the two sides also agreed to establish institutionalized communication. Finally they also signed a written agreement on the time, place and agenda for the “Koo-Wang Talks.”
On April 23, 1993, the Vice Chairmen met again in Singapore just ahead of the meeting of the principals to work out the final details on the agenda. They agreed on four topics for the meeting:
(1) a system for contacts and meetings between the two sides,
(2) intellectual property rights protection, (3) cross-strait economic exchanges, judicial cooperation, and (4) the protection of Taiwan Businessmen in China.
On April 27ththe first historic meeting between the SEF’s Koo Chen-fu and ARATS’s Wang
Dao-han was held in Singapore. The meeting was very professional and polite and resulted in the formal signing of four agreements:
. Agreement on the Use and Verification of Certificates of Authentication across the Taiwan Straits . Agreement on Matters Concerning Inquiry and Compensation for (Lost) Registered Mail across the Taiwan straits . Agreement on the System for Contacts and Meetings between SEF and ARATS . Joint Agreement of the Koo-Wang Talks
The first talks were followed by a series of functional meetings preparing for the second meeting of principals. Seven functional meetings were held in Beijing, Taipei, Xiamen, Nanjing and three Vice Chairman-level meetings were held in Beijing and Taipei. During these talks a number of issues were discussed for inclusion in the agenda:
. Repatriation of illegal immigrants and hijackers . Fisheries disputes . Simplification of entry and exit permits for SEF and ARATS officials . Protection of Taiwan Businessmen . Cross-strait Scientific and Technological exchanges . Cooperation on crime control . Judicial Cooperation . Intellectual property rights protection
The process was well underway with optimism and a cooperative spirit when on Friday, June 9, 1995 Taiwan’s President Lee Tenghui made his speech at Cornell University. Not only did the U.S. State Department’s approval of the travel to the United States upset Chinese leaders, so did the substance of Lee’s speech. The U.S. State Department had assured Chinese leaders that a visa would not be issued, but the executive branch was overruled by the U.S. Congress and they were forced to issue the visa.
While Lee did not mention Taiwan’s sovereignty or even the idea of special “state-to-state” relations, he did use the term Republic of China on several occasions and when he described the “Taiwan experience” he clearly identified Taiwan as different from China, particularly in the democratization process. The Chinese leaders were so angered by this incident that they “postponed” all institutionalized negotiation channels.
The next two years were taken up with mutual allegations that the other side was unwilling to continue the negotiations. Several letters were exchanged but no progress was made on resuming the talks. During this period, however, two agreements were exchanged and signed by mail; one on Taiwan-Hong Kong aviation rights (December 30, 1995) and one on Taiwan-Hong Kong Shipping (June 16, 1997).
In November 1997 the process was renewed. ARATS invited the SEF Secretary General to China for a trade conference and a visit to Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing. SEF replied suggesting that Chairman Koo make the trip and that ARATS visit Taiwan. The conference was called off without explanation.
SEF reinitiated correspondence in January 1998 and after a month ARATS responded positively expressing willingness to discuss arrangements for SEF-ARATS exchanges. After several exchanges the two sides agree for a meeting at the Deputy Secretary General level on 22- 24 April 1998 to discuss future visits and other trade, academic and cultural exchange programs.
Finally the ARATS Deputy Secretary General led a 22-member Beijing Middle and Elementary school delegation to Taiwan from 24 to 31 July 1998. Although no significant progress was made during this delegation, SEF was able to deliver a letter to ARATS asking for the two associations to begin discussions on the protection of tourists, Taiwan investments in the Mainland,
and on a joint campaign against crime. They also initiated discussions on another session of “Koo-Wang talks.”
One issue that Taiwan suggested be included in functional talks was that of legal jurisdiction. ARATS insisted that it be included in political talks that would be conducted under the principle of “one China.”
In a September 14th, 1998 ARATS letter to SEF, the higher level Taiwan Affairs Office of the
PRC State Council was mentioned as encouraging preliminary discussions to prepare for political talks. This was the beginning of a major push by ARATS to move the talks to the level of considering, under the “one China” principle, the form of autonomy after unification.
One week later on September 21, a less official group, the Peaceful Reunification Promotion Association across the Taiwan Strait, sent a delegation to China carrying the message that they would like to see “a resumption of negotiations and peaceful unification.” On the next day, SEF Vice Chairman arrives in Beijing and meets with ARATS Secretary General to finalize a “Koo- Wang” meeting in October.
The second round of meetings between SEF Chairman Koo and ARATS Chairman Wang took place between October 14 and 19, 1998 in Shanghai. Koo also met with China’s Foreign Minister and President. During one of the first meetings Chairman Wang pressed to enter political talks. He also repeated the “one China” principle.
During this meeting the two sides signed four more agreements:
. Enhance the dialogue to resume systematic discussions . promote exchanges of visits between SEF-ARATS staff at various levels . actively provide mutual assistance on cases arising from exchanges . arrange a Taiwan visit for Mr. Wang at an appropriate time
When the delegates met with President Jiang Zemin Chairman Koo discussed Taiwan’s economic and political success and expressed a willingness to share lessons learned with China. He stressed that ultimately democratization was the key to reunification. During the discussion he also suggested that the two presidents meet.
More letters were exchanged and some minor exchanges took place. Then on March 17-19, 1999 the ARATS deputy secretary-general traveled to Taiwan to discuss a future visit by the ARATS Chairman to Taiwan. The SEF deputy secretary-general reciprocated by traveling to Beijing to make further arrangements for Chairman Wang’s visit. He was accompanied by lower level staff officers in the SEF and the MAC who were working on the details of functional issues, such as the repatriation of illegal entrants, to be discussed at the next.
The process was then derailed again by President Lee Tenghui when in an interview with the German press on July 9, 1999. SEF Chairman Koo, on July 30, tried to pacify the Chinese and explain President Lee’s remarks in a media briefing. He suggested that the “special state-to- state” relationship was indeed the official Taiwan position and that it was in accord with the 1992 consensus that the one China principle could be subject to interpretation by either side.
The Chinese immediately stated that Koo’s remarks were “unbecoming” and that since they seriously violate the one China principle “the basis for ARATS-SEF exchanges and dialogue no longer exists.”
This argument was elevated to the Presidential level in China when President Jiang Zemin stated that there would be two conditions that must be met before Chairman Wang could visit Taiwan: (1) President Lee Tenghui would have to publicly retract his “two states” theory, and (2) President Lee could receive Chairman Wang only in Lee’s capacity as Chairman of the KMT. Contact was stopped again.
The next three years were taken up by unilateral announcements, but no functional meetings and no meetings between the principals. ARATS representatives and others regularly mentioned the requirement to renounce the notion of “state-to-state” relations and accept the “one China” principle. In the aftermath of Lee’s remarks, acceptance of the one China concept became even more important especially to the reopening of talks.
As noted in the previous chapter, President Chen Shuibian has also avoided acceptance of the one China Principle. In fact he has gone out of his way to reinforce the notion of sovereignty and two political entities.
China has insisted that Taiwan’s leaders stop talking of Taiwan sovereignty and accept the one China principle. China has also stated that it is willing to shelve key political disputes to get the talks started again. It is willing to delay discussions on three key political issues:
. The official end of the state of hostility between the two sides, . international space for the Taiwan, and . the political status of the Taiwan authorities.
Vice-Premier Qian Qichen has also agreed to depoliticize some of the discussions by characterizing the direct links, especially the air links as "cross straits" links rather than "domestic links" as China had previously insisted. All of these represent concessions on the part of China.
In other words, China has stopped its pressure to jump immediately to discussions of Taiwan’s ultimate degree of sovereignty. It is willing to focus cross strait negotiations on functional issues, as Taiwan has asked for, to establish the conditions that can lead to eventual agreement. But… they insist on some agreement to the one China principle first. They are, in effect, asking Taiwan to acknowledge that the final negotiations will lead to some form of unification and not independence.
While formal talks have been halted Taiwan has used “sub-contractors” or unofficial representatives to maintain the contact. No official contact or secret missions by officials had occurred by the beginning of 2004. China stated that no further talks could take place until after the presidential election on March 20, 2004.
Figure 6-4 -- Chronology of the Negotiations Process
Senior Level Contact
Second Level Contact
Sep 12, 1990
Red Cross Societies Meet
Jinmen Accord signed
Oct 28-29, 1992
SEF-ARATS Meet in Hong Kong
Mar 25-27, 1993
SEF Legal Services Director leads 6 man team to Beijing
Reach consensus certificate verification registered mail
Apr 7-11, 1993
Vice Chairmen SEF and ARATS meet in Beijing – First Prep Meeting for Koo- Wang Talks
Agree on agenda and location for Koo-Wang Talks and on communications channels. Sign two draft agreements - certificate verification and registered mail
Apr 23, 1993
Vice Chairmen hold two preparatory meetings Singapore
Set agenda for talks
Apr 27-30, 1993
First Koo-Wang talks in Singapore
Sign 4 agreements
Aug 29, 1993
First Functional Meeting in Beijing
Topics: illegal immigrant repatriation and fisheries disputes – no agreement
Nov 2, 1993
Second Meeting in Functional Xiamen
Add topics - repatriation of hijackers and exit/entry procedures for officials
Dec 19, 1993
Third Functional Meeting in Taipei
Add topics: Taiwan businessmen protection, S&T exchanges, crime control, judicial cooperation and intellectual property rights
Feb 1-5, 1994
First Vice Chairmen substantive talks in Beijing
Joint press release
Mar 25, 1994
Fourth Functional Meeting in Beijing
Jul 30, 1994
Fifth Functional Meeting in Taipei
Aug 4-7, 1994
Second Vice Chairman substantive talks in Taipei
Dec 22, 1994
Sixth Functional Meeting in Nanjing
Jan 22, 1994
Third Vice Chairmen substantive Talks in Beijing
Jan 22, 1994
Seventh Functional Meeting in Beijing
May 27-28, 1995
First prep meeting for second Koo-Wang Talks in Beijing
Agree to meet in July in Beijing
Oct 24, 1995
Representatives meet in HK
Agree on Taiwan-Hong Kong aviation rights
Jun 16, 1997
Two sides exchange documents for signing
On Taiwan-Hong Kong shipping
Apr 22-24, 1998
Deputy Secretary Generals meet in Beijing
To discuss SEF-ARATS exchanges
July 24-31, 1998
ARATS Deputy Secretary General to Taipei
Leads Middle and Elementary School delegation
Sep 22-24, 1998
SEF Vice Chairman meets ARATS Secretary-General and Vice Chairman in Beijing
To finalize preparations for Koo-Wang meeting
Oct 14-19, 1998
Koo meets Wang in Shanghai
Meets Foreign Minister and Premier China pushes for political talks Reach four agreements
26 Oct, 1998
SEF Deputy Secretary General to Beijing
Leads college student delegation
28-30 Dec 1998
Representatives to Beijing
Participate in a cross- strait seminar
8 Jan 1999
ARATS Deputy Secretary General to Taiwan
Participate in seminar.
29 Jan 1999
ARATS Consultant to Taiwan
Leads Mainland Minority Artists delegation
9 Feb 1999
SEF and Mainland Red Cross sign agreement in Jinmen
Returns 5 Mainland hijackers to China
17-19 Mar 1999
ARATS Deputy Secretary General to Taiwan
Agree on Wang visit to Taiwan
27-29 Jun 1999
SEF Deputy Secretary General to Beijing
Includes delegation Prepare for Wang visit to Taiwan
9 Jul 1999
President Lee states “state- to-state” theory. All cross- strait dialogue stops.
3 Aug 1999
Seventh Seminar on Promotion of China’s Modernization in Taipei
Negotiations are at a stalemate. Taiwan continues to press for renewal of cross strait talks and China too urges renewal, but continues to insist that there must be an agreement on the one China principle first. As a result, all formal discussions between SEF and ARATS have stopped until Taiwan at least acknowledges that the final solution will be one China.
Both sides have become stymied over what seems to be a barrier based on different interpretations of the meaning of one China. If the difference is merely a different understanding of when the term “one China” is applied, during negotiations or after unification, the problem can be solved. If it is not a matter of interpretation it can mean that each side understands the position of the other and will not accept the final notion of China’s sovereignty with Taiwan having a high degree of autonomy. It can also mean that Taiwan’s leaders understand the issue, but are just not ready to negotiate the final degree of autonomy.
Both sides know that the final solution will have to be some form of federation that defines Taiwan’s degree of autonomy. But by applying the pre-condition of a simplistic artificial agreement on an ill-defined one China, China stops all progress. Taiwan’s lack of willingness to acknowledge the nebulous one China Principle also stops any progress.
This is another area which time will help to resolve. Both sides will have to agree to a new definition of one China before talks on the central issue of autonomy can be renewed. The 1992 consensus will not suffice. As Taiwan has repeatedly stated, cooperative habits will have to be developed through controlled contact and China will have to change politically before the people of Taiwan can consider even negotiating the central issue. Taiwan has also stated that the cooperative habits, as begun during the first two rounds of negotiations, will pave the way for future negotiations that can lead to a solution acceptable by both sides.
466 A more detailed explanation of the structure and process will be presented in the rest of this chapter.
467 David M. Lampton, Same Bed Different Dreams: Managing U.S. - China Relations 1989-2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 345.
468 Most of the information on the negotiations process comes from Taiwan document “Major Events Across the Taiwan Straits: January 1912 to December 2015: Chronology). It is presented by the Mainland Affairs Council. Available at: https://www.mac.gov.tw/en/cp.aspx?n=14F997EC59624E90