China Says Taiwan Talks Could `Collapse' If Framework Challenged

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  • Reasserts bottom line after disputed by presidential candidate
  • Tsai had said there were 'other options' to continuing talks

China said Wednesday that ties with Taiwan could "collapse" if the island refuses to recognize the framework that has underpinned negotiations between the two for more than two decades.

The remarks by Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, came in response to comments three days earlier by Tsai Ing-wen, the island’s leading presidential candidate, that there were other options for negotiations with Communist Party leaders. Ma said in Beijing that the so-called 1992 consensus that they both belong to one China was a core concept that couldn’t be questioned. 

Without the understanding, "the institutionalized cross-strait dialogue mechanism will be affected and could even collapse," Ma said in the agency’s first briefing since the debate at which Tsai made her remarks. "The ship of peaceful development would meet rough seas and could even sink."

Juan Chao-hsiung, a spokesman for Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, said the candidate "has been very clear on her cross-strait policy, which is to maintain the status quo."

Taiwan’s ties with China have come under closer scrutiny as the democratically ruled island prepares to elect a successor on Jan. 16 to President Ma Ying-jeou, whose rapprochement policy culminated in an historic meeting with President Xi Jinping in November. Opinion polls have for months shown Tsai, whose party officially supports independence, holding a wide lead in the race. The Communist Party, which still considers Taiwan a province, passed a law in 2005 allowing an attack if the island formalizes the split.

Tsai’s remarks in the debate came after she was pressed by Eric Chu -- the candidate of Ma’s Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party -- to clarify her position on the issue.

‘One Option’

"As long as we have sincerity, communication, I believe cross-strait relations can be stable," Tsai said. "The 1992 consensus is one option, but it’s not the only option. It is inappropriate to continue to frame it as such."

During his meeting with Ma in Singapore, Xi urged both sides to "maintain the 1992 consensus" so they could share in what he described as China’s revival.

Ma Xiaoguang also said Wednesday that top cross-strait officials exchanged New Year’s greetings over a new hotline between their offices. The telephone link between the Taiwan Affairs Office and the island’s Mainland Affairs Council was set up after last month’s meeting.