Vice President Lien Chan (
How refreshing it is, therefore, to see Lien break the mold by suggesting a bold and incisive policy move on the cross-strait front -- especially when it seems that independent presidential candidate James Soong (
What Lien has proposed is not so much a change in policy or strategy as a change in the presentation of Taiwan's position in the cross-strait debate. It is, in effect, the creation of a clever new public relations slogan: respect for human rights is higher than respect for sovereignty. In other words, respect for Taiwan's human rights should be higher than respect for China's claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.
This is obviously going to have an effect on politicians around the world, coming as it does in the wake of NATO's successful intervention in Kosovo. Can US President Bill Clinton, for one, ask the American public to condone an intervention on the grounds of human rights in Yugoslavia but not in the Taiwan Strait? Human rights are universal, after all, and the US has been a champion of the cause throughout the world. It is also a cause that is much easier for the international community to identify with, and more convenient for its leaders to exploit for their own public relations purposes. Better, certainly, than taking sides in a murky PRC-ROC sovereignty dispute that traces its origins to a civil war which took place half a century ago.
True enough, as Lien's critics have been quick to point out, this still leaves Taiwan at the mercy of fickle public opinion in the West. But it makes Taiwan's case much easier to sell abroad. And it does not supersede the argument that Taiwan's sovereignty rests with its people -- if anything, the new slogan is complementary: Taiwan's sovereignty is strengthened by its people's desire to uphold their human rights.
Soong, on the other hand, seems determined to cast himself as the great compromiser in cross-strait affairs and, by so doing, is creating the impression in international circles that Taiwan is prepared to enter into negotiations on its sovereignty -- however long-term they may be. This is something which no demo-cratic nation would ever willingly do. Yet by suggesting that Taiwan and China sign a "mutual nonaggression treaty" for a fixed period of, say, 30 years, he is proposing Taiwan begin treading the path that China and the US State Department have been increasingly desperate to lay down for it. By signing such an agreement -- dare we call it an "interim agreement" as suggested by Stanley Roth and Kenneth Lieberthal, Clinton's point-men on China policy -- Taiwan would be creating the impression that the clock has been set ticking on reunification. This would be disastrous from a strategic point of view for any cross-strait negotiator, and no one with Taiwan's interests at heart would have thought to suggest it.
It goes without saying that Lien's suggestion is not enough; he must be held to his ideas. The foreign affairs and cross-strait policy establishment must quickly be mobilized behind this new message. But Soong's statement warrants far more serious attention. He cannot be allowed to hoodwink the public into believing that appeasement is a policy worth pursuing where the nation's nemesis is concerned.
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) spoke during the opening ceremony of this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA). For the first time in the assembly’s history, attendees, including Xi, had to dial in virtually. Xi made no acknowledgement of the Chinese government’s role in causing the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was there any meaningful apology. Instead, he painted China as a benign force for good and a friend to all nations. Except Taiwan, of course. The address was a reheated version of the speech Xi gave at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Xi again attempted to step into the
The World Health Assembly (WHA) held its annual meeting this week; Taiwan was still not represented. Its journalists were also barred from covering the online-only proceedings, despite the nation’s clearly demonstrated pandemic expertise that has set an example for the world. When the SARS epidemic reached Taiwan from southern China in 2003, dozens of lives were lost, but its health experts learned the importance of general testing, masks, technology to locate infected persons, swift decisions and quarantines. The lessons were applied immediately across Taiwan when COVID-19 arrived this year. From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated as an observer in the assembly under