Fri, Jan 21, 2000 - Page 12 News List

Strategic ambiguity tangles Strait ideas

By Chao Chun-Shan

The Clinton administration's development of a constructive strategic partnership with China has triggered criticism by Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush. Bush believes that what exists between the two sides should be a strategic competitive relationship.

In the last few US presidential campaigns the question of a "China policy" was invariably an important issue for debates. Although talk and even promises made by a candidate during a campaign are not, to any great extent, binding on his administration after the election, they do, to certain degree, reflect the opinion of the US people.

In a state-to-state relationship, competition and cooperation are two sides of a coin. By emphasizing a constructive strategic partnership, Clinton expresses the US' hopes and desires for further cooperation despite on-going disagreements between the two countries. However, his administration has not tried to conceal conflicts between Washington and Beijing.

Similarly, we should not overlook the possibility of a peaceful co-existence between the two, just because Bush is stressing a strategic competitive relationship. The debates over "China policy" in US presidential races are fundamentally a question of tactics. Basic China strategy is not being challenged.

In Taiwan's presidential race, each camp has announced its own China policy. To counter President Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) "special state-to-state" model the opposition camps have submitted "quasi-international relations" and "a special relationship between two countries."

From a strategic standpoint, the ideas behind these concepts do not have a special appeal to the general public. In fact, some people may not have a clue as to what these concepts mean, despite repeated attempts at clarification.

Under all the models, including President Lee's, the maintenance of strategic ambiguities about the status quo of the cross-strait relationship is more than likely a product of the environment. The "special state-to-state" model explicitly highlights the reality of the Republic of China on Taiwan's existence -- while preserving a certain degree of strategic ambiguity by including the word "special" to circumvent the "one China principle."

Everyone who is running in the election understands the underlying subtlety. From a vote-getting standpoint, no one wants to directly confront this widely-accepted definition. All they can do to differentiate themselves is to redefine some synonyms or rearrange Lee's wording.

With China still refusing to change its sovereignty claim or its insistence on a "one China policy," how do we break the deadlock and reopen the gate for cross-strait negotiations? If any changes take place within China or in the Sino-US relationship, do we maintain the status quo or is there any appropriate responding measures?

The "one country, two system" arrangement is China's blueprint for peaceful unification. Have we given consideration to Taiwan's position or role under the concept of a free, democratic and prosperous new China? Strategies determine tactics. Has the ambiguity of strategy limited the practicality of tactics?

I think that our National Unification Guideline provides the best framework for an exploration of these issues. The guideline leaves plenty of room for analysis. I hereby suggest that all camps reread the guideline and establish a consensus on strategies.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top