Tue, May 23, 2000 - Page 8 News List

It's time for the US to take a stand

By Henry Ting

In the middle of the highly-flammable dispute on Taiwan independence, both sides of the Taiwan Strait reportedly asked the US to take an intermediary role following the election of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). But the US State Department spokesman declined any US intention of getting involved in the dialogue.

His comment was based on the belief that as long as the US' principle of a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan Strait crisis can be observed, it is better for the US to stand on the sidelines of the hotly disputed "one China" issue. If his announcement is a true reflection of US policy toward the region, we are not only treading on a dangerous road of miscalcula-tion, but will also miss a golden opportunity to promote China's democratization once for all.

For all its failure as a ruling party over the last 50 years to rid China of its poverty, corruption and tyranny, the communist regime in Beijing does share the common aspiration of the general public for the unification of China and Taiwan. They are well aware of their lack of economic resources and the military technology needed to launch an all-out military assault on Taiwan across sixty miles of water.

Nevertheless, the temptation to recover territory lost from the motherland is just too big a prize to pass up, especially with the strident support from nationalistic Chinese intellectuals. But Beijing's rulers know a military failure in the Taiwan Strait would result in the immediate collapse of their communist regime. While the leadership hesitates, the baying of the Chinese public intensifies everyday.

On the other side of the Strait, the people in Taiwan have obvious reasons to resist unification, especially after 50 years of KMT rule. Economically, Taiwan would be severely handicapped by a merger with its chaotic and inefficient counterpart. They just don't see why they should trade in their hard-won prosperity and democracy. It is reasonable to predict that they will not cave in without a fight.

Meanwhile the US is treating this potentially explosive situation lightly, on the premise that the armed forces in Taiwan, with all their upgraded weaponry from the US could withstand any Chinese military attack for a few months, with the US Seventh Fleet lurking nearby. After that, the thinking goes, the spent Chinese forces will be much more likely to negotiate for a permanent "one China, two states" settlement.

This approach may work for a decade or two; however, the problem will eventually come be resurrected as a hostile China of the future seeks revenge and her rightful place in the Pacific.

If the US is so openly pleased with the prosperous and democratic Taiwan, then it should not miss this opportunity to turn the crisis into the chance of a lifetime to "Taiwanize China" -- for the sake of permanent peace and harmony in East Asia and the world.

Taking its cues from the some scholars in China who have proposed a unification timetable, the US should offer to broker a real timetable, including the ability of the Chinese people to freely elect their own political leaders and choose their own government, just as their Taiwanese compatriots can.

This might sound overreaching and antagonistic to the current Chinese regime, but it is a pragmatic slice of reality, since budding democrats have already been organizing all over China in recent years despite repeated government crackdowns. Human rights are an empty and hollow slogan to these democrats.

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