Wed, Aug 08, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The `constructive engagement' myth

If Joseph Biden, chairman of the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, really wants to understand what is blocking dialogue across the Taiwan Strait, he need look no further than the bully-boy attitude of the Beijing regime.

Ever since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office, Taiwan has made one goodwill gesture after another toward Beijing, including opening the "small three links" and making plans to allow Chinese tourists into Taiwan. But Beijing has ignored all these gestures and used various excuses to refuse official exchanges with Taiwan. It has shown no sincerity to Taiwan at all. This is something US Democrats, who have championed a "constructive engagement" approach toward China, should understand.

The slowness of Beijing's democratization process -- especially after the Tiananmen Square massacre -- has stood in stark contrast to Taiwan's rapid democratization following the lifting of martial law in 1987. This contrast mirrors the vast, essential difference between the two government systems.

China has long relied on opposing "US imperial-ism" as a conduit to feed its people a steady diet of anti-democratic, anti-human rights ideas -- describing democracy as the root of political chaos and human rights as a capitalist conspiracy aimed at subverting communism. Beijing has also used the so-called "democratic dictatorship of the people" to persecute anyone opposed to communist rule. The Cultural Revolution, which left tens of millions of people dead, and the massacre of students and others in Tiananmen Square attest to the cruel persecution of dissidents by the Chinese Communist Party.

It is hoped that the brief tour of Northeast Asia Biden and his team are making -- with stops in Taipei, Beijing and Seoul -- will give them a first-hand look at the vast political, economic and cultural differences between the two sides of the Strait. They should also be able to learn that China's refusal to carry out democratization and its trampling of human rights are major reasons why the people of Taiwan resist the Beijing regime. Despite Beijing's lies about "socialism with a Chinese face," even so-called "moderates" such as Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) and Jiang Zemin (江澤民) have insisted on one-party authoritarian rule, the persecution of dissidents and the suppression of religious freedom.

Won't the US be shooting itself in the foot if its "constructive engagement" policy solidifies the foundations of Communist rule and helps nurture the hegemonic mindset of Communist leaders who have a fondness for military solutions? "Constructive engagement" has yet to lead to any sign of the construction of a more democratic China.

Sources who attended Biden's meeting with Chen said the senator called Chen's views of cross-strait relations too optimistic and not vigilante enough. In light of the recent media reports about Chen's remarks -- saying he hoped "the people on the two sides of the Strait can join hands, make peace and embrace each other" -- the stories about Biden's comments could very well be true. How can Chen justify holding an overly optimistic view of cross-strait relations when Beijing will stop at nothing to corner Taiwan in the international arena?

The Bill Clinton administration's overly optimistic view of China led to a high US trade deficit with China and solidified communist rule in China. Taiwan's misguided economic policies have lead to the exodus of businesses to China. It cannot afford to make mistakes in the political arena -- errors that could render it complicit in the strengthening of communist rule. Taiwan's democracy is proof of its political, economic and social advances -- but such an achievement is no cause to either complacently or arrogantly underestimate the destructive power of the Beijing regime.

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