Mon, Mar 04, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan needs proactive diplomacy

By George W.Tsai 蔡瑋

US President George W. Bush has already completed his visit to China. There was neither a fourth communique nor a restatement of the "three no's." During his visit, Bush repeatedly stressed the Taiwan Relations Act, regarding Taiwan as a friend of the US, and stated the view that cross-strait negotiations should be held and problems resolved peacefully. With this, Taiwan heaved a sigh of relief, and the authorities may boast of their achievements.

But Taipei cannot interpret problems by adopting only viewpoints beneficial to itself. In cross-strait relations, despite their moral and spiritual sympathy toward Taipei, Bush and others dare not completely ignore Beijing's stance. "One China" is still US policy. Three communiques and one law still comprise the standard for the US policy toward Taiwan and China. Of course, Bush's comment that there must be no provocation across the Strait applies to Taiwan, too. Taipei absolutely must not rely on the notion that it can rest easy because it has strong backing.

Actually, Taipei doesn't need to pat itself on the back just because Bush is friendly toward it. But there is also no need to resent former US president Bill Clinton for insufficient friendliness. The Bush government is still in the process of experimenting, adjusting and learning. In the end, it will swing back to the center -- where US national interests really lie. Bluntly put, the US' China policy still aims to prevent unification, independence, war and discord across the Strait. It also aims to keep Taiwan and contain China. China and Taiwan can have contact and resume talks, but it must be under US supervision and guidance.

In terms of how to move beyond the present situation, this writer proposes both passive and active approaches. As for the former, in its international relations, Taipei shouldn't force other countries to choose between China and Taiwan, because the victim in such cases is usually Taiwan. In terms of its relationship with China, Taipei mustn't put the so-called "Taiwan question" on the agenda too soon. This, too, would not be beneficial to Taiwan. In relations with the US, Taiwan must not excessively exploit the conflict between the US administration and Congress, or seek to damage US-China relations. This will likewise cause Taiwan to become the victim in the end.

Even more importantly, Taiwan should consider adopting a more proactive attitude and approach in dealing with the cross-strait predicament. Internationally, Taiwan must ensure that it stands on the side of reason (even though China has the advantage of might.) In cross-strait relations, if Taiwan hides, stalls or flees, it won't be able to resolve any problems. On the contrary, it would be better to adopt a forward-looking, aggressive and offensive tack. In its relations with the US, Taiwan can even consider helping improve relations between the US and China under the premise that its interests will not be compromised in the process.

More specifically, while Taiwan can oppose "one country, two systems" and refuse to accept the regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it can also stress the need for a China that is free, democratic and unified -- and one with an equal distribution of wealth. Taiwan can resolve to be responsible for China's future and make it clear that Taiwan is not part of a foreign power blockade or a tool being used to restrict China's future development.

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