Taiwan has taken a positive view of US President George W. Bush's recent performance in Beijing, as evident in the comments of Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新). Bush showed a frank and even hardline attitude on the Taiwan issue, disregarding his host's sensibilities and expectations. I believe this resulted from both structural and personal factors.
The structural factor refers to China's threat against Taiwan. If we look back at the history of the establishment of Sino-US diplomatic relations, it is clear that one of the cornerstones of the three Sino-US communiques and the establishment of Sino-US ties is the idea that the problem across the Taiwan Strait must be resolved by peaceful means. The US will strengthen its security and military relations with Taiwan if China steps up its military intimidation toward Taiwan or if China's military modernization might affect the military balance across the Strait. In other words, the US takes a dynamic, not static, viewpoint toward the cross-strait military balance.
In 1982, then-US president Ronald Reagan issued such an instruction following the signing of the Second Shanghai Communique with Beijing. Reagan said the US was willing to accept the communique and put a cap on arms sales to Taiwan. But the US would ignore the communique's restrictions if China stepped up its military intimidation toward Taiwan or if China's military modernization might affect the military balance across the Strait. According to this logic, the second communique was doomed to be null and void from the time it was signed because it could never be put into effect.
The US' dynamic viewpoint also applies to its arms sales to Taiwan. For years, the US has defined its arms sales as defensive weapons for Taiwan to shore up its self-defense capabilities. But the definition of the word "defensive" is also dynamic, depending on the extent of China's military threat. If China's military menace exceeds a certain level, some offensive weapons will likely be interpreted as defensive.
One typical example is the US' agreement last year to sell diesel-powered submarines to Taiwan. China has actively undertaken military modernization in recent years, to an extent that has put the US on high alert and given rise to worries that the speed and scope of the modernization has surpassed Taiwan's self-defense capabilities. As a result, the US gave a nod to the submarine sales in the hope of boosting Taiwan's offensive capabilities and its overall defensive power.
The personal factor, on the other hand, refers to the world view of Bush and his foreign-policy team. They basically regard the Asia-Pacific region as a priority. And China is only part of its Asia-Pacific policy.
The Bush administration holds that the US should not only shake off Beijing's objections to its Taiwan policy, but also take better control of its policy toward the two sides of the Strait.
This idea was effectively imple-mented when Reagan was in office but, in the Clinton era, a lack of emphasis on foreign policy resulted in the "three nos" policy that put his government in a thorny situation. Now that mem-bers of the Reagan administration are back in charge of foreign policy under Bush, naturally the US administration is eager to get rid of China's objections.