Thu, Mar 21, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Will Taiwan be derailed by China investment?

By Chen Wen-yen 陳文彥

It's all very well discussing the controversial decision to allow eight-inch wafer manufacturers to migrate to China in terms of its industrial, economic and security implications. But we must also consider the effects that such a technology transfer may have on Taiwan's international and diplomatic standing. Above all, we need to consider the possible negative impact it may have on the US government and the US public, and how it may affect their support for Taiwan.

The bottom line in US policy on Taiwan is clear. The US will absolutely not accept a non-peaceful solution to the "Taiwan issue." Further, since Taiwan is a mature democracy, any solution must be agreed on by the people of Taiwan. The US does not have a fixed opinion on whether the solution should be unification, independence or "one country, two systems," but it does hold that the solution must be peaceful and must have the consent of the people.

US President George W. Bush has robustly and unequivocally insisted on a peaceful solution. With peace thus established as the basic premise, public opinion in Taiwan has a crucial influence on US policy. Bush has repeatedly stated his support for the American values of democracy and liberty, and if the people of Taiwan continues to support democracy and liberty and reject China's authoritarian government and its "one country, two systems," the US will be duty-bound to support Taiwan.

If, however, Taiwan blindly invests on a large scale in China and people move there in large numbers, enhancing Chinese power, and if Taiwan prepares to transfer technology, a signal will be sent to the US government and its people that Taiwan is slowly moving from economic to political integration with China, a signal that maybe one day, Taiwan really will become a part of China.

Such considerations may cause the US to modify its support for Taiwan. In fact, some of the more conservative of US think tanks and senators are quietly beginning to show concern over Taiwan's future, and coming round to the view that, in its own national interest, the US should review its Taiwan policy.

Indeed, some analysts believe that one of the reasons the US declined to include AEGIS-equipped destroyers in last year's arms sale was that the ships would fall into Beijing's hands if Taiwan and China unified.

If Taiwan continues to allow large-scale investment in China and the transfer of its leading industries, it will become very difficult to persuade US public opinion of the need to assist in the protection of Taiwan in the event of war in the Taiwan Strait. It would be unreasonable to ask the US to sacrifice its soldiers when Taiwan's only concern is economic gain.

I once asked a US senator to support the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA). I talked to the senator's assistant, and he told me that Taiwan's blind push for economic investment in China was the reason for the senator's refusal to support the TSEA.

The gods help those who help themselves. The people of Taiwan preoccupy themselves with profit to the point of neglecting their own future, failing to take the kind of assertive action that would show the world that they have a burning desire to protect democracy, liberty and independence.

Such behavior may have a negative impact on the willingness of the world, and the US in particular, to support Taiwan. In the debate over investment in China, Taiwan's government must exercise the utmost care in striking a judicious balance between national security and survival on the one hand -- and economic development on the other. The challenge will be a true test of its political wisdom.

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