Thu, Oct 23, 2003 - Page 8 News List

The DPP is spinning out on spin with the US

By Wang Chien-chuang 王健壯

The word "spin" means to turn a problem or a crisis around in order to solve or eliminate it. It thus also means to save a situation after the fact.

Politicians must know, however, that spin is only a means, and a forced means at that. If a politician or government constantly has to resort to spin, and feels that spin is what they do best, that politician or government will eventually encounter bigger problems that no amount of spin will be able to solve. The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) US diplomacy currently finds itself in this situation.

In domestic politics, it may be possible to do as one pleases, and even completely ignore advice. At the most, one will be proven wrong and be forced to admit defeat. But to engage in diplomacy means to have a relation with "outsiders." Outsiders are concerned with their own interests, and have their own priorities regarding what they should or shouldn't do. That is why diplomats never use the singular "I," but always talk in the plural "we."

It is true that the US has been good to Taiwan over the past few years. But, as with friends, if you put a friend in an awkward situation every now and then, periodically telling him to wipe your butt and fix your mess, even the best of friends may stop listening to you, or even abandon you altogether.

Over the past few years, every time the DPP government's leaders have played the brinkmanship game, they've blinked. They've been trying to ascertain the reaction from China, and they've been seeking to ascertain the attitude of the US. But the Chinese have wised up, and will no longer react until the very last moment.

Instead, it is always the US that is forced by the government to react, to "one country on each side of the Strait" referendums, to correcting Taiwan's national title and to a new constitution, and to the most recent fuss over Taiwan not being a US state. As soon as Taiwanese leaders open their mouths, the US State Department is forced to take a position, as if it had nothing else to do but keep itself busy with Taiwanese matters.

Diplomats must put themselves in the position of others. If Taiwan constantly troubles the US, will the US forever continue to shoulder responsibility for these troubles? Of course not.

Every time Taiwan tests the limits of US tolerance and there is the slightest sign of trouble, we either send someone to the US to explain, or we clarify the situation and say that the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

But US politicians invented spin. Could they be so stupid that they don't understand that this behavior on Taiwan's part is only a matter of spin? The US may even know better than the people of Taiwan what the DPP leaders are really thinking. With Taiwan playing the spin game at every opportunity, the US will eventually grow tired and in the end Taiwan may even play itself out of the game.

Since reality forces us to rely on the Americans, Taiwanese leaders shouldn't push them too far and play the brinkmanship game so often in such a short period of time, merely to find out where the US draws the line. If we really must play this game, it should be played in stages.

The US is sure to react when forced into a corner, and then the US-Taiwan relationship will deteriorate instead of improve. Taiwan's US diplomacy currently consists almost only of spin because government leaders have a superstitious belief in their own merits. But unless they spin their own brains a bit and recognize the mistake in continuing this kind of diplomacy, Uncle Sam will eventually change his attitude.

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