US Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to Japan, China and South Korea was only a matter of handling routine business, and it is unthinkable that it would involve a change of policy. Anyone could come to this conclusion by applying some common sense. The US presidential election was only a week away, there had been three presidential debates, and US cross-strait policy did not make it onto the US campaign agenda. At such a moment, would the US Secretary of State travel abroad to declare a new policy?
Powell's answers at the press briefing in Beijing after meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Oct. 25 were in fact very cautious. In response to a question whether he felt any pressure from Hu on the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan, Powell said "I reiterated that our policy was based on `one China,' the three communiques, but also the responsibility that we have under our law -- the Taiwan Relations Act -- to make sure that Taiwan [is] able to defend itself ... We very carefully balance the responsibilities that we have to China and the responsibilities that we have to Taiwan under our own domestic law."
Powell's mistake lies in his replies to two questions during a private interview with Anthony Yuen (阮次山) from Phoenix TV at the China World Hotel in Beijing on Oct. 25.
Yuen asked "Recently the Chinese [have been] a touch bit nervous. Taiwan keeps on saying that `We don't need to declare independence because we are already an independent country with sovereignty ... there are already some twenty-six countries that recognize us, so many countries.' What does this mean to you?"
Powell's reply was to say that "Well, they can make these sorts of statements but our policy is clear. There is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy."
Yuen also asked "So this morning when you talked to Mr. Hu, did you talk about the US weapons sales to Taiwan and [if so] what was his response?"
When reiterating what he had said during the press briefing -- that the US has an obligation under its domestic law to make sure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself, that both sides should show restraint and that the US discouraged unilateral actions and encourage dialogue across the Taiwan Strait -- he added "... and move forward ... to that day when we will see a peaceful unification."
In these replies, Powell made two major mistakes. The first reply displayed a head-in-the-sand mentality that ignores Taiwan's status as a sovereign and independent state. The second was the superpower mentality, in which he sees nothing wrong with a superpower interfering in the Taiwanese people's choice of sovereignty.
Not only did Powell violate the Bush administration's national security strategy of promoting a balance of power that favors freedom, but he also betrayed what have been basic US values since the War of Independence.
The first problem is the head-in-the-sand policy of the US government.
This is a longstanding problem, particularly in the US Department of State -- namely, an unwillingness to recognize the fact that the outside world is changing.
From 1949 to 1971 the US government pretended not to see the fact that Mao Zedong's (