Over the past few days, extensive media reports and public discussions were made in Taiwan regarding whether US President George W. Bush had ever called President Chen Shui-bian (
This is a classical case of wasteful consumption of energy and attention to the wrong cause. What really matters and is worth observing is US policy and the perception of the Chen administration's handling of cross-strait affairs.
The triangular relationship between the US, China, and Taiwan is at a critical stage -- in view of Beijing's submission of an anti-secession bill for enactment yesterday and the EU's talk of lifting a decade-long arms embargo, among other issues.
Although the substantive content of the anti-secession bill has not been released yet, Taiwan is obviously the intended target. As the Chinese Constitution states that Taiwan is part of Chinese territory, the emerging sense of national identity and sovereign consciousness within Taiwan is alarming Beijing.
Responding to the campaigns to rectify the name of Taiwan and adopt a new constitution, Beijing clearly intends to send a warning to Taiwan to refrain from further actions heading toward formal independence. While Beijing is probably not seriously planning on using force yet, it hopes to reiterate its willingness to use force if the need arises. Otherwise, to a regime such as the one in Beijing, there is simply no need to have any legal basis or justification offered by an anti-secession law before it makes an attack.
On the other hand, recent events also suggest that it is only a matter of time before the EU lifts its arms embargo against China. This is of course very alarming to Taiwan.
It is not that China has been unable to expand its military or acquire technologically advanced arms as a result of this embargo. But with the embargo officially lifted, it will only make things so much easier and less expensive for China. Moreover, some European countries have been waiting for the lifting of this embargo in order to enter strategic military cooperation and partnership with China, which will help China attempt to challenge and counter the US' role as the world's dominant military superpower. The implication of all this is of course extremely negative for Taiwan.
To Taiwan, the reactions and the role of the US in the face of all these rapidly unfolding events are extremely critical. Reportedly, the US may withdraw government backing for measures to improve military technology transfers to European countries if the EU lifts the embargo. On the other hand, the US has also expressed concern to Beijing about the enactment of the anti-secession law and is still in the process of communicating with the Chinese government about it.
Under the circumstances, how the US leadership and government perceive Taiwan's leadership and its policies is of course important. For Taiwan, it is enough to know that the US is concerned and less than pleased about some turn of events within Taiwan. However, along with the increasingly mature democracy in Taiwan, there is inevitably a craving for self-determination and an awarness of national identity.
As suggested by National Security Council Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (