How might Taiwan best respond to the PRC's "anti-secession law?" While everyone seems to think that the "law" is in some way a grave threat, there seems to have been little serious discussion of what to do about it. The US, following the State Department's policy of appeasing China whenever it can, has remained mute. But even here in Taiwan there seems to have been little discussion of the issue.
The cautious might wait until the content of the bills is known before we respond -- after all, its provisions are known only to a select group in Beijing. In terms of dovetailing specific responses with particular provisions of the bill, that might well be true. But that is no reason not to assess the intention behind the measure and discuss what an appropriate response might be.
In this sense we cannot but be disappointed -- once again -- with President Shui-bian's New Year's address. All we had was a rather empty warning to China "not to underestimate the will of the Taiwanese people." Since China believes that the Taiwanese people have no will and can be intimidated into voting for the pan-blues by Beijing's saber-rattling, Chen might as well not have bothered. Once again Chen spoke about Taiwan's "olive branches." What he might have pointed out is that these olive branches have simply been used as switches for giving Taiwan a good whipping.
When are Chen and those around him ever going to realize that appeasement does not lead to security? When are they going to learn the lessons of Munich, which is that aggressive governments with plans for territorial expansion have to be challenged? Enough of Taiwan playing Mr. Nice Guy. It has got to the stage where the country is being endangered by the lack of a resolute strategy. Of course, getting tough is going to annoy people in Beijing and Beijing's clients in the State Department in Washington, but that can't be helped. China's latest move is too serious to be taken with the Panglossian stoicism that has characterized the last four years.
What should Chen do? Simply remind everyone that his "four noes and one not" of May 2000 were predicated on China having no intention of using military force against Taiwan. The anti-secession law should be understood as China confirming that it will not abide by this principle -- the law is after all a justification, within China, for the use of military force. Chen is within his rights to say that the moment the anti-secession law is promulgated the "four noes" pledge becomes history, and that Taiwan will consider itself free to implement these policies as fit.
What would this mean? For starters, the National Unification Council and the National Unification Guidelines could be abolished immediately, after which incorporating the "state-to-state" definition of Taiwan-China relations into the Constitution is recommended. Naturally this will be seen as provocative and Taiwan will be criticized. But those who criticize Taiwan have no interest in helping this country maintain its way of life, its democratic system or its free society. What they want is this annoying little place not to taunt their consciences as they kowtow to Beijing.
Taiwan has been intimidated by such nonsense for long enough. For too long, it has tried to make room for the dubious concerns and often contemptible motives of others. It must now look after its own interests. The speech in which Chen made his pledges was called "Taiwan Stands Up." Well it certainly didn't then. It is about time it did.