US President George W. Bush will today be sworn in to a second term in the White House. Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (
Anyone familiar with international politics must agree that the greatest challenge to US diplomacy is a clash of civilizations between the US and the Muslim world, and the question of how to deal with China's rise in Asia.
Taiwan has limited contact and is not very familiar with the Muslim world but it respects the traditions and values of every civilization. The people of Taiwan believe in universal values such as democracy and human rights transcending ethnic traditional values. These are values that transcend the borders separating different cultures and should be cherished by every civilization.
The question of China's growing strength directly clashes with the traditional friendship between Taiwan and the US since Washington's China policies have a direct impact on the quality of Taiwan-US interaction.
Bush will not be controlled by electoral concerns during his final four years in office. Nor will he be as likely to be controlled by vested interests. He will be able to let go and demonstrate a politician's vision and ideals. Hopefully, Bush will be able to strengthen his insistence on the universal values of democracy and human rights in the US-China relationship, and carefully measure the latent threat that China poses to the Asian region, while at the same time offering stronger support for Taiwan's democratic development and its realization of human rights.
Taiwan and China share a common language and heritage as well as historical links. For this reason Taiwan is ideally placed to understand China's authoritarian nature. Taiwan should continue to caution the Bush administration that Beijing is manipulating guilt over China's treatment by Western powers and Japan in the 19th century, in combination with a rising tide of nationalism, its growing military might and the lure of its huge market, as a way of forcing the US to conform to its "one China" policy that oppresses Taiwan.
All nations that espouse freedom and autonomy should take care not to fall for the myth of China's "peaceful rising" and the bait of its massive market. Looking at a society in which economic and political issues are veiled in obscurity, we need to look carefully to see what is real and what is illusion.
Although Bush's involvement in the Iraq war has been repeatedly criticized, the fact that he won a second term shows that this involvement passes the test of US popular opinion. As a staunch ally of the US, Taiwan supports Bush in his war against terror, and hopes that by working with the US, stability in the Taiwan Strait can be strengthened and Taiwan's democratic reforms can avoid becoming a victim of manipulation from across the Strait.
On the premise that cross-strait security is not threatened, Taiwan is happy to assist the US in lighting the flame of democracy in China, for only if thousands of years of authoritarian rule can be overturned and replaced by democratic traditions can peace in Asia be assured. Only then will the two sides of the Strait put aside mutual suspicion, open up dialogue and resolve the gridlock across the Strait.