Wed, Nov 09, 2005 - Page 8 News List

US policy stuck as China's changes

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

As a result, governance seems to have come almost to a standstill, while politics flourishes. The two sides -- the pan-green and the pan-blue -- are playing by different rules. The pan-blue side's objective is to regain power to assure eventual unification with China, while at the same time opening the gates for China's entry into Taiwan.

The pan-green side's objective is to assure democracy is strengthened. But it seems to be placing a greater priority on stability as a defense against its opponents rather than defending the freedom that is being challenged by the opposition's behavior. Both sides may lose.

These changes in the policies and actions of China and Taiwan have not influenced the US' policies toward either one -- yet. Washington's preoccupation with domestic and other external issues has absorbed the attention of top decision makers. That does not mean that other issues are being ignored by the bureaucracy. More likely, decisions are being postponed by senior officials who are preoccupied with the crisis of the day, or awaiting policy personnel that have not yet been chosen.

Even when an issue is addressed -- cross-strait issues as well as others -- a decision may be stalled by a lack of consensus (or interagency approval in foreign service jargon). Differences are inherent in some agencies and branches of government: Forging a consensus among foreign affairs, security and Congress inevitably requires very difficult concessions. Political realities, security requirements and national values clearly form part of cross-strait policy.

But for Taiwan, danger lingers over the changes being made by China, and potentially by changes the US may make in the future when decisions cannot be avoided.

It remains unclear what pressures will develop in the US-China relationship, how well and in what direction Beijing will manage its changing environment and whose consensus will prevail in Taiwan. An important question though is are opportunities for furthering Taiwan's future being lost in its internal struggles?

Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and is now a special adviser to the Liberty Times Group. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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