Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Finding changes in the 'status quo'

By Lin Cheng-yi 林正義

During the welcoming ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on his visit to the US, President George W. Bush said that the US was committed to its "one China" policy. He added that Washington opposed any unilateral change to the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, called on both sides to avoid any confrontational or provocative actions, and also said that Taiwan's future should be resolved peacefully.

During the meeting that followed, the US president stopped short of promising to come out against Taiwanese independence, as Beijing had hoped, merely stating that he did not support it. US government officials have also said that they do not consider the mothballing of the National Unification Council (NUC), as changing the status quo.

In his meeting with Bush, Hu promised to shift the emphasis from exports to increasing domestic demand to drive China's economic development, in an effort to reduce the gaping trade deficit between the two countries. Bush then broached Beijing's dubious dealings in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Internet restrictions and the extradition of North Koreans who had crossed the border into China.

As far as Taiwan is concerned, it is worth noting that after the meeting, Dennis Wilder, acting director for Asian Affairs at the US National Security Council, confirmed the US position that the mothballing of the NUC did not constitute a change in the status quo.

On Jan. 30 this year, the deputy spokesman for the US Department of State, Adam Ereli, let it slip that applying to enter the UN under the name of Taiwan would, however, be considered a unilateral change. On Feb. 27, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) confirmed that he would change the wording of what the government was doing to the NUC from "abolishment" to "cessation," and released a seven-point statement, four points of which were promises not to change this status quo.

The actual way in which the US defines the status quo seems to be considerably flexible, and Taiwan also has the right to offer its own dynamic interpretations. This contrasts with how many pessimistic observers see the situation, and is diametrically opposed to the view that the US and China are collaborating against Taiwan. The Bush administration doesn't want to see either side changing the situation, and hopes that the Taiwan issue can be resolved through peaceful means.

As evidence of the fact that the US believes that the status quo is unchanged, Bush avoided a repeat of the situation in which he openly criticized Taipei to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) in late 2003. Bush was more prudent at this meeting, refusing to let Beijing achieve its objective of striking a blow at Taiwan through his words.

A number of US officials consider US collaboration with China against either Taiwan or the Chen administration to be a mistake, as this would impose restrictions on US policy regarding the situation in the Taiwan Strait. This aside, for the US to gang up with China, a non-democratic nation, against democratic Taiwan would be morally untenable. After China passed its "Anti-Secession" Law, Bush reminded Hu during a phone call that Beijing should enter into direct talks with Taiwan's democratically elected government.

In addition, Bush opposed the dropping of the EU ban on weapons sales to China. Given their differences on these issues, how can the US and China collaborate to bring about peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait?

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