During a Congressional hearing earlier this month, US Under-secretary of State Robert Zoellick commented that those who tried to change the US "one China" policy would be "hitting into a wall."
The metaphoric "wall" referred to here parallels to some degree the Cold War era's Berlin Wall, beside which the late US president Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech in 1987 that many now believe was instrumental in bringing about the dissolution of the Soviet empire.
Backed by the superpowers, both "walls" symbolize formidable obstacles to democracy. The Berlin Wall had the autocratic Soviet Union behind it. Ironically, the "wall" of the "one-China" policy -- or the "one-China" wall for brevity -- has been erected by the world's only democratic superpower, namely the US.
In contrast to the Berlin Wall's physical impediment to democracy, the "one China" wall could unwittingly be yielding similar or worse effects through misplaced trust and unfounded fear, further aggravating the wall's chronic hindrance of Taiwan.
As Zoellick made abundantly clear, the "one China" wall infers that Taiwan's formal sovereignty "means war and American soldiers."
However, the reiteration of this warning, which was fraught with Taiwan-independence phobia and came against the backdrop of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) latest US transit run-in, reflected the Bush administration's lack of trust in Taiwan's democracy. Specifically, Zoellick seemed to imply that a democratically-elected president of Taiwan might value his ideology more than the lives of the Taiwanese public and US soldiers.
That was why Washington wanted Chen to put on the anti-democratic shackles of "four noes and one not" in his first inaugural speech in 2000, despite his obvious lack of any officially sanctioned power to pursue such policies while residing in Taiwan's highest elected office. Washington wanted Chen to act as if he were Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) or Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), both dictators from a bygone era. What's most unfortunate is that Chen agreed to US demands for political expediency.
Consequently, the "one China" wall has now become a straitjacket ready to suffocate a toddling Taiwan democracy. The "one-China" wall has caused many in Taiwan to lose faith in the long-term future of Taiwan's democracy, thereby leaving room for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)'s "united front" efforts. In turn, the paralysis of the Chen administration, a result of the extreme obstructionism practiced by the CCP-KMT alliance and egged on by an overwhelmingly pro-China media, has further convinced a significant portion of the Taiwanese people of the seeming futility of attempting to implement a full democracy amid the remnants of 50 years of rule by the KMT party-state.
The Taiwanese populace might have lost its confidence to the extent that even someone like KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who advocates Taiwan's eventual unification with China, could enjoy sizable support. Given that Beijing would have total control over the timetable for the annexation of Taiwan by China should Ma win Taiwan's presidency in 2008, the strategic implication for both the US and Japan can't be overstated.
Further exacerbating the situation, the US State Department is overestimating the US' ability to steer Ma, and underestimating Beijing's capability to dominate the KMT. The State Department is therefore wrong to put its trust in Ma, who has little credibility in the KMT hierarchy on resisting either Beijing or its proxies. For an example, there is no need to look farther afield than the special arms package, which remains in limbo despite the English-speaking Ma's efforts to assuage Washington.
In other words, for the sake of long-term US security interests and regional stability, Washington has no alternative but to trust the pan-green camp. It would be a tragedy if the Bush administration let Chen's flaws cloud its judgment.
To reverse these trends, Taiwan should enact a new Constitution that would include at least the "status quo" definition of Taiwan's territory, while leaving unchanged the nation's name and flag -- which would presumable be adequate for winning international support by stopping short of Beijing's "red lines."
Even if such efforts might appear to some to be pushing the envelope, they could serve to postpone the day when a Taiwanese has to stand on the White House lawn and demand that a US President -- in the company of a Chinese President -- "tear that wall down."
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