Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 8 News List

No shortcuts in terms of defense

By Lai I-chung 賴怡忠

In an interview with Bloomberg published on Oct. 23, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated the KMT's policy of pledging to say no to Taiwanese independence in exchange for a Chinese pledge not to attack Taiwan. Ma believes this would maintain the status quo and show Taiwan to be a "responsible stakeholder."

In reality, trading Taiwanese independence for a Chinese promise not to use force would not only fail to protect the status quo, but would also deal a crushing blow to Taiwan's democracy because it casts aside the right of the Taiwanese people to use democratic means to decide their own future.

In the face of China's threat of force, there are no shortcuts -- to be a responsible stakeholder, Taiwan has no choice but to strengthen its national defense, pass the arms procurement bill and deepen security cooperation with the US and Japan in order to truly make the balance of military power across the Taiwan Strait more even.

First, Taiwan's mainstream opinion supports the principle that Taiwan's future should be decided by the Taiwanese people through democratic means. Excluding the independence option could be described as digging up the foundation of democratic self-determination and would leave Taiwan no choice but unification with China.

Ma's position would turn Taiwan's right to democratic self-determination into a bargaining chip when dealing with China. This is a question of democratic principles and is unrelated to the dispute about Taiwan's unification or independence.

Second, swapping Taiwanese independence for a Chinese promise not to use force places the two fundamentally unrelated topics of Taiwan's political behavior and China's threat of force against Taiwan on two ends of the same scale.

The actual result would be that no matter what sort of pressure China applied on Taiwan's international space, no matter how openly they declare that Taiwan is a part of China, as long as China did not actually militarily attack Taiwan, China would not be changing the status quo, and the international community would change tack and ask Taiwan to limit its political actions.

Next would come a debate over what sort of political actions constitute a move toward independence. At that time, the degree of freedom of and space for Taiwanese political reform would drastically shrink, as all actions would have to avoid angering China or provoking them to change the status quo. Naturally, this weakens Taiwan's democracy.

To put it another way, swapping Taiwanese independence for a Chinese pledge not to use military force would effectively close the curtain on Taiwan's political actions and retard Taiwan's democratic development without China ever having to lift a finger.

The key to correcting the faulty logic of Ma and pro-China forces in the international arena lies in making sure things of the same character are placed on the scales. In response to China's military threat, Taiwan should strengthen its ability to protect itself and actively deepen security cooperation with the US-Japanese alliance.

Regarding the political demand that Taiwan not declare independence, it should be pointed out that Taiwan's declarations to defend its sovereignty are responses to Beijing's attacks on Taiwan's participation in the international community and China's declarations that Taiwan is a part of China.

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