Thu, Nov 30, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan challenges US' policies on China

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

On Nov. 16, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission's annual report was released to Congress and the public. The report had a broad mandate -- to "evaluate how the US relationship with China affects the economic health of the US and its industrial base, the military and weapons proliferation dangers China poses to the US, and the US political standing and influence in Asia."

All of these issues are of as much interest to Taiwan as they are to the US.

For the most part, however, the Taiwanese media has focused on one element of the report's recommendations -- that the administration of US President George W. Bush should implement a long-term policy to assist Taiwan's participation in the international community.

There is a connection, of course.

The commission is a nonpartisan organization established by Congress. Its basic concern, especially after the Congressional elections, is that the economic relationship with China could change dramatically.

The huge amount of production that has shifted to China from the US has already begun to impact seriously on producers, services and buyers in the US.

Doubtless there are economists who may not agree. Within the executive branch, there is usually little support for strategic assessments developed by Congress.

In fact, a large group of Cabinet officials headed by the treasury secretary will be going to China to press for change in many of China's economic policies.

Their effort may push through some important policy changes, but that is unlikely to be enough. It also does not include security issues and regional political matters.

In its relationship with the US, Taiwan is already well aware that there are times when economic policies will clash with security and political policies.

Such a situation -- in the US and Taiwan -- is likely to have domestic political repercussions.

In addition, one of the commission's recommendations was to help Taiwan expand its international activities. The US abides by the Three Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

The TRA, Section 4, Part D, states that "Nothing in this act may be construed as a basis for supporting the exclusion or expulsion of Taiwan from continued membership in any international financial institution or any other international organization."

Unfortunately, in the days when the US had far more power in the international community, this commitment was not strongly pursued.

More recently, the best the US can do is rally other friendly states to help it, though increasingly even that has become unlikely. With China's rise, the problem has become more China's ability to constrain Taiwan's international participation.

So implementing a long-term policy to facilitate Taiwan's participation in international organizations, as the commission's recommendation suggests, may be a bit late. Perhaps. It depends on the future character of the US-China relationship.

A sharp downturn in China's rise could be caused by any number of domestic problems: water, oil consumption, environmental degradation and the impact of high tech opening, among others.

According to the commission, in addition to the US' concerns about the impact on the US economy of the migration of production to China, there is also the problem of China's military buildup and the implications that this has on US strategic interest in the Pacific.

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