Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The fictional 'status quo,' Part 1

By June Teufel Dreyer

For Beijing, the US defines the status quo as no use of force or threat to use force against Taiwan.

For Taipei, the US defines it as exercising prudence in managing all aspects of cross-strait relations.

For both China and Taiwan, the US defines the status quo as avoiding statements and actions that would unilaterally alter Taiwan's status.

The US does not support independence for Taiwan or unilateral moves that would change the status quo as Washington defines it.

Beijing defines the status quo as the existence of "one China" in the world, with Taiwan as part of it, with the capital in Beijing.

According to official Chinese sources, "reunification has not taken place yet" because of historical reasons, but this doesn't change, and will never change, the fact that both sides are part of China.

Taiwan's definition of the status quo is that the nation is a democratic and sovereign country that has the right to participate in international organizations such as the WHO and the UN.

The fact that Taiwan is a sovereign country is not negotiable for Taipei, which has its own opinions and will not compromise on some issues.

Hence there are three very different opinions on the status quo from three different entities, all of whom are plainly unhappy with the current situation.

The US is concerned because there is constant tension over the issue that complicates its relations with both sides and may lead it into war.

China is annoyed because it does not actually control Taiwan.

Taiwan is apprehensive because, although it can claim it has the right to participate in international organizations and enjoy the other attributes of sovereignty, it has proven very difficult to actually exercise many of these rights.

Because each of the three parties is unhappy to a greater or lesser degree with the current situation, each side keeps pushing unilaterally for changes.

The side that feels disadvantaged by these changes complains loudly that the status quo is being changed while the accused party replies that it has done nothing to change the status quo.

For example, the US' interactions with Taiwan are guided by an act of Congress, the aforementioned Taiwan Relations Act.

But this did not prevent the executive branch of the government from signing agreements with China that significantly differ from the TRA.

The most salient example is the Aug. 17, 1982, communique that, among other things, agreed to reduce the quantity and quality of arms sold to Taiwan.

The TRA, by contrast, had mandated that the US supply Taiwan with such defensive weapons as it needed to maintain a balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.

Another example is the 1994 review of policy toward Taiwan undertaken by the administration of former US president Bill Clinton.

It specifically excluded Taiwan's highest ranking officials, such as the president and vice president, from visiting the US except on transit stops that would have to be approved on a case-by-case basis.

This was definitely a change from the TRA.

So was the policy review's statement that the US would support Taiwan's membership in international organizations that do not require statehood: Section 4(d) of the TRA says "nothing in this act may be construed as a basis for supporting the exclusion or expulsion of Taiwan from membership in any international financial institution or any other international organization."

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