Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The status quo's illusion of peace

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell told Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) when the two men met that the US strategy of maintaining the "status quo" through the "one China" policy has proven to be effective in the past.

But just a few days before Hsieh met with Powell, the RAND Corp, an important US think tank, published a report that comes to a completely different conclusion.

According to the report, there are 10 possibilities for Taiwan's status in the future. Four are peaceful: maintaining the "status quo," peaceful unification, peaceful independence, and a compromise resolution.

The others are violent unification, violent independence, and violent irresolution, either with or without US intervention.

The surprising conclusion of the report is that of the four possible peaceful trajectories, a peaceful maintenance of the "status quo" is least beneficial for stable US-China relations, and the scenario in which chance of a war between China and the US remains the highest.

One side says maintaining the "status quo" is a good thing, while one side says it's bad.

The most important difference between the two sides is that Powell emphasizes that maintaining the "status quo" has proved to be effective in the past 15 years, while the RAND Corp is predicting future developments.

The think tank believes that "For at least the next four or five years, the most likely possibility with regard to Taiwan's status is that the current unresolved but peaceful situation will continue unchanged."

I'm afraid that at least in this respect there is no difference between the two sides.

Why is it that although maintaining the "status quo" seems to be the best option for the short term, in the middle and long term it will be bad for the US, China and Taiwan?

The US, China and Taiwan all mostly agree that Taiwan has de facto independence.

Even Hsieh, who holds the view that the Constitution is a "one China Constitution," acknowledges this.

As to the US, its Taiwan Relations Act clearly states that any US laws that refer to countries or governments also apply to Taiwan.

China is unable to acknowledge this reality, but since it does state in its "Anti-Secession" Law that Taiwan's "status quo" is legal, and its continuing emphasis on criticizing Taiwan for trying to achieve "de jure Taiwanese independence," we can say that even China cannot avoid tacit acknowledgment of the actual situation.

Although Grand Justice Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) and law professor Huang Chao-yuan (黃昭元) are of the opinion that Taiwan has already achieved de jure independence, they point out that Taiwan only meets the conditions for being a country under its own laws.

But this definition still lacks recognition under international law. And according to Hsieh's view that there is a "one China" framework in the Constitution, Hsu's and Huang's view is unconstitutional.

It is clear that the US and China accept the de facto independence of Taiwan as a political compromise, but do not want to cement the situation by acknowledging it by law, which is the same as acknowledging that China has the legal right to overturn the current "status quo."

Although the US emphasizes that if China exercises this right, it has to do so by peaceful measures, China of course cannot accept such restrictions.

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