Dennis Wilder, the senior director of East Asian Affairs for the US National Security Council, recently stated that "Taiwan, or the Republic of China [ROC], is not at this point a state."
As in the past when the US tried to please China by saying bad things about Taiwan, it again succeeded in angering both the pan-green camp, which supports Taiwan, and the pan-blue camp, which is for the ROC.
But Beijing must also have been alarmed at hearing these words. China would never have thought that a US official would use the phrase "the ROC, Republic of China, is an issue undecided."
This is a re-emergence of the old US position from the beginning of the Cold War that "Taiwan's status is undetermined."
Even though the US has established diplomatic relations with China, it never relinquished its position that Taiwan's status is undetermined. When signing the Shanghai Communique and the other joint communiques, neither side disputed that the People's Republic of China (PRC) is the only China and that "the Government of the People's Republic of China [is] the sole legal government of China."
When it came to the issue of who Taiwan belongs to, China insisted that the US acknowledge Taiwan belongs to the PRC, but the US stuck to its position that Taiwan's status was undecided. In the end the two countries reached an ambiguous compromise, with the US acknowledging China had certain points of view.
After this, the US didn't change its position, but it started to avoid the issue in public documents and statements, still preserving the facade.
Everybody kept up appearances in this fashion for more than 30 years, and it became an unspoken convention. Surprisingly, now, while Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties are vigorously pushing for referendums on joining international organizations as a sovereign, independent country, the US makes such an unprecedented move. China's shock was of course only to be expected.
And Beijing's reaction did not end there. In the past, the people who argued that Taiwan's status was undetermined were the people in favor of Taiwanese independence. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) held the same position as Beijing in this respect, and was strongly against it. One example are the quarrels over including the idea that Taiwan's status is undetermined in Taiwanese textbooks.
When then Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) sat in on one particular Cabinet meeting, he expressed his strong opposition to the idea. Nowadays, right after angrily rebuking the comments that the ROC is not a country, Ma turned around to commend the position that "the ROC, Republic of China, is an issue undecided."
He is happy with this position, as he believes that it leaves open the possibility of joining the UN.
Ma is of the opinion that this new version of the US' position that the ROC is an issue undecided is better than the old version, because the new version makes it easier for Taiwan to join the UN. This is of course a very immature point of view, just as immature as his former belief that after the Shanghai Communique in 1972, the US had abandoned its position that Taiwan's status was undetermined. Everybody knows that as long as China is against it, neither position will get Taiwan into the UN.
As to which has more international breathing space, Taiwan or the ROC, it only takes a look at various joint communiques between China and other countries and the US' Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to understand that after these countries ceased to recognize the ROC, these documents determined that the party that they and the US have relations with is the Taiwanese people, not the ROC.
Although Wilder stated the ROC is an issue undecided, the TRA says that it is Taiwan's status that is undetermined.
Although the US denounced Taiwan because of pressure by China, now it suddenly comes up with the opinion that Taiwan's status is undetermined. This might be the result of further pressure from China. Beijing went so far as threatening to propose a resolution in the UN saying Taiwan is a part of the PRC.
China has put all its cards on the table, so the US can only follow and show its hand. The ingenious reply of the US State Department was that Wilder's statement was in line with US policy. But I can't say the same about China's State Council, which can be said to have flashed its cards, but then covered them up again as if no one had seen them. It could not be more clear in its intentions.
At the APEC meeting between US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), it was likely both leaders had some negative things to say about Taiwan.
But now the cards have been shown, and that limits the extent of the damage.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Anna Stiggelbout
Beijing’s imposition of the Hong Kong National Security Law and a number of other democratic and human rights issues continue to strain relations between the UK and China. The tense situation has significantly decreased the likelihood of British Royal Navy ships being able to continue their practice of docking in Hong Kong’s harbor for resupply — a not altogether unpredictable development. In a Nov. 19 online speech to parliament, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier would next year lead a British and allied task group to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and East Asia. Johnson
President-elect Biden and his team soon will confront a raging pandemic, a severe economic crisis, demands for progress in addressing racial injustices, intensifying climate-induced crises, and strained relations with allies and partners in many parts of the world. They will be oriented to view China as America’s greatest geostrategic challenge, but not the most immediate threat to the health and prosperity of the American people. Amidst this daunting inheritance, US-Taiwan relations will stand out as a bright spot, an example of progress that should be sustained. There are strong reasons for optimism about the continued development of US-Taiwan relations in the
Americans tend to think of Vietnam as a war that split the US rather than as a country in today’s world. Vietnamese are of course way past that. The country does not have any US Electoral College votes, but if it did, they would be cast enthusiastically for US President Donald Trump. When I told a group of university students at a park in Ho Chi Minh City that I was from the US, they asked: “Do you know why we love Trump?” “Uhhh, is it because he hates China?” I asked back. “Yeah,” the group responded in unison. With a 1,000-year history of
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Wednesday announced that Shih Cheng-ping (施正屏), a retired National Taiwan Normal University professor, who Beijing says is a spy, had been sentenced to four years in prison for espionage crimes. The news followed last week’s announcement by Beijing that it is compiling a “wanted list” of pro-independence “Taiwan secessionists” that would be used to “punish” those blacklisted under its national security laws. Taken together, the announcements show that Beijing’s Taiwan policy under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is becoming increasingly erratic, uncoordinated and poorly thought out, which raises serious questions about Xi’s leadership ability. Shih went missing