Thu, Oct 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The Strait's `Romance of the Three Kingdoms'

By Hu Wen-huei 胡文輝

Recently, it seems that Taiwan, China, and the US have been acting in a play similar to the literary work Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義), which depicts the power struggle between the Wei (魏), Shu Han (蜀漢) and Wu (吳) courts between 220 and 264 AD. Similarly Taiwan-China, China-US, and US-Taiwan relations make up the the three sides in a triangular relationship. There is cooperation as well as conflict among the three sides and they feature short-term and long-term developments that deserve our attention.

For short-term developments, these relationships have been affected by Taiwan's push for the two different UN referendums as well as the conflict within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on whether to include the changing of the country's name to "Taiwan" in the "normal country" resolution.

In addition to Beijing intensifying its threat, Washington has also put pressure on Taipei, while favoring China on certain issues.

From a long-term perspective, China wants to annex Taiwan while Taiwanese continue to reject any such attempts, instead nurturing hopes to establish a new, independent state.

Based on its own national interests, the US has been playing a balancing role.

The long-term relationships thus remain unchanged and the romance of the three kingdoms continues.

In the foreseeable future, Taiwan is most likely to maintain the "status quo." However, who defines this "status quo"?

Furthermore, the "status quo" is dynamic and so Taiwan will still encounter the big question of what to do after it maintains the "status quo."

It will still have to try to find the answer within a range of possibilities, from peace or war to unification or independence. Generally speaking, this leaves three options for Taiwan's future.

First, peaceful independence.

This is probably the wish of most Taiwanese, and this is also the only way for China to achieve its vision of a peaceful rise. This would make winners of all three parties. However, Beijing is deeply rooted in its rigid nationalist ideology and its attempts to annex Taiwan by force if necessary.

In addition, this option may not agree with US short-term interests, since the US will be unable to play the Taiwan card in its attempts to constrain China. Washington, therefore, may not like it either.

Second, peaceful annexation.

This is perhaps China's favored outcome, what it calls "peaceful unification."

This option is also echoed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

If China obtains Taiwan without war and controls the Taiwanese, it will also take over a valuable US' ally and important interest in the Asian-Pacific region.

Third, a unification war or an independence war.

These two options are two sides of the same coin.

If China chooses to launch a war to annex Taiwan, Taiwanese will likely fight back to uphold its independence and democratic way of life. The position of the US and the international community will be crucial to the outcome of the war.

If Taiwan wants to fulfill its dream of establishing a new country, it needs creative survival space.

During the process of establishing this new country, Taiwan must resist pressure and respond to changes in a pragmatic way.

This is also what Taiwan must do in the face of international pressure on the proposed UN referendums.

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