On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Richard Bush published an article in the China Times on April 9 saying that the US’ commitment to Taiwan’s security is based on the premise of a shared strategic view held between the two countries. Bush also said Taiwan’s democratization and China’s rise are the two key factors interfering with the maintenance of a common Taiwan-US view of strategy.
His first comment shows how laws that are treated like policies can change over time. His second comment shows that he views self-awareness and self-determination brought by Taiwan’s democracy as key factors that interfere with the US and Taiwan sharing common strategic viewpoints.
We have to ask whether the TRA depends on a consistent US-Taiwan strategy and whether the US would alter its policies to suit its interests, which would mean that its commitment as stated in the TRA would no longer exist unless Taiwan also altered its policies.
Under former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the US repeatedly redefined its China strategy. At the time of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the US viewed China as a butcher. Later, the US viewed it as a strategic partner, then a competitor and even a responsible stakeholder. Will the US’ commitment to Taiwan change because of its China policies? This is the risk when laws are treated as policies.
Although the former AIT director said that there were two key factors interfering with the two countries’ strategic views, he seems to believe that Taiwan’s democracy is mostly to blame because it has given rise to national recognition within Taiwan and concepts of a secure future. This view of Taiwan’s democratization as a problem, and not a means to a solution, is common among the “China experts” in Washington.
The former AIT director said that as China’s national strength grows, the US and China share more interests and that he was worried Taiwan’s democracy would challenge the basic interests of the People’s Republic of China and obstruct Sino-US cooperation. These “China experts” saw former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) insistence on national recognition as destructive to the “status quo,” and view Taiwan’s democratization as running counter to the “one China” principle.
Richard Bush — who is close to US President Barack Obama’s administration — is revealing Washington’s eagerness to get rid of Taipei to make room for Beijing. In the Martial Law era, he associated and sympathized with opposition parties in Taiwan. But with statements like his, it is frightening to imagine the attitude of other “China experts.”
From the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), the agreement signed by him and his Taiwanese counterpart Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), we can see how President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government has oppressed freedom and democracy in the name of promoting cross-strait relations. Bush’s article also explains why AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt endorses Ma’s government on behalf of Washington even as Taiwan’s freedom and democracy are regressing.
Will Taiwan’s democracy collapse and the country be annexed by China because of misconduct by the Ma administration and encouragement and tolerance from the Obama administration?