The first meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and US President Barack Obama at this year’s G20 summit was brief, but they agreed to hold a meeting in Washington this summer that would include detailed discussions on Taiwan.
Two to three days of detailed discussion on Taiwan would have important implications. Given the current chaotic state of affairs, those familiar with the cross-strait situation worry that great changes could be in the making. Would such changes be beneficial for Taiwan? Will Taiwan’s democracy and human rights remain in place?
The Taiwanese public’s concerns are not baseless. A look at the later stages of George W. Bush’s presidency and the current administration shows that the presidents, the departments of state and defense and even the American Institute in Taiwan have ignored the possibility that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) rapid turn toward China may destroy the East Asian order — and they are even applauding him.
By comparison, former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) attempted to match their policies to the policy goals of democracy and human rights in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), and they acted in accordance with the guidelines for protecting Taiwan agreed to by the US-Japan alliance. Despite this, the US condemned Lee’s “special state-to-state” dictum and Chen’s referendums. This blatant difference in treatment is incomprehensible.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of the TRA. In 1979, the US recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate representative of China. Looking back another 30 years, we discover that 1949 was the year the PRC was established and the year the Republic of China moved into exile in Taiwan.
The years 1949, 1979 and 2009 represent turning points in the dialogue between the US, China and Taiwan. They also manifest how Taiwan is bound by the China issue as it seeks to have its status determined.
At this crucial time, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been lucky to gain a leader with practical and academic experience in Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文); there are hopes that she will use her expertise in international affairs to handle multifaceted matters within the party, within Taiwan, across the Taiwan Strait, in East Asia and internationally, and reshape the closed, uniform discourse of the past. There are also hopes that she will elevate the pro-Taiwan faction from the level of instinctive grassroots protest to one of leadership and policy direction.
But the last few months have shown that Tsai is following past practice. She showed no concern for the case Roger C.S. Lin et al vs United States of America, an important legal case on the definition of Taiwan’s international status. This, despite the fact that the verdict said the issue could have been addressed in terms favorable to Taiwan if it hadn’t been a political matter and if judicial self-restraint hadn’t demanded a separation of powers. Such lack of concern will hurt the DPP’s ability to set the political agenda.
Tsai did not join Japan in opposing North Korea’s rocket tests. Such silence will not help Taiwan’s attempts to cultivate friendships. Nor has she cited the interests of the US, Japan and other nations when debating the economic cooperation framework agreement. Such omissions will only result in Taiwan fighting China all on its own.