On Wednesday, Representative to the US Jason Yuan (袁健生) presented a report on the current state of Taiwan-US relations to the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee. In 2004, Yuan, who was then the representative of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in Washington, was the man responsible for ensuring every US senator and House representative received a copy of a KMT pamphlet entitled Bulletgate, which outlined the party’s suspicions about the shooting of then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) that March.
In light of this, it must have been interesting for Yuan to return to Taiwan and make his report so soon after “Bulletgate II” — the election-eve shooting of KMT politician Sean Lien (連勝文).
Unlike the first incident, Yuan was not on this occasion instructed by KMT leaders to send pamphlets to US politicians, academics and overseas Chinese charging that the shooting was staged and the election fraudulent, or calling on the president to resign. Neither have today’s opposition parties followed the KMT’s example of washing Taiwan’s dirty linen in public. If he had been asked to do the same thing again, Yuan, who likes to be called “ambassador,” would have been too busy to make this year-end visit to Taiwan.
Washington is far from Taiwan, and that gives Yuan leeway to do things his own way, but when visiting the legislature in Taiwan he should have presented a thorough account of current Taiwan-US relations. He should have told his audience what his present and future work priorities are and what kinds of targets can be realistically achieved. Otherwise, to borrow the words of former Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Tai (戴瑞明), he ought to be embarrassed at receiving the generous pay, allowances and other perks enjoyed by Taiwan’s diplomatic personnel overseas. Considering the importance for the US to Taiwan’s security, no-one wants to see our representative in Washington behaving as a political mercenary. Unfortunately, the report presented by our top diplomat on this occasion was as bland as a cup of hot water without the tealeaves.
Let us consider how Taiwan-US relations have developed under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). In the US-China Joint Statement released by US President Barack Obama’s administration in November last year, China called on the US to respect its “core interests,” including the issue of Taiwan and, by implication, Tibet and Xinjiang.
Following the “three noes” policy outlined by then-US president Bill Clinton during his visit to China in 1998, the wording of last year’s joint statement did further injury to Taiwan, but what was our representative office in Washington doing at the time? Not only did it have no prior idea about the content of the statement, but, after it was released, and following a number of explanations from the US side, the office declared it to be the fullest and clearest account of Taiwan policy ever made by the US.
The representative office had nothing to say about how to get the US to acknowledge Taiwan’s existence or how to persuade it not to further sacrifice Taiwan’s interests to curry favor with China. In such circumstances one cannot help but wonder whether the office is really there to represent Taiwan, or just to report back the viewpoint of the US government. One also wonders whether the representative office has given thought to why such “accidents” happen and how they might be avoided in future.