Briefing the press corps prior to a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to Washington this week, US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon made extra efforts to avoid mentioning Taiwan, leading some media to conclude that Taiwan perhaps would not be on the agenda.
At a time when Beijing’s political weight is in the ascendancy and that of the US is increasingly in question, the last thing Washington should do is send signals of weakness — and avoiding a topic, in the hope that somehow Beijing would forget, is just that.
If Donilon’s press conference is any indication of US President Barack Obama’s strategy for dealing with Hu, it shows us that rather than seek to set the agenda on a problem that continues to haunt Northeast Asia, Washington will allow the Chinese leader to do so, at which point US officials will have little choice but to backtrack or use soothing language that can then be exploited by Beijing.
Instead of hoping that this time around Hu will not state his expectations regarding Taiwan (as if the matter were no longer important to the Chinese), the US government should take a firm stand by declaring its policy and making it clear that it is ready to meet any challenges on the question.
By attempting to avoid the matter, Washington places itself in a difficult position that invites aggressive and prying rhetoric by Hu and his delegation, which cannot end well for Washington and, by extension, Taipei.
This meekness once again stems from the fear in Washington, as elsewhere, of “angering” China when its cooperation is needed in pressing matters, such as currency valuation and the Korean Peninsula. However, true leadership does not shy away from reality or ignore difficult areas in the hope that problems will disappear on their own. Just as disease will not disappear by pretending it isn’t there, complex political conflict does not resolve itself by sweeping it under the carpet, however inconvenient the situation might be.
Whether officials mention or fail to mention Taiwan in the lead-up to Hu’s visit, it is almost certain that the Chinese leader will raise the matter at some point. In fact, its silence could be construed as an invitation to seek concessions.
The same applies to rumors that the US is waiting until after Hu’s visit before it confirms a US$4 billion arms package for Taiwan that allegedly includes the retrofitting of its aging F-16A/B fleet. If such a plan is in the making, Washington should not play hide and seek with Beijing and make the news a fait accompli so that the leaders of both countries don’t talk past each other.
Of course, there is always the possibility that making such an announcement prior to the visit could result in Beijing’s decision to cancel. However unfortunate this would be, we should never lose sight of the fact that China needs the US — and the world — just as much as the US and the world need China. At some point, and disagreements aside, they will all have to talk.
Furthermore, just as Beijing has red lines it will not cross, the US should have its own, and based on its historical foundations, the US ought to make freedom and human rights, and by extension Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and human rights in China, its own lines of intransigence. Wishy-washy half truths and obfuscation on what we are told remain core principles of the US just won’t work and in fact will make it easier for unyielding forces to open wedges in the US system.
There is little time left. Before Hu sets foot on US soil, the latter should unreservedly state its goals and expectations. Take it or leave it, Mr Hu.
An outrageous dismissal of the exemplary Taiwanese fight against COVID-19 has been perpetrated by the EU. There is no excuse. I presume that everyone who reads the Taipei Times knows that the EU has excluded Taiwan from its so-called “safe list,” which permits citizens unhindered travel to and from the countries of the EU. As the EU does not feel that it needs to explain the character of this exclusive list, perhaps we should examine it ourselves in some detail. There are 14 nations on the list that have been chosen as safe countries of origin and safe countries of destination for
Filmmakers in Taiwan used to struggle when it came to telling a story that could resonate internationally. Things started to change when the 2017 drama series The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女), a collaboration between HBO Asia and Taiwanese Public Television Service (PTS), became a huge hit not just locally, but also internationally. The coming-of-age story was adapted from the 2013 PTS-produced short film The Busy Young Psychic (神算). Entirely filmed in Taiwan, the Mandarin-language series even made it on HBO’s streaming platforms in the US. It is proof that a well-told Taiwanese story can absolutely win the hearts and minds of hard-to-please
Drugged with sedatives, handcuffed and wearing a bright orange prison tunic, British fraud investigator and former journalist Peter Humphrey was escorted by warders into an interrogation room filled with reporters, locked inside a steel cage and fastened to a metal “tiger chair.” Humphrey recalls: “I was completely surrounded by officers, dazed, manacled and with cameras pointing at me through the bars. I was fighting for my life like a caged animal. It was horrifying.” Footage from the interrogation was later artfully edited to give the appearance of a confession and broadcast on Chinese state media. While this might sound like an
The US House of Representatives on July 1 passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill that would penalize Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security legislation in Hong Kong, as well as banks that do business with them. The following day, the US Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was later sent to the White House, where it awaits US President Donald Trump’s signature. The bill does not spell out what the sanctions would look like and Trump has yet to sign it into law, but Reuters on Thursday last week reported that five major Chinese state lenders are considering