Sun, Jan 30, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Delivering a verdict on Hu’s trip to Washington

By Bob Yang

It has been a few days since Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) visit to Washington ended. The dust has settled and we can start to make an assessment of how the visit went, in particular with regard to Taiwan’s interests.

No doubt the Chinese side had hoped to repeat what happened in November 2009 with US President Barack Obama’s trip to Beijing, when China managed to get the US to agree to a statement that said the US respected China’s “core interests” and the paragraph regarding Taiwan was juxtaposed with terminology on China’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

That did not happen on Hu’s trip, as the US negotiated hard and there was no reference to “core interests” in Hu and Obama’s joint statement, and the US did not acknowledge or endorse in any way China’s empty claims that Taiwan was part of China’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Hu did attempt to regain some ground when he referred to Tibet and Taiwan as “core interests” in a speech to the US-China Business Council the day after the joint statement was released, but the fact remains that it was not in any official document, and Beijing cannot say that somehow the US had agreed to it.

We are grateful that Obama and the US administration kept Taiwan in mind and stood firm on its basic position.

However, as the US president himself emphasized in his subsequent State of the Union address: It is imperative to “win the future.”

For Taiwanese and -Taiwanese-Americans, the future is a free and democratic Taiwan that has international recognition.

Obama could have taken a stronger stance on freedom and democracy in Taiwan. In the Joint Statement, the US did little more than reiterate the old mantra of its “one China” policy and the “three communiques.”

Washington also applauded the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), and the “new lines of communication between Taiwan and China.”

While we welcome “new lines of communications,” the problem is under what conditions these communications take place. If anything, the ECFA is pushing Taiwan into a closer economic embrace with China, while attempts by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government to placate Beijing are undermining Taiwan’s sovereignty and hard-won freedom and democracy.

China has also imposed the condition that Taiwan accept the so-called “1992 consensus,” agreeing that Taiwan and China belong to the same China, but that there are different interpretations on the definition of that “one China.” The problem is that China insists that “one China” is the People’s Republic of China and does not allow different interpretations, leaving no room for the people in Taiwan to determine their own future.

That is where Obama and his team could also have made a stronger point. While Washington reiterated the position that it insists on a peaceful resolution on the basis of the Taiwan Relations Act, freedom and democracy in Taiwan would have been strengthened by a statement — made on several occasions during both the Clinton and Bush administrations — that the future of Taiwan needs to be determined “with the assent of the people of Taiwan.”

In other words, only Taiwanese have the right to determine the future of their country. This is the basic principle of self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter.

The US needs to continue to make this point and also start treating Taiwan like a normal country instead of perpetuating unhelpful and confusing “one China” fictions of the past.

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