Mon, Mar 07, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Charles Glaser’s fallacious arguments

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

In the upcoming issue of Foreign Affairs, George Washington University professor Charles Glaser makes the case for the US avoiding conflict with a rising China by backing away from its commitments to Taiwan. In his view, this would remove “the most obvious and contentious flashpoint” and smooth the way for better relations in the decades to come.

To be honest, never in my long diplomatic life have I run into a more shortsighted, uninformed and fallacious set of arguments as can be found in Glaser’s essay. Foreign Affairs does itself and its readers a disservice by publishing such a flawed article.

For one, Glaser cannot get his facts straight.

In the section dealing with the Taiwan issue, he writes: “Although it lost control of Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War, more than six decades ago, China still considers Taiwan part of its homeland.”

At what time did the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have control of Taiwan? Any elementary school child in Taiwan can tell us that Taiwan was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945, and then it came under the control of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), on behalf of the Allied Forces. The PRC, which came into existence in 1949, never had any control of Taiwan.

A second important issue is whether such appeasement would increase China’s appetite, making Beijing even more demanding. Glaser dismisses such criticism, but in doing so he shows his failure to understand the Chinese psyche: Just like the old dynasties of yesteryear, the Chinese see themselves as the Middle Kingdom. The “rise of China” is a resurrection of the idea that China is the center of civilization and all outside powers should be tributaries. China’s goals are therefore not “limited,” as Glaser mistakenly believes. It would not be “content” with control over Taiwan.

This brings me to my third point. Glaser thinks that if Taiwan is removed as an irritant in US relations with China, the other differences could be worked out. This is utterly wrong. China sees itself as the new superpower, which is presenting the world with an alternative developmental model — strong economic growth paired with continued tight political control by the central regime. Chinese officials are actively marketing this model. Just look at their support for regimes in Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Do we want that model to prevail, or a system to be based on freedom and democracy?

A fourth element that Glaser totally overlooks in his theoretical world of various shades of realism is the fact that over the past decades, Taiwan has developed a set of shared values, which are very similar to the ones the US holds dear. Taiwanese have worked hard for their democracy and believe in a future that is free and democratic — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If the US backs away from its commitment to Taiwan, the US backs away from its basic values. That would be a signal not taken lightly in East Asia.

The case thus needs to be made that Taiwan is an important element in the US’ strategy to broaden and strengthen freedom and democracy in East Asia. Its transition to democracy only 20 some years ago is a prime example of how people in the world are waking up to the fact that they have a choice. In the Middle East, several countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are going through that tumultuous process right now.

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