Former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and the now forgotten Yen Chia-kan (嚴家淦) ruled Taiwan for 39 years. The pro-localization governments of former presidents Lee Teng-huei (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were in power for 20 years.
In these 59 years, nobody ever talked about the Finlandization of Taiwan, nor did anyone openly advocate the US abandoning Taiwan and allowing China to annex it to avoid conflict with Beijing.
However, after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been in office for a mere three years, both these things have happened. A series of egghead academics in the US have come out with these suggestions, which are very damaging to Taiwan’s survival and national interests.
It is overly polite to talk about the Finlandization of Taiwan. In name, Finland was a neutral country that in practice became a political satellite of the Soviet Union — but at least it was still a country.
When the Chiangs were in power, the Chinese Communist Party called them the running dogs of US imperialism. To put it in a nicer way, they were a political satellite of the US — but at least Washington viewed Taiwan as a country.
Ma includes Taiwan in his definition of China. However, China does not view Taiwan as a country, but rather as an equivalent of Austria and the Sudeten-German areas in Czechoslovakia that Adolf Hitler wanted to annex.
Back then, the UK didn’t have enough military power or the determination to fight the Nazis and wanted peace at all costs. Then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the German annexation of the Sudetenland in exchange for “peace.”
The territorial occupation accepted in the Munich Agreement may have been made in the name of peace, but having been given an inch, Hitler took a mile, making war unavoidable.
This is a prime example of a failed attempt at avoiding war. However, these egghead academics in their ivory towers who think they have foresight want the US to abandon Taiwan to avoid conflict with a rising China.
These theories are the result of Ma’s kowtowing toward China, which makes it seem as if the Taiwanese want to return to China just as the Sudeten-Germans wanted to be returned to German rule.
Ma and some other local residents who see themselves as Chinese may want to “return” to China, but the majority of Taiwanese have no intention of being integrated into China. Conceding Taiwan to obtain peace would be against the UN Charter, international treaties, democratic values and US law.
The most effective way to deal with a “rising” China and avoid war would be the strategy the US used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War: increasing military power to maximize deterrent capabilities, relying on high-level negotiations to avoid misunderstandings, forming alliances to maintain the balance of power and using human rights and democracy to spur internal change.
The US is already implementing the first three points and only the fourth point still needs more work.
It will take time to spur internal change in China, but Ma is betraying Taiwanese public opinion in his rush to meet China’s interests and change the “status quo.” With a “genius” like Ma here in Taiwan, it is little wonder that more and more of these egghead scholars are starting to crop up in the US.