During her visit to Washington last week, Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was well-received, meeting administration officials, speaking at think tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, and being welcomed at a rousing reception by members of the US Congress.
On each occasion, she discussed her policies and outlined the major issues that play a role in her presidential election campaign.
In particular, she held out an outstretched hand toward China, urging it to work on engagement on the basis of mutual respect.
By all accounts, her approach was considered reasonable, responsible and constructive.
So it came as a lightning bolt out of the clear blue sky that the Financial Times, in a report last Thursday, quoted a “senior” US official as saying that Tsai “left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years.”
Although the US Department of State disavowed the statement the same day, saying that “the ‘official’ mentioned in the article is totally unknown to us and certainly does not speak for the Obama administration,” the damage was done, as Tsai’s opponents jumped on the comments.
Let me explain why I think the comments quoted in the Financial Times were extremely wrongheaded, unacceptable and outright stupid.
First, it is a betrayal of the mutual trust that is both implicit and explicit in having a closed-door meeting with foreign dignitaries. It is a customary practice to only acknowledge that a meeting was held and to say that there was an exchange of views.
We always impress on our foreign visitors that an open discussion can only be held if the content remains between the participants. The official quoted in the Financial Times had committed a serious breach of confidence.
Second, the statement by the “senior” official reflects a fundamental problem in the way many think about the cross-strait issue — they are letting China dictate the terms of what is considered “stability.”
As I have written earlier, the present “stability” is a fiction, as it is giving Beijing the impression that it will in due time get its way, absorbing Taiwan into its orbit.
The reality is that Beijing itself is the source of instability: It has more 1,400 missiles pointed at Taiwan and has threatened to use force if Taiwan doesn’t move into its fold.
So, if the US wants real stability, it needs to lean much harder on China and convince it to accept Taiwan for what it is: a free democracy in which the people choose their own government and president.
Third, the statement quoted in the Financial Times represents an unacceptable intrusion in Taiwan’s domestic politics. As the State Department subsequently said, US President Barack Obama’s “administration does not take sides in Taiwan’s [or any country’s] election. It’s up to the people of Taiwan to choose their own leaders in an election.”
Tsai and her moderate and reasonable approach present a key opportunity to move toward true stability in the Taiwan Strait.
The US needs to nurture and respect that approach and allow the democratic process in that young democracy to run its full course.
That would be in keeping with the basic principles on which the US is founded.
Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan. The views expressed in this article are his own.
Ideas matter. They especially matter in world affairs. And in communist countries, it is communist ideas, not supreme leaders’ personality traits, that matter most. That is the reality in the People’s Republic of China. All Chinese communist leaders — from Mao Zedong (毛澤東) through Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), from Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) through to Xi Jinping (習近平) — have always held two key ideas to be sacred and self-evident: first, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is infallible, and second, that the Marxist-Leninist socialist system of governance is superior to every alternative. The ideological consistency by all CCP leaders,
In the past 30 years, globalization has given way to an international division of labor, with developing countries focusing on export manufacturing, while developed countries in Europe and the US concentrate on internationalizing service industries to drive economic growth. The competitive advantages of these countries can readily be seen in the global financial market. For example, Taiwan has attracted a lot of global interest with its technology industry. The US is the home of leading digital service companies, such as Meta Platforms (Facebook), Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft. The country holds a virtual oligopoly of the global market for consumer digital
The US on Friday hosted the second Global COVID-19 Summit, with at least 98 countries, including Taiwan, and regional alliances such as the G7, the G20, the African Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) attending. Washington is also leading a proposal to revise one of the most important documents in global health security — the International Health Regulations (IHR) — which are to be discussed during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) that starts on Sunday. These two actions highlight the US’ strategic move to dominate the global health agenda and return to the core of governance, with the WHA
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on Saturday expounded on her concept of replacing “unification” with China with “integration.” Lu does not she think the idea would be welcomed in its current form; rather, she wants to elicit discussion on a third way to break the current unification/independence impasse, especially given heightened concerns over China attacking Taiwan in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She has apparently formulated her ideas around the number “three.” First, she envisions cross-strait relations developing in three stages: having Beijing lay to rest the idea of unification of “one China” (一個中國); next replacing this with