It has become commonplace for Western observers to applaud the current rapprochement across the Taiwan Strait and praise the “relaxation of tension” it has brought. One example is the statement by Peter Lavoy, the acting US assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, at the US House of Representatives’ hearing entitled “Why Taiwan Matters” on Oct. 4.
“We welcome these initiatives [by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government] and the relaxation of tension in the Taiwan Strait that has accompanied the improvement of cross-strait relations,” Lavoy said.
However, a closer analysis shows a picture that is perhaps less rosy. Looking at the broader picture, China has been more belligerent recently on issues such as the South China Sea and the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and has hardly been cooperative when it comes to reining in repressive regimes such as those in Iran and Syria. So much for being a responsible stakeholder.
So, has China really been “reducing tension” when it comes to Taiwan? In my view, this is a false perception: Reality shows that the leadership in Beijing, and certainly the People’s Liberation Army, has become quite aggressive vis-a-vis its much smaller neighbors
It is perhaps “softer” on Taiwan because it feels that the present course of relations is conducive to its goals of nudging the country into its economic and political orbit. In other words, it is not making waves about Taiwan because it feels that the country is already moving toward “unification.”
However, is this what Taiwanese want? They have worked hard for their democracy and are not about to give that up in favor of incorporation in, or association with, a repressive China. They like good relations with Beijing, but at a safe distance.
In the view of many in Taiwan, the present approach leads to something that is “too close for comfort.”
Opinion polls in Taiwan have shown that people support the “status quo,” which in practical terms means they are a free and democratic nation that elects its own president and parliament. Taiwanese do lament the political isolation into which they have been pushed and expect that their international space can be increased over time.
However, what do they really want in the long term? An opinion poll by TVBS in February was — inadvertently perhaps — very enlightening on this point. To the question: “If the choice exists, would you want Taiwan to become an independent nation or to be unified with China?” 68 percent of respondents chose Taiwanese independence, while 18 percent preferred unification with China, with the remainder having no opinion.
So the question becomes: Does the US want Taiwanese to have freedom of choice? If the US remains faithful to its principles of democracy and adherence to the concept of self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter, then the answer is “Yes.”
For that to happen, the US needs policies that are not based on a false sense of short-term relaxation in tensions, but rather ones that lay the groundwork for long-term stability based on mutual respect and recognition, respect for Taiwan’s democracy as a basis for its decisionmaking and recognition of Taiwan’s existence as a free and democratic nation.
A prime objective of US policy should be to establish the conditions for a fully free and open choice for Taiwanese regarding their future. The US needs to do more than the piecemeal, hesitant approach it has been following until now.
Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan. The views expressed in this article are his own.
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With