Sun, Jun 29, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Irony and the US view of Taiwan

By Ian Inkster 音雅恩

Public-sector encouragement — such as the ECFA — might have helped with marginal investment decisions but even this remains unproven. What seems more likely is that any government in power after 2008, the KMT or the DPP, would almost certainly have followed the same broad trajectory. Of course the rhetoric would have been different. You will gather that the irony remains.

Thus, Clinton must take her place among those who were part and parcel of Ma’s electoral victory and also integral to the growing Taiwan-China relationship, if only in so clearly failing to mitigate the recession through public economic policy measures, or break the prolonged stalemate in the US budget caused by the twin burdens of enormous military expenditure and growing welfare commitments in the absence of broader institutional change.

However, the historical record is even more telling. Clinton chose to compare the Taiwan-China relationship with that of Ukraine and Russia in terms of the terrors of economic dependency. Why? Must we live by rhetoric alone? Relations of economic dependency, with two parties highly interrelated via commerce, investment and technology, but with one party far more powerful than the other have been common throughout modern history. There are sorry tales — Chinese investment and technology dependency on the USSR from the 1940s to the 1960s led to an awful mess, yet they shared at least a nominally similar communist ideology and seeming isolation from the major capitalist economies.

What of Japanese development between 1945 and the 1970s, massively dependent on US aid, trade, institutional revolution and military expenditure? An erstwhile extreme nationalist and military system was turned into a nation of eastern capitalism by the largest democracy in the world, succored by its overwhelming military strength, expanded by the enormous US market, and provided with political and cultural legitimacy through US soft power and diplomacy.

The US occupied Japan until the end of the Korean War in 1952 [sic] then acted as her chief defender, and in 1971, under then-US president Richard Nixon, provided a huge shock to the international system — basically taking the dollar off the gold standard, forcing currencies to float at market values, destroying the chief functions of the IMF — that increased the value of the yen and ignited the huge movement of Japanese investment into East Asia, Europe and the US itself. This is clear dependency and led to the enormous growth of the Japanese industrial and commercial economy and to a widening of its electoral politics.

Historians can run back and forth in time. Back to the US revolution and war of independence from 1775 to 1783, the US fought against British political dominance and colonialism, but this was then followed by a close of economic relationship between the two — based first on the large imports of raw cotton from the US to Britain that fed the industrial revolution of the world — that saw the rise of US industrialism, again ironically owing much to the emergence of US military capabilities using techniques of mass production that may have led to Henry Ford in the next century, but more immediately made the US civil war from 1861 to 1865 far more bloody than it would otherwise have been.

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