Fri, Oct 14, 2016 - Page 8 News List

A different US approach to Taiwan

By James Wang 王景弘

Taiwan is the world’s 17th largest trading nation, with aviation routes that extend to all of the world’s major cities. Still, Taiwan’s participation in this year’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly was crudely vetoed by China.

Beijing appears unconcerned with those cross-border issues that are in the common interest of humanity: improving hygiene and safety, cracking down on criminals and global warming. Instead, China’s leaders are preoccupied with suppressing Taiwan at every possible turn in an attempt to force it to accept Beijing’s stance on sovereignty.

China’s malevolent attitude is a direct challenge to the US’ pledge to actively support Taiwan’s participation in non-governmental international organizations.

The reaction and handling of the issue by US President Barack Obama’s administration was disappointing. US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel issued a feeble statement that the US recognizes “the value of Taiwan’s participation in the international community;” American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt could only find it in himself to call the rejection of Taiwan’s invitation to the ICAO Assembly an “unfortunate outcome.”

With Obama a lame-duck president at the tail end of his time in office, there is not much hope for a toughening of his administration’s stance toward China. However, whichever of the two US presidential candidates — Hillary Rodham Clinton or Donald Trump — enters the White House next year will have to get to grips with the new global reality and rethink US policy toward Taiwan.

The new US president must acknowledge the result of the democratic process in Taiwan, acknowledge the reality that neither Taiwan nor China holds jurisdiction over the other and begin the normalization of its relationship with Taiwan.

If Clinton is elected as the next US president, her new administration’s review of US-Taiwan policy will be of greater significance: It will be the first such review since her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, first conducted a review of the policy 23 years ago. Hillary Clinton has previously voiced her dissatisfaction with the review conducted by Winston Lord, who was assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under Bill Clinton, because Lord insisted on adhering to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s pledge to Beijing and strictly limited Washington’s relations with Taipei.

Today, 22 years later, the world has changed beyond recognition: The basic assumptions made in the review are now woefully out of date. At the time, Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe had just broken apart, while China had nearly undergone a revolution with the Tiananmen Square demonstrations — and their subsequent violent suppression. Beijing was still concealing its ambitious foreign policy designs and Washington still harbored hopes that Chinese reforms would result in a gradual move toward liberalization.

However, global events did not turn out as the US had predicted. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, the US Army became bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, while China embraced state capitalism and used the fruits of its “peaceful rise” to rapidly expand its army and defy the US. In addition, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has fanned the flames of Chinese nationalism and adopted the stance of regional hegemon in the South and East China seas.

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