Last week, the Taiwanese American Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles organized a talk and a fundraising dinner for Stephen Yates, the Taiwan-friendly former US deputy national security adviser to former US vice president Dick Cheney, who is running for the position of lieutenant governor of Idaho.
I availed myself of the opportunity to interview him.
When asked whether he would support Taiwanese independence — whether it was done through a declaration of independence or by changing the national title following a referendum — he said that “the US government would strongly oppose it, and so would China and the international community.”
When I asked why the US would not support Taiwanese independence to keep it from being annexed by China, Yates said Taiwan is not ready for independence like the US’ founders, who vowed to defend the US Declaration of Independence with their lives, their assets and their sacred honor.
If Taiwanese were willing to trade their lives, assets and sacred honor for Taiwanese independence, they would win the support of the international community, but the nation is not ready for that.
When asked if he had any advice for Taiwan, Yates said that “Taiwan has developed very well since the 1980s. It has democratized, the economy has grown, education levels have improved, its business has developed and been internationalized. Taiwan has seen great growth, and it is the envy of other countries. The only weakness, or perhaps regrettable thing, is its limited diplomatic space.
“In my opinion, whether Taiwan becomes independent will not depend on a referendum or an official declaration announcing the founding of a Republic of Taiwan.
“Taiwan is independent because the Taiwanese are their own masters. Taiwanese should not be too pessimistic about their diplomatic situation, because, in addition to diplomatic space, there is also political space, economic space and other kinds of space where it can put its advantages to good use.”
Yates also said that “although Taiwan does not have official diplomatic relations with many countries, it has many friends around the world, so it should be proud of itself. Taiwan is a great place and Taiwanese should feel confident.”
Yates is a good friend of Taiwan. He is honest and sincere and his advice is worth heeding.
The legislature is preparing to amend the Referendum Act (公投法) and several civic groups are planning to initiate a referendum on Taiwanese independence or renaming the nation next year or in 2020.
Before doing so, they should carefully evaluate the possible responses from the US and other countries to such a referendum.
Tom Lee is head of the Friends of Tsai Overseas and president of the Taiwan Daily.
Translated by Tu Yu-an
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