Thu, Dec 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan and the rest of the world

By Ben Goren

I myself penned my own piece, such is the affirmative allure of seeing one’s name in print.

Such was the density of the output on this one issue alone that the headlines merged in the consciousness becoming the kind of bland word salad one expects from click bait: “Twenty reasons why Catalonia is relevant to Taiwan and the last one will shock you.”

To adapt the immortal words of the character Ian Malcom from the 1993 film Jurassic Park, many commentators “were so preoccupied with whether or not they could draw [an analogy] that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

If the geopolitical tremors of the past two years are anything to judge by, the world is warming up, figuratively if not literally. It might be more a matter of when, not if, something occurs that might or might not have serious immediate or long-term implications for Taiwan’s security.

It is understandable then that analysts evaluate the most immediately visible signs of disruption or conflict as potential harbingers of negative outcomes in the region.

With Trump’s constant childish need for attention, it is hard not to be constantly mildly concerned about what destructive impulsiveness will emanate from the White House next.

It is also easy to blame the symptom rather than the cause. A good example would be Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

This is not Trump’s idea. It is a requirement upon the US president passed by the US Congress in 1995 via the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which passed the US House of Representatives by a margin of 374-37 and US Senate by 93-5.

It is in essence the opposite of the Taiwan Relations Act — rash, provocative, unnecessary and, in the eyes of the rest of the world barring Tel Aviv, ignores international law designating the city’s status as unsettled as the result of war.

While former US presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama used a national security waiver to delay implementation of this law for more than 20 years, it appears that Trump will only continue to sign the waiver to avoid budget penalties stipulated in the act, and allegedly plans to establish a US embassy in Jerusalem in three years’ time.

Putting aside the justifiably condemnatory headlines and dire warnings, the real architects of domestic and international chaos hide in the shade of the attention Trump draws himself: An elected millionaire ruling class utterly beholden to lobby interests and big donors, a military-industrial complex increasingly dominating foreign policy, a tiller-less US Department of State led by corporate careerist rather than a diplomat and numerous overlapping security organs, which have grown used to regarding every place on Earth as a core US interest and everyone else as either an asset or a threat.

In an effort to get ahead of the “analogists,” Trump’s move on Jerusalem is not necessarily proof he will engage in dangerous adventurism elsewhere, such as in cross-strait politics.

Again, context matters, as does how important an issue is to Trump and his party. There will be no embassy in Jerusalem because Trump most likely will not be US president in three years’ time and because it has taken the US five years just to build a new mountain compound for the American Institute in Taiwan in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖), absent any major international objections or security threats.

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