Mon, Apr 16, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik, Jr. On Taiwan: Sovereign, independent and mutually non-subordinate

Just a few months earlier, on Aug. 31, I had analyzed Beijing’s so-called “White Paper” on “The Taiwan Question and the Reunification of China” which was issued in Beijing just as President Lee’s emissaries arrived there to discuss opening “practical” cross-Strait cooperation. In violation of a tacit consensus between the two Strait elders Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and Wang Daohan (汪道涵) struck in Singapore in April 1993, China declared that “Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China.” President Lee was certain that his Chinese counterpart Jiang would use the Seattle APEC as an international soapbox from which to proclaim Taiwan’s “provincial” status under the PRC, and President Lee was determined that Mr. Jiang would not have the last word. For weeks ahead of the APEC summit, President Lee worked with Taiwan’s erudite vice foreign minister Fan King-yen (房金炎), himself a native of Nantou, to craft a position. In the end, Vice Minister Fan and President Lee had unfolded a complex formula for an “interim two Chinas policy” that would do the trick. They instructed that Minister Chiang deliver it at APEC if the Chinese declared Taiwan to be their “province.”

Over these past twenty-five years, Taiwan’s leaders have struggled to devise a formula for Taiwan’s international status that fulfills President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) threefold mandate that it: 1) be supported by Taiwan’s citizens, 2) “satisfies the Americans,” and 3) is something “the other side can put up with” (國人會支持,美國會滿意,對方會接受). Of course, none ever fit the bill. In 1999, President Lee suggested “special state-to-state relations” across the Strait; in 2002 President Chen blurted out “each side is its own nation.” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said “only one China, the Republic of China.” Each missed the mark in its own way. Premier Lai’s “sovereign, independent, and mutually non-subordinate” is my favorite.

Premier Lai’s open admission that he is a “political worker in the advocacy of Taiwan Independence” is supported by Taiwan’s citizens. But it already has Beijing hopping mad. But unlike before, the American side has accepted it with equanimity. Washington takes the Premier’s words at face value because they do not change the status quo at all. Besides, these days, Washington is less inclined to fret over the legal fictions in the Taiwan Strait or worry about Beijing’s rants because China has done precious little to moderate its hostility to America otherwise. North Korean “denuclearization” remains a ploy to break the US-South Korea alliance, weaken ties with Japan and ultimately insist that the US itself “denuclearize” in East Asia; China’s trade, dumping, theft of economic secrets, environmental despoliation, and financial crimes alienate the Congress; and China’s ever-aggressive territorial claims and military occupation in the South China Sea, its naval confrontations in the East China Sea, its border clashes with India, and its intimidation of tiny, defenseless Bhutan alarm the US government as much as it does those nations directly affected.

Still, Washington seems steeled for a Beijing ploy to divert attention from all these crises with a slap at Taipei’s Premier. Beijing’s gathering menace already stirs new strategic rethinking along the Potomac. Congress, having passed unanimously the Taiwan Travel Act, and the President, having signed it with alacrity, signal unwillingness to new changes in Taiwan’s “status quo.” That “status quo” for the past 39 years, since the Taiwan Relations Act, has been that Taiwan and China are two “sovereign, independent and mutually non-subordinate countries.” One is America’s friend, and the other one isn’t.

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