Sat, Jul 07, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Trump right to doubt ‘one China’

By Joseph Bosco

The inherent problem is that there is a static “status quo” and a dynamic “status quo.”

The former, if taken literally, would mean that everything in social and political life on Taiwan was frozen in place as of Feb. 28, 1972, the date of the communique, or at least as of Jan. 1, 1979, the date that Washington shifted official recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Both are physical impossibilities, in demographic terms alone, since the populations of China and Taiwan are constantly changing. People in both places who believe they recall a time when Taiwan was an integral part of Greater China, or should be, are dying off; people are being born who have no such mindset, and on Taiwan the younger generations know it as their only homeland and national identity.

A dynamic “status quo” is also at work in the policies of both governments across the Strait. The self-governing and freedom-loving citizens of Taiwan want to keep the democratic system for which they, or their parents and grandparents, struggled, suffered and sometimes died.

At the same time, they aspire to be treated like citizens of the world, and recognized for their admirable economic and political achievements, and for their scientific and humanitarian contributions to the international community.

Taiwan’s dynamic “status quo,” in other words, constitutes a state of de facto independence and a desire to enjoy at least some of the dignity and benefits of normal de jure independence.

What the Taiwanese seek for themselves is the mirror image of the dynamic “status quo” sought by Beijing for Taiwan — an evolving economic, cultural and political closeness that eventually leads to unification and Taiwan’s absorption by China, if not peacefully, then by force.

Subjugation of Taiwan is the first of Beijing’s ever-lengthening “core interests” and “red lines.”

Beijing defines it not only in terms of actions Taiwan might take, but also by what it fails to do. The 2005 “Anti-Secession” Law includes a declaration of independence, or other official moves by Taipei toward independence, as a basis to attack Taiwan. However, it also presumes a “right” to use force if Taiwan takes too long to submit to Chinese rule.

Strategic ambiguity: What has been Washington’s response to China’s decades-long threats of aggression against Taiwan, beginning with the Shanghai Communique itself?

Chinese military officials asked that question of their US counterparts during the 1995 to 1996 Taiwan Strait missile crisis.

The US answer was the quintessential expression of Washington’s doctrine of strategic ambiguity regarding the defense of Taiwan: “We don’t know and you don’t know. It would depend on the circumstances.”

Beijing’s strategic military planners have been preparing ever since to create the circumstances that would keep the US from intervening in a cross-strait conflict to defend Taiwan. China’s anti-access/area denial strategy makes use of an arsenal of anti-ship ballistic missiles and a fleet of attack submarines to keep the US Seventh Fleet out of the fight.

If Washington instead had told Chinese military officials an attack on Taiwan would mean war with the US, how differently the ensuing decades might have unfolded. Without a US red line against the use of force, Beijing would have been far less inclined to pass the “Anti-Secession” Law.

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