Tue, Oct 09, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Where Taiwan-US interests meet

Former American Institute in Taiwan director William Stanton recently said that Washington constantly reminds the Taiwanese government not to give China any excuse to use military force against Taiwan and that as long as Taiwan does not maliciously provoke Beijing, if China were to attack and occupy Taiwan, the US would certainly get involved.

A US opinion poll conducted last year showed that a majority of Americans hold this view and that public opinion in the US toward China is hardening, making US involvement likely, Stanton said.

His analysis is a textbook exposition of the US’ “one China” policy. So long as the core of the US’ “one China” policy does not change and even though, as Stanton said, Taiwan now has more friends across US government departments than ever before, the government must remain cognizant of its limited room for maneuver.

Stanton also said that if the Taiwanese public today peacefully decided to unify with China, the US would not oppose such a move.

This viewpoint accords with the spirit of the Three Joint Communiques issued by Beijing and Washington in the 1970s and 1980s — that is, finding a peaceful solution to the “Taiwan question.”

In essence, if China’s Taiwan policy does not incite protest from Taiwanese or threaten the interests of the US and its Indo-Pacific allies, Washington would be able to live with a so-called “amicable unification.”

Of course, implicit in this view is the assurance that the public would always have the right to say no to unification.

By way of illustration, in comparison with former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) government, Washington maintained a friendlier relationship with the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

What the Taiwanese public cannot understand is why the so-called “peaceful solution to the Taiwan problem” mantra is still being used as a framework for US policy. It belongs to a bygone era and the China policy of then-US president Richard Nixon.

Ever since former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) opened up China to the world, his successors have continued to give successive US administrations a false expectation that Beijing’s economic reform would eventually be followed by political reform and, similar to Taiwan’s experience, China would transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

Today, such an expectation would increasingly appear to be based on pure fantasy.

As the US’ China policy is formulated, Washington is unwilling to accept any provocation of China by Taiwan. The implication is that Taipei should cooperate with the US in the latter’s strategic interest, despite Taiwan now being a thriving democracy and Taiwanese being the masters of their own destiny.

Taiwan, as a de facto independent nation state, still feels it is unable to challenge the US’ strategic narrative.

Past governments would sometimes undertake actions that would upset the US’ chess pieces and strain Taiwan-US relations. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has learned from the mistakes of past administrations and persistently follows a policy of “maintaining the status quo.” In doing so, she has won the approval of Washington.

During this period of reversal in the US-China relationship, Tsai’s policy of “maintaining the status quo” with China has allowed US President Donald Trump to build a domestic political consensus to remold the US’ policy. Trump also has enough domestic support to reinforce the Taiwan Relations Act.

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