Sun, Oct 21, 2018 - Page 6 News List

US expectations and Tsai’s speech

By Jerome Keating

In her Double Ten National Day speech on Oct. 10, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) went over numerous topics, but she primarily focused on the threats and challenges that Taiwan faces externally and internally.

Externally, Tsai, of course, could not avoid the consistent problem that Taiwan has with the People’s Republic of China, which continually threatens the regional “status quo” with its “unilateral diplomatic offensive.” This offensive forestalls any progress in cross-strait peace and stability.

After Tsai’s address, the US Department of State followed up with a fairly standard and almost cliched response.

US officials praised Tsai’s moderation, and encouraged what might be called the traditional “don’t rock the boat and hopefully all will be well” approach.

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty said that the most significant aspect of Tsai’s address was her commitment to “pragmatic and peaceful” cross-strait policies, despite there being not much of a response from the other side of the Strait.

Former AIT chairman Richard Bush also expressed how the US government appreciates Tsai’s moderate and balanced approach.

However, unfortunately, for those who have been in Taiwan for some time, these words were too much like faint praise and they provided a deja vu feeling of:“Where have I heard this before and how often?”

Most Taiwanese must by now be wondering why the US constantly preaches to the choir and does not address the source of the problem.

The ironic reality is that the words of caution about not rocking the boat and the desire that both sides work together for continued peace and stability are always directed at Taiwan. Yet, the real source of cross-strait problems has never been Taiwan, but China.

Furthermore, the department’s remarks also stand in sharp contrast to the US’ recent actions around the world where it has acted quickly and sometimes even belligerently with little regard for discussion or negotiations. This has been done not just with adversaries, but also with allies.

For example, Taiwanese can observe how the US pulled out of the Paris climate accord with little discussion, because it felt that itself, and not the world, was not benefiting much from the deal.

The US similarly pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, threatened to quit the North American Free Trade Agreement, and slapped tariffs on friend and foe with little hesitation. Again, these were done because the US felt that its ox was being gored and not that of its neighbors. There was little time spent in discussion.

This is what Taiwanese must constantly filter.

One of Taiwan’s problems has been the US’ slow learning curve as to what has really been happening in Taiwan in the past half-century.

First, Taiwanese have won a slow, but painful victory to achieve democracy from the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) one-party state.

Second, the sense of Taiwanese identity has grown by leaps and bounds after the nation escaped from the Stockholm syndrome imposed by the one-party state rule.

The language in the 1972 Shanghai Communique, which was drawn while Taiwan was still under the one-party rule, betrays the backwardness of US thought and lack of consciousness of a Taiwanese identity. There, the US acknowledges that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China.”

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