In an open letter published on the Brookings Institution Web site on Feb. 11, former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush made some critical remarks about the Formosa Alliance’s proposal to hold a referendum on independence for Taiwan.
His remarks have dragged many people who are impatient to see an independent Taiwan back to the reality of international politics.
The “proposal touches on the national interests of the United States, specifically its abiding interest in peace and security in the Taiwan area and its longstanding view that neither side of the Taiwan Strait should try unilaterally to change the ‘status quo,’” Bush wrote.
“If China were to use ‘non-peaceful means’ in response to … secession by Taiwan” and “if the men and women of the US armed forces are to risk their lives for the safety of Taiwan, American leaders would want to be certain that such a sacrifice was clearly necessary in light of US interests,” because “the … commitment of the United States to come to Taiwan’s defense … has never been absolute,” he wrote.
This raises a number of important points.
First, as long as Taiwan is not strong enough to seek independence on its own, or even to defend itself, it must think about what the US has really promised with respect to protecting it.
It is true that the alliance’s campaign for an independence referendum gives voice to the heartfelt aspirations of independence supporters. However, the timing is very important.
At this stage, China, not Taiwan, is the side that really wants to alter the “status quo.”
Whenever China does “try unilaterally to change the ‘status quo,’” the US naturally responds.
For the past three years, whenever China has put pressure on Taiwan, the US’ policy of defending Taiwan comes into play, and that this works to Taiwan’s benefit?
As for the alliance’s activities, they have taken what was originally a favorable situation for Taiwanese and turned it around to the advantage of China and supporters of unification.
Second, as long as Taiwan does not “try unilaterally to change the ‘status quo,’” the US government is justified in sending its troops to protect Taiwan.
If that is so, Taiwanese need not listen to warnings from China and pro-unification media that if Beijing’s wishes are not complied with, China will attack Taiwan. That is an empty threat.
To take it a step further, if Taiwanese elect a head of state who the US can trust to stick to their principles and not alter the “status quo,” then Taiwan can maintain the “status quo” in theory while already being an independent country in practice.
Why then would Taiwanese voters choose a president who leans toward unification, or one selected by China?
The most important question for safeguarding Taiwan’s security, and maintaining its economic development and its citizens’ practical independence, is how to choose a president who the US can trust to maintain the “status quo” and uphold Taiwan’s interests.
Lin Shiou-jeng is chair of Chung Chou University of Science and Technolog’s marketing and logistics management department.
Translated by Julian Clegg
China has long sought shortcuts to developing semiconductor technologies and local supply chains by poaching engineers and experts from Taiwan and other nations. It is also suspected of stealing trade secrets from Taiwanese and US firms to fulfill its ambition of becoming a major player in the global semiconductor industry in the next decade. However, it takes more than just money and talent to build a semiconductor supply chain like the one which Taiwan and the US started to cultivate more than 30 years ago. Amid rising trade and technology tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, Beijing has become
With a new White House document in May — the “Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China” — the administration of US President Donald Trump has firmly set its hyper-competitive line to tackle geoeconomic and geostrategic rivalry, followed by several reinforcing speeches by Trump and other Cabinet-level officials. By identifying China as a near-equal rival, the strategy resonates well with the bipartisan consensus on China in today’s severely divided US. In the face of China’s rapidly growing aggression, the move is long overdue, yet relevant for the maintenance of the international “status quo.” The strategy seems to herald a new
To say that this year has been eventful for China and the rest of the world would be something of an understatement. First, the US-China trade dispute, already simmering for two years, reached a boiling point as Washington tightened the noose around China’s economy. Second, China unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, wreaking havoc on an unimaginable scale and turning the People’s Republic of China into a common target of international scorn. Faced with a mounting crisis at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly decided to ratchet up military tensions with neighboring countries in a misguided attempt to divert the
Toward the end of former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) final term in office, there was much talk about his legacy. Ma himself would likely prefer history books to enshrine his achievements in reducing cross-strait tensions. He might see his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015 as the high point. However, given his statements in the past few months, he might be remembered more for contributing to the breakup of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). We are still talking about Ma and his legacy because it is inextricably tied to the so-called “1992 consensus” as the bedrock of his