Sat, Apr 27, 2019 - Page 8 News List

US needs new strategy for Taiwan

By Jerome Keating

Taiwan’s position in the world once again came into sharp focus this month as the US and Taiwan celebrated the 40th anniversary of the implementation of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). This happened as the US officially opened its new multimillion-dollar American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) compound — read unofficial embassy — in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖).

Not lost in this was the fact that leading the US delegation to Taiwan for the celebrations was former US House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan, technically, and one might say purposely, had avoided being classified as the highest ranking US official to visit Taiwan since the TRA, because he retired from the US Congress in January at the age of 49.

Nonetheless, despite the festivities, the event resurrected a thorny problem that the US has left “undecided” since the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952.

In his presentation, Ryan correctly focused on how China still refuses to renounce the use of force in its ambitious plan to take control of Taiwan.

He said this was the “most destabilizing element” of peace in the region.

Yet, as he spoke, his words once again resurrected the issue of how a game of brinkmanship continues to be played out in Asia.

The US and others would like matters to be handled in a simple, straightforward manner like a game of checkers. China, on the other hand, wants it to be a more complicated game — one with strategic and deceptive long-term moves such as chess.

A pertinent example of how these two sides differ was exposed when Ryan expressed the US mantra that Taiwan and China should engage in “peaceful dialogue” over their issues.

How can there be any dialogue, peaceful or not, if China emphatically states that Taiwan belongs to it, and Taiwan states that it does not. What is there to discuss with such diametrically opposed positions?

The US unfortunately still finds itself trapped in its situational rhetoric from the 1970s, when Taiwan was ruled as a one-party state by the fleeing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

It was a time long before Taiwanese — and not the Chinese on Taiwan’s side of the Taiwan Strait — achieved democratic multiparty self-determination. That freedom of choice was a right that they should have been given by the UN at the end of World War II and certainly after the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Symptomatic of this preference for checkers and chess is the verbiage used by the US in how it regularly speaks of its “one China” policy, while China insists that the game revolves around a different verbiage, the “one China” principle.

Few listeners understand the differences involved here, particularly since the words “one China” are used in both phrases and Taiwan or Taiwanese are never directly mentioned in either.

In simple talk, the US apparently thinks that if it states that it has accepted that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) won the Chinese Civil War on the continent, it does not have to bring up the separate and unrelated issue of the freedom of Taiwan. Nothing is farther from the truth.

The US needs to begin to clarify matters by adding that when it references its “one China” policy, that policy in no way contains a belief that Taiwan is or has ever been a part of “one China.”

By using this political expression, the US continues to foster the ambiguity that it created with the San Francisco Peace Treaty. At that time, the US was a war-weary country that had just helped win a war in Europe and led the way to winning a war in the Pacific.

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