Mon, Apr 29, 2019 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik, Jr On Taiwan: President Tsai and Taiwan’s sovereignty

Here in Washington, D.C., the Taiwanese-American community is heavily sympathetic to the Democratic Progressive Party. The rivalry for the DPP upcoming presidential nomination has evenly divided them, with many dissatisfied that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has not moved more decisively for Taiwan’s independence, and others who worry that former Premier William Lai (賴清德) underestimates the toleration of the American government for Taiwan. Some friends ask me whom I support, but good friends know I am solidly on President Tsai’s side.

Sometimes, I joke to friends that in the 1950s Tsai Ing-wen and I were childhood neighbors (青梅竹馬) among the orchid gardens, tangerine orchards and bamboo groves of old Grass Mountain (草山) and Yangmingshan (陽明山) high above Taipei’s city smog.

Of course, my regard is much more practical. I knew her reputation as a tough trade negotiator in the 1990s, a National Chengchi University law professor whose impeccable English and mastery of international trade policy made her a top advisor both to Taiwan’s central bank and to the Ministry of Economic Affairs as Taipei prepared for trade talks. During Taiwan’s negotiations with the US “working party” delegation in the World Trade Organization, I was told by a friend, she chided one of her American counterparts after the fact on the weaknesses of the U.S. negotiating strategy and made suggestions on what the U.S. team could have done more effectively.

Tsai Ing-wen, with a doctorate from the London School of Economics, a law degree from Cornell University, her legal training at National Taiwan University and her professorships in international law at Chengchi and Soochow Universities was, in the 1990s, Taiwan’s leading authority of sovereignty and the law of nations. In 1998, Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) surveyed Taiwan’s talent pool and selected Dr. Tsai to lead the most important legal team Taiwan has ever had: “The Task Force to Strengthen the sovereign national status of the Republic of China” (強化中華民國主權國家地位小組). Within the year, her task force of young Taiwanese international lawyers of intellectual virtuosity had researched scores of case studies from divided Germany to the Yugoslavian wars, from the newly independent Soviet states to Palestine and Israel. They crafted a position for Taiwan’s sovereignty, based on West Germany’s “Ostpolitik” two-states doctrine which Chancellor Willi Brandt crafted in the 1970s. Moreover, it was a legal position that the United States should accept — eventually. But it needed to be introduced in stages. And Dr. Tsai outlined an elegant, stage-by-stage process which could be built upon the universal legal principle that “sovereignty resides in the people” (主權在民).

Dr. Tsai’s research study outlined stages of constitutional revisions, legal reforms, changing Article Four of the Republic of China Constitution to define its territorial jurisdiction cleverly to “the jurisdictions in which this constitution is in effect” (為本憲法有效實施地區). It also recommended dumping all legal structures based on “The Free Areas,” the “Taiwan Area,” the “Mainland Area,” and start by amending all national security, nationality and copyright laws to refer only to “The Republic of China” and “The People’s Republic.” Indeed, all legislation should be revised, section by section, to excise anachronistic references to the Taiwan and mainland “areas.”

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