Mon, Apr 29, 2019 - Page 6 News List

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

At the same time, foreign ministry and diplomatic instruments should follow suit to use the national names “ROC” and “PRC.” In future foreign affairs texts, terms like “equal political entities” must give way to the normal diplomatic terminology of “sovereign states.” The “National Unification Guidelines” would be “Cross Strait Guidelines;” and “unification” changed to “ultimate conclusion.” There would be no more “One China is the ROC,” nor even “One China;” no more talk of “a divided nation” or “one country, two governments” or “One China, separate interpretations,” and certainly no “Taiwan and the mainland both are parts of China.” Over time, all these ideas would disappear.

But the key, Dr. Tsai stressed, was that it had to be planned systematically, and implemented in a staged calendar over an extended timeframe. By the late 1990s, fully twenty years ago, Taipei’s political environment was at a turning point. President Lee Teng-hui still controlled the “Nationalist Party” but bold changes in ideology would destabilize the party’s legitimacy. Dr. Tsai worked with the Party’s traditionalists to buy into Willi Brandt’s “Ostpolitik” vision of a “special state-to-state relationship” between Taipei and Beijing. It was a process calibrated to ease the reluctant KMT Old Guard on to President Lee’s track, or at least to minimize their resistance until a sovereign, independent Taiwan could become the mainstream principle.

The rest is history. President Lee embraced the ideas of Dr. Tsai’s task force. In fact, Germany’s “Ostpolitik” vision captured his imagination so much that when Germany’s national radio agency “Deutsche Welle” sought an interview with him in July 1999, President Lee decided to preview his “special state-to-state relationship” formula for an international audience. President Lee reasoned that China could not object because, after all, the “Two Germanys” were reunited after twenty years of “mutually non-subordinate” (互不隸屬) relations between sovereign states. Unfortunately, in July 1999, “special state-to-state relations” was more than international diplomatic markets could bear. Dr. Tsai’s vision of a stage-by-stage implementation was short-circuited.

In the twenty years since, through three distinct Taiwan presidential administrations including her own, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen’s vision is now back on track. And she has been a part of it every step of the way; under Presidents Lee and Chen Shuibian (陳水扁); under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as leader of the opposition; and today as Taiwan’s president. With the skill of a judo wrestler, she has maneuvered China’s powerful military and naval aggressiveness to Taiwan’s advantage. In 2016, she carefully planned her overtures to the new American president-elect: carefully if Secretary Hillary Clinton had won, boldly if Mr. Donald Trump won. With the Trump victory, she moved quickly, reassured by Mr. Trump’s advisors that the new administration would welcome the opportunity for a change of America’s strategic passivity in the Indo-Pacific.

In the two years since President Trump’s inauguration, President Tsai has strengthened America’s trust, security cooperation and general goodwill toward Taiwan to an extent I never believed possible. America’s diplomats and strategists see President Tsai as the most reliable, sound and intelligent colleague they have ever had in Taiwan as they build a new Indo-Pacific security partnerships. More than any American administration since Reagan’s, top Trump Administration leaders, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, sing Taiwan’s praises in public. But the substance of President Tsai’s new relationship with the United States must remain unseen.

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