Mon, Dec 16, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Ryan Hass On Taiwan: Don’t let partisanship poison US-Taiwan relationship

As Natasha Kassam and Richard McGregor recently observed in The Australian, “The paradox for Xi (Jinping, 習近平)’s China is that despite Beijing’s rising economic and military power, Taiwan in many respects has never been so far out of reach.” There presently is negligible support in Taiwan for unification, and even less for the “one country, two systems” model, particularly following recent events in Hong Kong. The more this trend continues, the more Beijing likely will intensify its efforts to pull Taiwan into its orbit.

Given this reality, Taiwan must ensure it maintains rock-solid relationships with its closest partners, foremost the United States. Washington and Taipei consistently have maintained strong bipartisan support for close US-Taiwan ties. This feature of the relationship must not be taken for granted.

Elsewhere in the world, partisanship is undermining relationships of long standing. In the case of Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu allowed a perception to emerge that he supported Republican candidate Mitt Romney in his 2012 bid to unseat President Obama. Netanyahu later bypassed the Obama administration to secure an invitation to address a joint session of Congress. These actions resulted in a degradation of Israel’s influence in the Obama White House. Trump vowed to reverse that following his re-election, arguing that he and other Republicans were Israel’s only true friends in the United States. Not surprisingly, a 2018 Pew survey showed a widening partisan split in support for Israel, with 79 percent of Republicans sympathizing with Israel in its dispute with Palestinians, versus 27 percent of Democrats. Cumulatively, these and other factors now pose a challenge to the bipartisanship that has been a cornerstone of US-Israel relations since Israel’s founding in 1948.

Similarly, there are fresh questions about whether the special relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia will endure beyond the Trump administration. Leading Democratic presidential nominees have taken turns bashing Saudi Arabia, with Bernie Sanders calling the kingdom a “brutal dictatorship,” Joe Biden calling them a “pariah” that did not deserve to be able to continue purchasing US weapons, and others calling for a wholesale re-evaluation of the relationship. While much of this ire is the result of recent Saudi actions, including the dismemberment of a US-based journalist at the hands of Saudi intelligence services as well as war atrocities in Yemen, some of it also is owed to the Saudis’ seemingly partisan embrace of Republicans in recent years.

These examples should provide cautionary lessons for Taipei. Like Taiwan, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been longtime friends of the United States. They both have been critical American partners in a key region of the world. They both confront acute threats. And they both now face uncertainty about the future nature of their relationships with their most important security partner.

Taiwan cannot afford to travel down a similar path. That is why officials and opinion leaders in Taipei should be cautious about appearing to embrace arguments that Republicans support Taiwan and Democrats do not. At the same time, American leaders must not show sympathy for arguments emanating from Taipei that the DPP supports strong relations with the United States, but the KMT does not. To do otherwise would be to place the future of the US-Taiwan relationship at risk.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top