Tsai not the one who needs a reality check

By Jerome Keating  / 

Mon, Aug 29, 2011 - Page 8

An important issue that Taiwanese voters will have to evaluate as next year’s elections approach is not only what each party’s cross-strait policy or “China policy” is, but also how realistic it is. In line with this, barely a week before the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presented its policy, in an almost laughable essay, David Brown, as if pontificating as a hired gun for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the rest of the world, “demanded” that DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) present a realistic case.

“Taiwanese voters deserve a clear understanding of Tsai’s policies,” he wrote.

Ironically, at the very moment Brown was trying to pontificate for clarity, presidential candidate Tsai’s team was putting the finishing touches on the DPP’s policy. Regardless of that timing, what made Brown’s essay so ridiculous was his implication that it was time for Tsai — not the rest of the world — to do a reality check on their policies. This was more than the pot calling the kettle black; it was a stove-blackened pot questioning the cleanliness of an untarnished kettle.

First, examine the US. Brown says the future direction of US-Taiwan relations “depends” on Tsai’s clarity. Has Brown ever examined his own country’s clarity and past treatment in its relations with Taiwan? If one ever wanted a sandy foundation to inspire insecurity, it is there. In 1970, then-US national security adviser Henry Kissinger and US president Richard Nixon were willing to sacrifice Taiwan in the hopes of getting China as an ally against Russia. This worked to China’s advantage, but surprisingly Taiwan did not roll over and play dead. Then as 1979 dawned, then-US president Jimmy Carter used a surprise late-night telephone call to tell Taiwan he was switching the US embassy from Taipei to Beijing. Finally, today when pressed, the US says its official position on Taiwan is “undetermined.”

World War II ended in 1945, but the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty was blank on who controlled Taiwan or even if Taiwan should rule itself. So if the US, after 65 years, still cannot make up and express its mind on Taiwan, what compels people in the US to say Tsai needs to be absolutely clear?

On the other hand, the US does have a “one China” policy; in that policy, it states that it believes that there is only one China, just as it believes there is only one Canada and only one Libya.

However, the US position on “one China” ends there; it says nothing about including Taiwan, which is “undetermined.” The US also acknowledges China has its own “one China” policy, but despite the illusions of many, that does not mean that the US accepts China’s definition of what constitutes “one China” (ie, it includes Taiwan) any more than it accepts a definition by China that “one China” includes the moon. Unfortunately most people in the US and the rest of the world either do not know, realize or understand the nuances of that reality.

Let’s go to Taiwan’s current president, about whom Brown states voters have a three-year record on which to judge. How realistic and clear is President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) in his position?

First, Ma insists on the so-called “1992 consensus.” The consensus is an admitted fabrication by former National Security Council secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起). Is it Ma’s conviction that if he tells a lie long enough, people will believe? Is that clarity? So while Su Chi admits he invented the term in 2000, and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was president in 1992, says there was no consensus, Ma still believes if he keeps repeating it, the gullible people of Taiwan and the world will believe it. Who really needs the reality check here?

Second, there is Ma’s definition of what constitutes “one China.” Ma believes that the Republic of China (ROC) is the true “one China.” He acknowledges that Beijing does not accept that and has its own definition. Nonetheless, he somehow still claims that this creates a mutual trust between them.

Ma states that according to the ROC Constitution, the ROC is the true “one China.” This implies that the “other” China that the PRC leaders rule is a phony China. Included in Ma’s claim is his vision that he rightfully rules not only China, but also Tibet, Mongolia and Xinjiang.

How this builds mutual trust on both sides and with the rest of the world defies credibility, unless the PRC leaders say to themselves: “We can go along with this fool and just wait for the apple to fall into our hands.”

Does the rest of the world realize this?

Tsai’s position on cross-strait relations deserves its own subsequent article. In brief, it holds that Taiwan is a maritime country and a young democracy. It refutes the so-called “1992 consensus,” saying it will not build its policies on such a fabrication. It has no ill will toward China and is willing to negotiate the “strategic stalemate” of their relationship and past history. It strongly supports regional peace. That is much closer to reality and a much healthier formula for all countries involved.

Jerome Keating is a commentator in Taipei.