US should formulate a new policy on Taiwan

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎  / 

Sat, Sep 08, 2012 - Page 8

The US presidential election in November is rapidly approaching and the two major US parties are in the middle of their national conventions.

The Republicans just held their convention in rain-swept Tampa, Florida, and nominated Mitt Romney, while the Democrats met this week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For Taiwan, these conventions are an opportunity to get a closer look at the political trends in the US, while the two parties use the occasion to elaborate on the policies they would implement if they win the elections.

The political platforms presented at the conventions do give an indication of the political inclinations of the two candidates and their parties.

How have the respective platforms to the two parties evolved over the years?

The Republican platform has always been more extensive, saluting the people of Taiwan for their democracy and economic model, and emphasizing that the relations are based on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

A welcome new element this year is the phrase: “The US and Taiwan are united in our shared belief in fair elections, personal liberty and free enterprise.”

The Republican Party platform also reiterates statements from previous years that Taiwan’s future must be resolved peacefully and through dialogue, and it must be agreeable to the people of Taiwan.

It does warn that if China violates those principles, the US would help Taiwan defend itself in accord with the TRA.

Currently, the Democratic Party platform is rather bland and disappointing: “We are committed to a ‘one China’ policy and the Taiwan Relations Act, and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.”

The problem with this statement is that it refers to an anachronistic “one China” concept dating back to the 1970s. Taiwan was not a democracy at the time. It was ruled by a Chinese Nationalist government which had come from China and maintained the pretense that it represents China.

Times have changed and Taiwan is now a democracy representing the people of Taiwan. The US should change accordingly and talk about a “one China, one Taiwan” policy.

The “one China” policy that the US has followed since the 1970s breeds instability in the Taiwan Strait by sending ambiguous signals to both the US’ allies and rivals.

The cumulative result of the “one China” policy practiced over successive US administrations has been to box the people of Taiwan into a state of perpetual political limbo, while emboldening the autocratic regime across the Strait to expand its military capacity at a rate that is unsettling to all of its neighbors.

Given the momentous changes that have occurred both within and outside of Taiwan over recent decades, it is time for Washington to formulate a new vision for relations with Taiwan, one that rests more firmly on the values of democracy and freedom which we share with the Taiwanese people.

The US must now adopt a “one China, one Taiwan” policy to make it clear that the future of Taiwan cannot be negotiated over the heads of its people, but rather should be determined by the people of Taiwan, through a referendum or other democratic mechanism.

That is what democracy and self-determination are all about, and those are the values both the people in the US and Taiwan hold dear.

Nat Bellocchi served as chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan from 1990 through 1995. The views expressed in this article are his own.