A great number of books have appeared in recent years focusing on relations between Taiwan and China. Most, if not all, have one thing in common: the narrative adopts a US-centric perspective. While the authors agree that Taiwan needs to be protected from Chinese political intrusion or military aggression, their exploration of the consequences of failure in the Strait usually focuses on Washington.
Bruce Herschensohn's new book, Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy, does not depart from this tradition. A deputy special assistant to disgraced former US president Richard Nixon, Herschensohn makes no attempt to conceal his political beliefs. Reflecting a right-of-center publisher that avowedly sees the world in Manichean, "good" versus "evil" terms, and sees capitalism and democratic republicanism as the means to protect the world from spreading evil, it is clear from the beginning that Taiwan is the good democracy and China the evil authoritarian regime.
But Herschensohn's cast of evil characters is not limited to Beijing: it also includes the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the US State Department, whose diplomats, he reminds us, "are not paid to be honest."
After skimming very briefly over the formation of the Republic of China and the KMT's defeat at the hands of the communists in 1949, the book uses as its point of departure Nixon's visit to China in February 1972 and the Shanghai Communique that emerged from his meeting with Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong (毛澤東).
In Herschensohn's opinion, not only was the communique intentionally misinterpreted by the US State Department, but the misinterpretation became the foundation of two subsequent communiques buttressing former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan's policies on China.
The initial communique, the author argues, did not explicitly state that the ROC was part of the People's Republic of China. The error, it seems, stemmed from a failure to include native Taiwanese in the equation and a perspective that only depicted the conflict in terms of the KMT in Taiwan and the PRC in China.
The communiques, followed by official recognition of Beijing by the Carter administration on Jan. 1, 1979, led to engagement, which Herschensohn claims was a failure, as continued repression and the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 starkly demonstrate. He omits, however, to describe what could have happened had there been no engagement.
Herschensohn then spends a great deal of time demonstrating, through numerous quotes from State Department officials, Foggy Bottom's deviousness over the years. The list of crimes is long: from careerism to obfuscation, avoidance and a failure to define the so-called "status quo," the author argues that, aside from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), no other entity has been more detrimental to Taiwanese liberty than the State Department, which, he argues, has gone from what it should be — adviser to the president — to policymaker. Of course, the motivations behind the State Department's lack of a moral stance are mostly predicated on the need to maintain the sacred "strategic stability" and — no surprise here — to encourage and facilitate trade.
Money talks, and business trumps human rights.
One of the more interesting sections in Herschensohn's book is perhaps his exploration of the slow erosion of human rights following Britain's handover of Hong Kong in 1997. The value in the otherwise dry laundry list is that it shows what could happen to Taiwan were it to become a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong. For generations of Taiwanese who did not experience the hardships of life in China or the transgressions of a police state and who may, therefore, succumb to the temptation of China's market, the section presents a cogent warning.
Herschensohn rightly points out, as well, that a state is not independent if it must seek permission to set its own policies. Though a "free" nation, Taiwan isn't independent, and this is largely the result of years of ambiguity and moral equivalence in Washington and continued saber-rattling in Beijing.
Discarding all the critical thinking he reserves for the State Department, Herschensohn abjectly believes Bush's quixotic claims that the US, under his guidance, is on a historic quest to "liberate" the peoples of the earth. In fact, he does not shy from including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as part of that program. Bush's vision is therefore taken for granted and the reader is led to believe that Washington's policies on the Taiwan Strait would be all the more moral and constructive if only the State Department would be a team player and echo the president's views. Herschensohn should perhaps be reminded that the State Department reached one of its lowest point in years when US Secretary of State Colin Powell yielded to the pressure of the executive and delivered his Feb. 5, 2003, speech on Iraqi WMD at the UN Security Council, another reviled institution of Herschensohn's.
But Herschensohn has more to say about divisions. In fact, he sees Taiwanese disunity as hampering Taiwan's chances of success. Stunningly, Herschensohn moans about the fact that only the CCP is presenting a united front on Taiwan, while the US is divided, not only on the Taiwan Strait issue but also on the "war on terrorism."
The contradiction could not be any starker: in a book titled Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy, Herschensohn laments the divisions and multiplicity of voices emblematic of democracy and seems to say that the US would be better off if only all those dissenters in the US would shut up and rally behind the president.
Aside from failing to provide solutions, Herschensohn says it would be better if the "status quo" he so reviles could be maintained, at least until the US has won and rid itself of the distraction of the "war on terrorism." However precious Taiwan's democracy, Herschensohn respectfully requests that leaders in Beijing and Taipei refrain from acting in such a way as would precipitate a crisis. The problem with this argument, aside from the fact that it is the very kind of non-policy he spends 180 pages lamenting, is that the "war on terrorism" is an open-ended commitment with no end in sight, and perhaps none possible.
Taiwan and China will not wait. History does not stop while Washington wages its wars.
I have to say I am more excited than usual at the outset of this trip. The journey starts by taking the train from Kaohsiung to Taitung County’s Guanshan Township (關山) on the Puyuma express. This much-improved service only takes a little over two hours, cut down from more than three hours in the past. The plan is to replicate a bike ride I did in 2008 from Taitung to Kaohsiung on the Southern Cross-Island Highway. Traveling with a touring bike and self-supported, I have everything I need to survive for the three days: camping gear, food, warm clothes and
Depending on who you talk to, beach cleanups are valuable opportunities to build environmental awareness, or well-intentioned yet Sisyphean attempts to reduce ocean pollution. There are also cynics who dismiss such events as nothing better than backdrops against which virtue-signaling millennials can take selfies. Ryan Hevern is in no doubt where he stands. “We can’t clean it all up, and there’ll be trash there again tomorrow. We know that, we aren’t naive. But if we can help people become more mindful, so they make minor adjustments to their everyday routine, we’ll have a more positive impact on the planet,” he says.
A weekend getaway where you can escape the summer heat, commune with nature among trees that sprouted before the time of Christ or enjoy landscaped gardens and comfortable accommodations is within easy reach of northern Taiwan. Experience a traditional garden with Chinese and Japanese influences, birdwatching, ecological tours of old-growth cypress forest and one of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) namesake villas set among orchards with a beautiful view of the Lanyang River (蘭陽溪) valley, all in the Makauy Ecological Park (馬告生態園區). The Northern Cross-Island Highway connects Taoyuan and Yilan counties, passing through misty conifer forests as it climbs over the Snow Mountain
May 16 to May 22 Lin Wen-cha (林文察) and his “Taiwanese braves” (台灣勇) arrived in Fujian Province’s Jianyang District (建陽) on May 19, 1859, eager for their first action outside of Taiwan. The target was local bandit Guo Wanzong (郭萬淙), one of several ruffians who had taken advantage of ongoing Taiping Rebellion to establish strongholds in the area. A strongman leader of the notable Wufeng Lin Family (霧峰林家), Lin had impressed Qing Dynasty rulers five years earlier by helping expel the remnants of Small Knife Society (小刀會) rebels from Keelung. Lin’s forces routed Guo’s gang in just 11 days, earning a formal