Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Favoring polite diplomacy

By Stephanie Wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ruan Ming says that a confident and self-aware Taiwan does not need to antagonize the US or China.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: The relationship between Taiwan, the US and China is said to have entered a new stage. The White House maintains that its cross-strait policy has been consistent, while the governments of Taiwan and China are continually seeking clarification on the US position. How significant is this mix of clarity and ambiguity?

Ruan Ming (阮銘): To answer this question, one should take into account the development of relations between the three nations. Comparatively speaking, the Bush administration has been America's friendliest toward Taiwan. No other US president has said, "we will be there" for Taiwan.

Now some people say that the Bush administration has made a 180-degree turn and opposed Taiwan's movement toward democracy. But in fact, the administration is just being clearer on its stance opposing unilateral change, no matter if it's China that wants that change or Taiwan. The real question is: Is this clarification beneficial to Taiwan or not?

It is obvious which side would benefit from clarity -- the side that doesn't want to change the status quo. This is because pursuit of unification is the only stance that requires change. Taiwan doesn't need to change the status quo.

It's amusing when you think about it. Seeking independence implies trying to detach oneself from a governing body. The KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party] was a foreign regime, and so there was a movement in Taiwan seeking independence from this foreign power. But who can Taiwan be independent of now?

Power is in the hands of Taiwan's 23 million people. So what is there to be independent of? The country's name, anthem and flag are issues of form rather than substance and are difficult to change.

So what is the point of opposing the US for the sake of something's form? What the US supports is the substance of democracy, not the form.

TT: Some thought President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) referendum push during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's (溫家寶) time in the US was an election strategy rather than an attempt to be a troublemaker in the eyes of the US. Your thoughts?

Ruan: The US thinks the referendum will be absolutely ineffectual. Chen is holding a referendum for the sake of holding a referendum. But there are many other ways of expressing concern over security.

I think the White House is even more concerned with Taiwan's security than Taiwan itself. It is not just an issue of Taiwan's security; it involves the stability of the entire Asia-Pacific region. The US government feels it has the responsibility to maintain peace in the region.

As far as I can see, there is only a need to hold a referendum if you want unification. Taiwan is already independent. That's why the US sees a referendum on independence or joining the World Health Organization (WHO) as pointless. It's obvious what the outcomes of those referendums are going to be. Nor is a referendum necessarily an effective means to an end.

TT: What do you think about criticism that the US government has double standards on democracy?

Ruan: It's silly to ask why the US attacked Iraq, and not China, which has weapons of mass destruction. China is a big country. It has 1.3 billion people. How do you attack such a country? The US hopes for a harmonious relationship with China, and is hopeful that China will be democratic one day. Bush also mentioned during Wen's visit that freedom was indivisible, and he pressed for social, political and religious freedom to follow economic freedom.

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