Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Interview: Taiwan needs to find its message to gain ground

NO VISIONPerceptions need to be shaped with tangible actions rather than slogans, said a former US deputy assistant for national security affairs

By Jewel Huang and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

"I think people want to do away with the `one China' policy because it's a symbol of unfairness and it is used as a tool to try to keep Taiwan in a box, and there is truth in that," he said. "But out of the box to do what? There's the thinking that goes one step or maybe two steps, but I did not see [people thinking] very much further beyond that."

Yates said many people sympathize with Taiwan's frustration at its confinement but that no meaningful sympathy would present itself if Taiwanese cannot communicate what they are trying to achieve.

"Taiwan feels that some US treatment is unfair. But what is Taiwan's counter-proposal? What are you going to do [to become] a normal nation? What do you want to change? What are you going to do for me? I'm just not aware of anyone feeling out that side of the bargain," he said.

Many critics and strategists have been warning that China could overwhelm Taiwan with its rising influence if Taiwan squanders valuable time on unsubstantial issues that are unhelpful in making the world connect with it, Yates said.

In comparison, the lack of direct communication between Taipei and Washington is a minor problem for Taiwan-US relations, he said, adding that there was no sign that the US government would undertake a review of the "one China" policy anytime soon.

Yates favors establishing hotlines and direct communications between Taipei and Washington. Yates added that he had always opposed the "one China" policy and revealed that he had had a Chinese visa revoked for two years for doing so.

But while the "one China" policy uses English words, he said, the expression is not really substantial, nor is the attention devoted to the debate.

"How many Chinas do you think there are? And what does it tell you about what American strategy or policy is?" he said. "It is defined only with further vagary."

The "one China" policy consists of three communiques signed between China and the US as well as the Taiwan Relations Act, in which the US states its responsibilities toward Taiwan. Yates described the Shanghai communique as both a Chinese diatribe against the US and a US commitment to move toward reconciliation.

But Yates said he saw "no opening at all in any party, in any constituency, on Capitol Hill or in the presidential process, for a review of the `one China' policy" and that none of the US presidential candidates will take on a bold China policy.

For that reason, slogans should not be dwelt on. Yates said he realized there are things that are meaningful and important to Taiwan, but if "you want to change the `one China' policy, don't talk about the `one China' policy."

"Talk about what would be gained with changes that sort of stake out territory, that move in the direction that at some point by definition is change," he said. "If you are talking about sovereignty, if you are talking about changing `one China,' it just sort of kills the initiative in the end."

"You've got a lot of work to convince them of that stuff," he said, referring to the 300 million Americans.

This task would not be made any easier if the Taiwanese administration prefers to play word games.

On the "four wants" desire for Taiwanese independence and a change in the nation's official name proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Yates said that "people in Washington didn't think it was funny."

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