While happy to see both sides of the Taiwan Strait developing better relations under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush said yesterday that the government should not damage Taiwan’s long-term interests.
Bush, now the director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies (NCAPS), made the remarks during a conference on cross-strait political and economic relations and the next US administration organized by NCAPS in Taipei.
“Washington’s main goal has been the maintenance of peace and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
Bush praised Ma’s attempt to downplay the more hostile position that former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) Democratic Progressive Party government had taken toward China.
While there was distrust and fear on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, it was a good thing that “the two adversaries are breaking away from the mutual distrust,” Bush said.
However, it may be risky for the two sides to “do it all at once,” he said.
“Taiwan must be careful with sovereignty issues,” he said. “When putting aside the sovereignty issue, you must be careful not to damage Taiwan’s long-term interests.”
The Ma administration has made it a policy to put aside the sovereignty issue in its cross-strait negotiations with Beijing.
Bush said he was aware that not everybody in Taiwan was happy about closer ties with China, and that the government should try to bridge the political divide.
Richard Hu (胡偉星), an associate professor at University of Hong Kong’s department of politics and public administration, agreed.
“Instead of one Taiwan, one China, or two Chinas, there are actually one China and two Taiwans,” Hu said. “There’s a pan-blue Taiwan and a pan-green Taiwan — how will China face the two Taiwans?”
Although supporting cross-strait peace and development, Hu said he would advise Ma to “start from simple things, work to build trust” between Taiwan and China first, “then move to something more complicated.”
Brookings president Strobe Talbott said the next US administration would support the idea of giving Taiwan more international space.
Talbott said there would be continuity in Washington’s Taiwan Strait policy.
He said Taiwan should be allowed to participate in the international community because the world of today was much more complicated than in the past and countries are more interdependent.
“Taiwan is part of the international community and has contributed to the international community,” Talbott said, citing Taiwan’s presence in the WTO and its contributions in medicine and public health.
The next US admininstration will support “the concept of giving more international space to Taiwan,” said Talbott, who served as deputy secretary of state under former US president Bill Clinton and has been mentioned as a possible appointee in the new government.
Talbott said Washington’s Taiwan Strait policy would continue to be based on the “one China” policy, the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.
“The United States’ commitment to peace, stability, and a non-confrontation approach in cross-strait matters has no changes whatsoever,” Talbott said.
“I would say that president-elect [Barack] Obama will continue the previous US policy in the Asia region. You can count on it,” Talbott said.