Taiwan must remain wary of Beijing's intentions despite China's recent displays of goodwill toward Taiwan, US academics warned yesterday, while applauding President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) efforts to improve cross-strait relations and urging Washington to place more emphasis on Taiwan.
“The People's Republic of China [PRC] government is a very wily, clever and strategic government, and while relations are thawing and becoming nicer and they are agreeing to give Taiwan more space on international affairs, [the Chinese] are also working assiduously to isolate Taiwan in Washington,” said Christopher DeMuth, a senior fellow and former president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a leading Washington-based think tank.
The important thing for Taiwan under the current rapprochement with Beijing and the growing economic interdependence between the two sides is to “never put down your guard because we know where the PRC wants the story to end,” he said.
DeMuth, a longtime observer of Taiwan, expressed confidence that Ma was “highly cognizant of the kind of government that exists over there” and would make careful moves to safeguard Taiwan's autonomy and competitive edge.
Recent reports from Washington have speculated that China will negotiate for a freer hand on the issues of Taiwan and Tibet during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's upcoming visit in exchange for Beijing's pledge to cut its emissions.
AEI president Arthur Brooks dismissed this possibility, dubbing Americans as “very idealistic” and saying they would never allow their government to barter away another nation's liberty for issues such as curbing greenhouse effects or getting cheaper goods.
“The Americans would not stand for a minute for [their government] trading away the democratic rights of the Taiwanese, especially to the communist Chinese,” he said.
DeMuth added, however, that Taiwan should always be on the lookout when a State Department official visits Beijing because of its “strong bias towards powerful and important countries,” and the so-called “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait, blasting the department for paying little attention to Taiwan's strategic importance.
Both men also panned Washington for not doing enough to protect Taiwan's security despite the US' commitment to provide the country with the necessary means to defend itself as stated in the Taiwan Relations Act.
“We have not done nearly as much as we should in terms of providing you with important defensive weaponry ... we have not done more to help you to prepare for a robust defense,” said DeMuth, pointing out that Beijing has built batteries of missiles in close proximity to Taiwan in recent years.
The academics also urged Washington to abolish the ban restricting direct contact between Taiwanese and leading US officials. The same ban also bars ranking leaders from both sides from visiting each other's countries.
“The ban is inefficient and counterproductive for Taiwan-US ties,” said Brooks, saying the motivation behind the restriction was “nothing more than to appease the PRC.”
Brooks also called on Taiwan to open its market to a full range of US beef imports, saying the meat was perfectly safe for consumption.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has identified the row over beef as the cause of the suspension of the annual Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks between the US and Taiwan last year.