Joseph Bosco, a former China expert with the Pentagon, has suggested that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should visit Taiwan before the Jan. 14 presidential election.
“Secretary Clinton can get the United States back on the right side of Taiwan’s democracy by visiting on an equal and neutral basis with each of the three presidential candidates,” Bosco writes in the latest edition of the conservative Weekly Standard.
His article, published in the widely read political magazine, is the most recent reaction to a perceived move by the administration of US President Barack Obama to support President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
Bosco argues that Clinton’s recent trip to Myanmar, where she met with both Myanmar President Thein Sein and political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, demonstrates Washington’s commitment to democracy in that country.
“She could do the same for Taiwan,” he said.
Bosco said that such a trip would continue the escalation of high-level visits the US administration has been conducting during the run-up to the election — “after three years of deferring to Beijing by shunning Taiwan.”
“It would establish the precedent of government-to-government contact that Washington has long feared would jeopardize Sino-US relations. That unnecessary passivity has fostered an unfortunate tradition of keeping US visits below Cabinet level,” he said.
More importantly, he said, it would help correct the “unfortunate impression” that the current flurry of official visits is the Obama administration’s way of influencing the election in Ma’s favor.
Bosco, who served as the China desk officer for the US secretary of defense from 2005 to 2006, said that during this election campaign, China has followed the advice of US officials and academics by mostly cooling its rhetoric to avoid a pro-DPP backlash.
In effect, he said, Washington has served as “Beijing’s pro-KMT surrogate,” adding: “No matter how moderate an individual DPP leader may be, in China’s eyes, the entire party is disqualified from governing because someone within it may take positions displeasing to China.”
“China would clearly prefer a return to Taiwan’s one-party rule — that would facilitate eventual political integration with China’s authoritarianism,” he said. “Sadly, Washington has decided that Beijing should not only have a vote in Taiwan’s election, but a veto.”