I will say that one thing that has not received as much attention is that we are currently living in an era that is virtually unprecedented with respect to the cross-strait situation. Essentially, currently the relations between China and Taiwan are the best we’ve seen in decades.
I would argue that the unofficial relationship between Taiwan and the US is robust. There is confidence about our support for Taiwan both in terms of ways of living and in the maintenance of peace and stability. And ultimately, the relationship between China and the US is sound and stable. And I think the three-way relationship right now is reinforcing and positive and that is a virtually unique occurrence since the late 1970s, in which relations between all three legs of the strategic triangle were essentially strong and sound.
LT: Maybe not all people in Taiwan would agree with that.
Campbell: I understand the debates everywhere about all these dimensions, but essentially relations between Taiwan and China right now have been better for a substantial period.
LT: The relationship is stable now, but there are other elements that we have not resolved, such as the military threat. So things could change overnight.
Campbell: I understand that and that is almost true in every country in Asia. Taiwan is not unique.
LT: But China has no territorial ambitions in other countries except Taiwan. So how should people in Taiwan, especially the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) strike a balance in working with China? How do you see China’s approach to the DPP?
Campbell: I think there is some cautious interest on both sides in developing a better relationship, increasing communication and trust.
There are many strategic thinkers in the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] and I have lots of confidence in them frankly. I know they are struggling how to figure out their China policy. The truth is some degree of strategic engagement is necessary.
We have encouraged China to have an open mind and have dialogues with the DPP.
We have seen a number of DPP leaders meeting with Chinese officials. I cannot prescribe what the framework or the formula would be, but ultimately we think that the DPP will have a servable, understandable and recognizable approach to China that is in the best interests of maintaining peace and stability.
LT: Has China ever asked the US to push Taiwan to enter into political dialogue with Beijing?
Campbell: Never in that. I think essentially, China has much greater confidence in their own bilateral set of actions between China and Taipei. And I think there is great confidence on both sides in the way that they have dealt with each other. They don’t need the US as a mediator. So I think the primary areas of discussions that we have with our Chinese interlocutors about Taiwan is their enduring, strong and unwavering unhappiness with continuing American arms sales.
LT: During former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) era, some people in Beijing believed that Beijing and Washington were actually co-managing the Taiwan issue. Does the [US President Barack] Obama administration believe the same thing?