Washington’s “one China” policy could be “unsustainable,” US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Chairman Matt Salmon said on Wednesday.
“I am wondering if it is time for us to look at tweaking that policy a little bit,” he told a subcommittee meeting on the strategic impact of China’s economic and military growth.
“Things have changed,” he said. “Taiwan is now a thriving democracy and a lot of the policies that we have toward it right now seem to be outdated,” Salmon said.
He said that Beijing’s promise to have “one China,” but two systems for Hong Kong had turned out to be a joke.
“They do not even have the ability to choose their own chief executive and there is no universal suffrage in Hong Kong,” Salmon said.
He said that Taiwan was watching developments in Hong Kong closely and certainly did not want that kind of “unification.”
“They have a thriving democracy that works and when they see how Hong Kong is treated they say: ‘Not on your life — that is not for us,’” Salmon said.
China used “lousy, stupid politics” to stop Taiwan gaining international space and joining international organizations, he said.
“They cannot even participate in Interpol, where they should at least have observer status,” Salmon said.
“It is ludicrous, the walking on eggshells that we do to try to appease China on this ‘one China’ policy thing,” he said.
Jerome Cohen, senior fellow for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who was testifying before the subcommittee, said that whoever replaces President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is going to create “a new kind of difficulty” in cross-strait relations.
He said that Ma had reached the limit of making agreements with China that did not prejudice the security of Taiwan.
“The people of Taiwan are expressing themselves and they want to have more say in Taiwan’s future,” Cohen said.
He said that at the same time, China appeared to be getting more nationalistic and less patient. Over the next few years, Cohen predicted, tensions over the Taiwan Strait would increase.
Salmon called on the administration of US President Barack Obama to provide more clarity of its policies.
“What are we going to do to uphold the Taiwan Relations Act?” he asked.
American Enterprise Institute resident researcher Derek Scissors suggested that if the US completes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, it could let Taiwan join before China, which would do something “to change the recognition of the two countries.”
Salmon said there was “support across the board” for Taiwan joining the TPP in the second round.
He said the support from US Democrats and Republicans for Taiwan joining the TPP in advance of China was “very robust.”
Cohen said that Taiwan should do more on its own and should lead an effort to develop imaginative proposals to encourage a settlement of tensions and issues in the South China Sea.
“There is a way for Taiwan to help, just as they managed to reach a fisheries agreement with Japan in the East China Sea,” he said.