Taiwan should step up efforts to prove it can be a useful partner in the US’ foreign policy in Asia, but refrain from implementing any radical changes that could unsettle cross-strait relations, Hudson Institute director of Chinese strategy Michael Pillsbury said.
Pillsbury, a former US assistant undersecretary of defense for policy planning, was speaking at a forum titled “Beijing’s Strategy of Unification toward Taiwan and the US Response” at the legislature in Taipei yesterday morning.
The event was organized by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山), who served as foreign minister during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration. It was attended by several Taiwanese academics and foreign affairs experts.
Speaking in fluent Mandarin, Pillsbury said none of the US’ high-ranking officials have openly revealed whether Taiwan is included in its “rebalancing” toward Asia, but the policy is expected to continue regardless of who is the next US president.
“That is why Taiwanese people, both in the political or academic industries, are urged to put forward tangible rather than vague suggestions regarding the US’ Asia pivot and clearly express their nation’s aspiration to be a part of it,” Pillsbury said.
To address its international and regional exclusion amid growing ties between the US and China, Pillsbury said there are several measures Taiwan can take to undermine Washington-Beijing relations.
“It could change the name designation for Taiwan, issue a different passport, or scrap its current national flag that reminds most people of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s party flag,” Pillsbury said. “However, these actions would inevitably been seen as crossing the red line by China’s People’s Liberation Army ... and I personally do not think Taiwan has to go down that road.”
Alternatively, Pillsbury said Taipei can surrender to Beijing and announce itself a part of the so-called “motherland,” but the move would most likely unnerve the US as it is the least favorable option among its citizens.
That leaves the nation with one last option: That Taiwanese intelligentsia endeavor to work out a way to allow Taipei to be a helpful partner in Washington’s rebalancing policy without aggravating the Chinese government, Pillsbury said.
Pillsbury’s remarks were dismissed by a male participant at the forum, who criticized the US’ opposition of renaming Taiwan as an oppression of the nation.
“I did not say Taiwan cannot change its name, I am saying that the US policy of protecting Taiwan’s security is not without limit. It does not mean Taiwan can do whatever it desires and we still have to protect it …. The policy is not a blank check,” Pillsbury said.
Former minister of national defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) urged the US to permit Taiwan to participate in meetings and cooperative organizations related to its regional security, and respect the nation’s public opinion and development.
“The US should not facilitate its ties with China at the expense of Taiwan’s sovereignty and its people’s interests,” said Tsai, who also doubles as the director-general of the Taiwan Defense Policy and Strategy Research Institute.
Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic and Strategic Studies president Parris Chang (張旭成) praised the US’ efforts to collaborate with other Asian countries to inhibit China’s growing aggressiveness.
Nevertheless, the US’ Asia pivot must not omit Taiwan and both parties should jointly work towards closer cooperation, Chang said.
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