Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton is urging the White House to consider “significant steps” to upgrade Washington’s diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
“Washington should make clear that it considers Taiwan to be an independent, democratic society that has the full right to reject a forced merger with China,” Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, said in a paper published on Monday on the Fox News Web site.
Bolton, who served as ambassador from 2005 through 2006, said Taiwan and China were locked in a spiraling controversy over conflicting concepts of citizenship, “with enormous implications both for them and the US.”
Bolton said that Beijing does not want actual hostilities, but believes it can achieve its central objectives by threats and pressure alone.
“If the [US President Barack] Obama administration fails to support Taiwan in responding appropriately to China’s assertive, nearly belligerent actions on deportations and many other issues, the new [US] president will have even graver problems to solve,” Bolton wrote.
“This is not a case where America should simply tote up its investments in Taiwan and on the mainland and go with the bigger number,” he said. “This is a matter of resisting Chinese efforts at establishing hegemony in East and Southeast Asia not only at the expense of its near neighbors, but of the US as well.”
Meanwhile, in an article published on the Web sites of the Council on Foreign Relations and Forbes on Monday, Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the council, said Beijing might think it is firing a warning shot across the bow of president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) by demonstrating just how much it can take away if she does not toe the line.
Actions such as establishing relations with the Gambia and the Kenyan deportations only reinforce the sense among many in Taiwan that Beijing cannot be trusted, Economy said.
After falling off the US radar over the past eight years, Taiwan is quickly edging its way back on it, she said, adding that Washington needs to keep its eye on cross-strait relations.
“This means we don’t help stir the pot on Taiwan and we don’t sell out Taiwan for some ephemeral grand bargain with Beijing,” she said.
Taiwan might be small, but it is not a small matter, she said.
“At stake is not only our relationship with Beijing, but also American values and principles, which are exemplified by Taiwan’s vibrant and determined democracy,” she wrote.
However, Shelley Rigger, a professor of East Asian studies at Davidson College and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, thinks “there is some evidence” that Tsai and the Beijing leadership have been using the time before her inauguration to search for ways to minimize the distance between the two sides.
“On the other hand, Beijing seems to be sending strong — albeit veiled — warnings that if Tsai does not meet its expectations, there will be unpleasant consequences,” Rigger wrote in an blog published by the institute earlier this month.
“Tsai will not give in to Beijing’s demands, but her efforts to moderate her words and actions show that she is trying to close the gap between the two sides, and at the very least will not sabotage the relationship through inattention or posturing,” Rigger wrote.