A new book addressing the “complex questions” surrounding Taiwan’s future relations with China is being published this week by former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Richard Bush.
Titled Uncharted Strait: The Future of China-Taiwan Relations, the book could influence future US policymaking.
Now the director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, Bush is believed to be on the short list of names currently being considered to replace US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell, who is leaving the Department of State soon.
A foreward to the book was made available on the Brookings Web site on Wednesday.
“Today, the future of the Taiwan Strait is open-ended, more so than at any other time in recent decades,” it says.
“The current engagement between Beijing and Taipei creates the possibility that they can find a solution to their six-decade-long dispute. Whether, when and how that might happen is shrouded in uncertainty,” it says.
Bush says that “metaphorically speaking” the waters of the Taiwan Strait are uncharted with all of those concerned worrying about “shoals beneath the surface.”
China worries about the island’s permanent separation, Taiwan fears subordination to an authoritarian regime and the US worries about stability in East Asia.
Bush says that China and Taiwan have made more progress on economic stabilization under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), than in the political and security arenas.
And while efforts to improve the “status quo” have so far been through “reciprocal accommodation,” he warns that there is another possibility: “Their interaction could occur in the paradigm of power asymmetry, wherein Beijing, losing patience with negotiations, exploits its greater power by seeking its ultimate goal — unification — through pressure and intimidation.”
“Although the probability of this more coercive scenario seems low, the growth of China’s economy and military power makes it plausible,” he says.
Bush examines the difficulties of negotiations moving from “easy” economic issues to “harder” political and security ones.
“Where will cross-Strait interaction lead? Will the two sides find a way to resolve the fundamental dispute that has existed between them since 1949?” he asks.
“After all, China’s ultimate goal is not just to have stable, cooperative relations with Taiwan; it is to end what it regards as a state of national division,” he writes.
Gerrit van der Wees, a senior policy adviser to the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, who has discussed the book with Bush, says he fears Bush may have “glossed over” what he sees as a “negative drift toward an undemocratic China” by Taiwan.
“The present lowering of tensions is only due to the fact that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] perceives that with the policies of the Ma administration it will be easier to push Taiwan into its unwelcome embrace,” van der Wees says.