Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
The reason for his popularity is that he promises that if he were elected the next president of Taiwan, he would be a miracle worker when dealing with China. He would somehow make China accept an ambiguous formula by which Taiwan could both be independent and a part of China at the same time.
Ma believes, as reported in Sydney Morning Herald, that as long as tribute is paid to the "one China" principle -- under a 1992 formula given to different interpretations -- Taiwan and China could work out a lasting modus vivendi.
The trouble, though, is that for China there is no ambiguity in the 1992 formula: Their view is that Taiwan is an integral part of China. Therefore, from Beijing's viewpoint, any discussion about Taiwan is limited to the amount of autonomy it would be given after it unifies with China. In other words, Taiwan could be another Hong Kong, with some minor variations.
China does not like President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), but Chen's power appears to be declining by the day. In any case, he will only be in office until 2008 and so far, it looks like his Democratic Progressive Party is unlikely to recover much ground before then.
But Beijing senses danger in the remaining two years of Chen's presidency, as he could do something spectacular to change the "status quo" with a view to recovering political ground. Which might force China to react forcefully, and bring about confrontation between it and the US.
Indeed, this is also Washington's nightmare. If Chen were to declare independence for Taiwan, or make moves seen by China as tantamount to such a declaration, this could lead to war. As US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick reportedly said, "Independence means war. And that means American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines."
In its present state of military overstretch in Iraq and elsewhere, the US is in no mood for any confrontation with China.
It must be stated, however, that it wouldn't shirk its responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to help Taiwan defend itself in case it was attacked by China. When asked recently at the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington if the Bush administration would react the way former president Bill Clinton did during the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis by sending two aircraft carriers, Peter Rodman, US Assistant Secretary of Defense, reportedly said, "While the precise response may not be the same, our ability and our will to meet our security commitments remain firm."
That said, Washington is apprehensive that Chen might drag them into a crisis with China. On this point there is a convergence of sorts between China and the US. Both are watchful of Chen and consider him unpredictable.
That would explain Ma's relative appeal in Washington, and Beijing's love affair with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Ma's conciliatory approach to China -- with the promise a formula that would satisfy both sides could be worked out -- has considerable appeal. In other words, Taiwan could retain its effective sovereignty without challenging the "one China" principle.
The point is that Taiwan's powerful business community and a significant part of the political class are keen on propitiating China, and the KMT seem like the ideal vehicle for this. But there is a tendency to suppress all doubts or ask questions about how such an effort would eventually pan out.
This is a question Ma and his party need to answer. What is it that they are offering to China and what would Beijing's response be? Otherwise, it is all a matter of trusting Beijing -- which is not a policy but a prayer.
The integration of Taiwan into the Chinese economy is happening so quickly that Beijing will soon be able to pull the rug out from under any political party or interest groups that might challenge it. Ma might talk of symbolic obeisance to the "one China" principle under a 1992 formula. But with Beijing calling the shots, will he have the political clout to reach even that far?
If Taiwan's political and business classes want to uphold Taiwan's identity, they badly need to start dialogue in Taiwan in order to reach a national consensus about what the nation wants and how it should go about dealing with China. Otherwise, China will be able to annex Taiwan effortlessly with the help of its cronies.
That would come as a shock even to those who favor China, because all Taiwanese have some sense of national identity. If China takes over, Taiwanese would find themselves part of a country of more than 1.3 billion people, with their lives and affairs being settled by a self-appointed and self-perpetuating oligarchy in Beijing.
In the same way, the US might find that its aversion to Chen and his brand of politics, which puts its interests in line with China's, weakens Taiwan. In the process, China's creeping destabilization of Taiwan might lead it to annex Taiwan without a shot being fired.
The US is committed to a "one China" principle, but would only approve of unification if it was carried out peacefully. Beijing might be able to accomplish just that in the next few years by undermining Taiwan's polity.
Taiwan is part of the US security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region. Its loss would be a great blow to US prestige.
The US must therefore sit up and take stock of the situation, and help Taiwan stand up for itself.
It is not suggested here that China is about to gobble up Taiwan. The suggestion, however, is that unless Taiwan's leaders join forces on behalf of their country, and unless the US encourages this, Taiwan might be in real trouble.
Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.
Criticisms of corruption, a poorly managed bureaucracy and uninformed, unprincipled or unaccomplished policy in China are often met with harsh punishments. Many protesters in the “blank paper movement,” for example, have been disappeared by the authorities. Meanwhile, the WHO has asked China to provide data on its COVID-19 situation, with the Chinese government choosing to disseminate propaganda instead. The first amendment of the US Constitution, written in 1791, prohibits the US government from abridging the freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition, or religion. More than 200 years later, China, the world’s second-largest economy, still lacks the freedoms of speech and the press,
As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) constantly strives to rewrite the Taiwan narrative, it is important to regularly update and correct the stereotypes that the PRC tries to foist on Taiwan and the world. A primary stereotype is that Taiwan has always been a part of China and its corollary that Taiwan has been a part of China since time immemorial. Both are false. Taiwan has always been a part of the vast Austronesian empire, which stretched from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east and from Taiwan in the north to New Zealand in the south. That
A memorandum from US Air Mobility Command Commander General Mike Minihan, leaked on social media on Friday, warns of a US military conflict with China over Taiwan as soon as 2025. His is not the first such warning. Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told lawmakers in June 2021 that China might attempt an invasion in 2025, and US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday in October last year said that an invasion might occur as early as next year. Minihan’s comments, which Agence France-Presse said were confirmed by the Pentagon, present an opening for Taipei to press Washington
The Chinese government seems to have fallen back in love with economic growth. As the chaotic exit from its “zero COVID” policy has unfolded — leading to tens of thousands of deaths (at least) — the nation’s leaders have been eager to profess their undying devotion to robust economic recovery. However, lip service alone can get China nowhere. Last month’s Central Economic Work Conference — the annual meeting where the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sets the economic policy agenda for the next year — established growth as the government’s top economic priority for this year. In the weeks