No one, not even president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), could have been surprised last week when American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young informed him that Washington had turned down his application to visit the US before his inauguration next Tuesday.
Despite the upbeat sound bites issued by Washington following Ma’s victory and its ostensible desire for better and closer relations between Taipei and Beijing, last week’s rejection was a sign of the shape of things to come.
Closer cross-strait relations or not, the US State Department and the White House are not about to change their longstanding policy of barring high-ranking Taiwanese government officials from visiting the US, which during President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) eight-year tenure served as a stark, if not humiliating, reminder of the reality of great power politics.
Another aspect of Washington’s approach to Taiwan that is unlikely to change is the desire to sell it weapons.
To wit, news that a Ma visit to the US was “not necessary” had barely registered when Young announced that the US remained committed to helping Taiwan modernize its military. To be fair, though, one thing did change this time around: It seemed that encouraging Taiwan to import US beef was now a top-line policy, as Young mentioned it in the same breath as the F-16s.
What this meant was that Washington could continue to yield to Beijing’s pressure and humiliate its ally, but please, please, buy our weapons and our beef. We’re your friend, as long as you remain a market for our goods.
This position is the result of different branches of government vying for different outcomes, and Young’s speech was the channel through which these contradictory discourses were voiced. While the White House and the State Department seek to mollify Beijing through engagement and the avoidance of sensitive issues such as Taiwan, others — such as the Pentagon — continue to seek to provide Taiwan with appropriate armaments, which is sure to anger Beijing.
Sadly, while it isn’t Washington’s intention to humiliate the Taiwanese leadership or its people, the consequence of such public announcements is that other countries and international organizations will have no compunction in treating Taiwanese as second-rate global citizens.
In other words, Beijing’s pressure on other countries isn’t the only factor in how the international community has continued to snub Taiwan’s efforts to be recognized as an equal.
Young’s diplomatic slap in the face will have repercussions on how the WHO, to use one example, will deal with Taipei’s application for membership or observer status later this month; or sports organizations, to use another, will continue to bar Taiwanese athletes from participating as Taiwanese or unfurling the national flag when they win a medal.
After all, if the world’s only superpower and an ally of Taiwan can publicly treat it primarily as a market for its products, why should lesser partners care about it?
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has created a dilemma that could soon cause him to be hoisted with his own petard, bringing his leadership of China to an end. His threatening rhetoric over the unification of Taiwan with China, in which he has said, “we are willing to draw blood if necessary,” has placed Xi in a corner. Xi is portrayed as a strong world leader, yet he has created a scenario for himself that most likely would have an unfavorable outcome. With the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scheduled to convene this month, Xi cannot
The 77th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Sept. 13. More than 10 overseas Taiwanese organizations had submitted a petition to the UN secretary-general, protesting that 23.5 million Taiwanese are excluded from representation. As president of the Taiwan United Nations Alliance, I also submitted a letter to the UN, saying that Taiwanese should have the right to be represented under the name of Taiwan. The government has been asking its allies to support Taiwan’s entry into the UN, but under its official name, the Republic of China (ROC). Doing so would have involved the right to represent China, with
I was privileged to meet with many of Taiwan’s leaders and leading thinkers during a study tour visit in August. One theme I heard several times during that trip was that bad relations between the United States and China benefit Taiwan. At first thought, I empathize with the argument. After all, there is a troubling record of America’s leaders negotiating with Beijing over the heads of Taiwan’s leaders. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned Taiwan to China after World War II. President Richard Nixon surprised Taiwan leaders with his 1972 trip to China. President Jimmy Carter unilaterally chose to normalize
Washington’s “one China” policy has not changed and the US does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty issue, a US Department of State spokesperson has said. He said that this has been the principle of US policy toward Taiwan since 1979, and the policy has remained in effect. He also said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has privately made this clear to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅). The US’ “one China” policy and China’s “one China” principle recognize China as the “representative of China.” The two diverge on the issue of Taiwan: Beijing asserts sovereignty