President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has made Taiwan’s allies uneasy with his China-friendly policies. Writing in the latest edition of the magazine Foreign Affairs, US academic Bruce Gilley describes how, during the Cold War, Finland employed a policy of detente to curry favor with the Soviet Union, enabling it to retain its autonomy and avoid annexation by the USSR. Gilley notes that, since the Ma administration took office, Taiwan’s situation has come to resemble that of Finland. He goes on to suggest that the US should stop selling arms to Taiwan, and that it should let Taiwan become neutral and no longer count Taiwan among its Asian allies.
Over the past year and a half, Ma’s government has been extremely deferential to China, acting entirely in accordance with the latter’s scheme to “fully unite” Taiwan. The Ma administration has obstinately stuck to its chosen path of locking Taiwan’s economy to that of China, irrespective the job insecurity and falling wages Taiwanese are struggling with. With regard to policy, the government’s adherence to the so-called “1992 consensus” and its advocacy of a diplomatic truce and a peace accord appear on the surface to be in pursuit of peace across the Taiwan Strait, but in fact they amount to recognizing China as a suzerain. These policies have allowed China’s political interests to work their way deep into Taiwan. In handling proposed visits to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama and exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, the government allowed China’s attitude to influence its decisions. During the two visits to Taiwan by Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, a state of martial law was imposed wherever Chen went. So-called purchasing missions and tour groups from China behave as if they are here to foster the Taiwanese.
Given these conditions, it is no wonder that Gilley should conclude that Taiwan is rapidly becoming another Finland, but describing the Ma government’s pro-China policies as “Finlandization” is probably an understatement of the seriousness of the situation. Rather than saying that the government is “Finlandizing” Taiwan, it would be more accurate to say that it is trying to make Taiwan a part of China. At least Finland during the Cold War maintained its status as a nation, whereas Ma’s policies are putting Taiwan’s sovereignty in imminent danger. If Taiwan proceeds along this path, it will be annexed and become a part of China.
As soon as that happens, China, which dreams of being a rising power, will certainly take advantage of Taiwan’s strategic position to expand its military deployment and break through the western Pacific island chain.
If Ma is determined to press on and make Taiwan a part of China, then the US, in selling arms to Taiwan, is in effect selling them to China. In future those very weapons could well be used by China against the US. That is why Gilley recommends that the US stop selling arms to Taiwan. With Ma’s pro-China inclinations becoming ever clearer, Gilley is by no means the first US academic to make such a suggestion. But, while the US may tolerate Ma sliding toward China, can it allow Taiwan to become neutral? Probably not. Since Ma is in favor of eventual unification, China, bent as it is on annexing Taiwan by hook or by crook, is sure to use this opportunity to integrate Taiwan into China both internally and externally. It has Taiwan between its teeth and it won’t let go.
General Douglas MacArthur was very clear about Taiwan’s strategic significance. He said that Taiwan was a link in the US’ line of defense in the Pacific Ocean, which runs from the Aleutian Islands through Japan and Okinawa and down to the Philippines.
If Taiwan were to fall into the hands of an unfriendly country, the enemy could use it at any time as an air force and navy base. In wartime, the enemy would then be able to break through the barrier formed by Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines. Taiwan would serve as an unsinkable aircraft carrier that would increase the offensive ability of the US’ adversary by 100 percent. Clearly, in view of the Ma government’s plans to make Taiwan a second Finland and a part of China, the US response absolutely should not be to exclude Taiwan from among its allies in Asia. Instead, it should work alongside the Taiwanese public to maintain the status quo of an independent Taiwan.
Based on the experience of history, the world’s democratic camp needs Taiwan for its strategic position, and Taiwan’s own interests are tightly bound up with those of the world’s democratic camp. Even though the Ma administration is leaning toward China, the great majority of Taiwanese lean instead toward independence and self-determination.
While American academics and the US government may be wary of the Ma administration, they should also recognize the mainstream of public opinion in Taiwan. Today, while we are distressed to see how Ma and his government are raising doubts among our allied countries, we at the same time wish to remind American academics and the US government to support Taiwan’s democracy and its people and avoid making policy decisions that hurt their friends and hearten their enemies. As for the Taiwanese, we need to stand up and resist the Ma administration’s headlong rush into the arms of China. It is up to every one of us to uphold the sovereignty of our own country.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
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