As US President Barack Obama visits Beijing this week to attend the annual APEC meeting, it is good to reflect on US relations with East Asia — and with Taiwan and China in particular.
Relations between the US and China are tense because of China’s increasing belligerence on a number of fronts: It has thrown its weight around in the South China Sea, making claims to large tracts of water within the “nine-dash line,” upsetting its neighbors; it has acted confrontational in the East China Sea vis-a-vis Japan on the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkakus in Japan — while declaring an air defense identification zone over the region; it is increasingly repressive in Tibet and East Turkestan [Xinjiang], while it has mishandled the developments in Hong Kong by not living up to its promise of universal suffrage in the upcoming election of the chief executive in 2017.
In the meantime, relations between Taiwan and China still have the appearance of outward calm and stability. Cross-strait exchanges and negotiations are still going on, but are increasingly overshadowed by Beijing’s underlying political designs becoming obvious: It wants to incorporate Taiwan just like it incorporated Hong Kong in 1997. In a meeting with a visiting pro-“unification” delegation from Taiwan, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said: “The ‘one country, two systems’ [policy] is the mainland’s guiding principle for resolving the Taiwan question and the best way to achieve national ‘reunification.’”
The problems with this statement are that the so-called “one country, two systems” policy has never had any traction in Taiwan and that China’s handling of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong has shown Taiwanese that their hard-won freedoms would significantly diminish if the nation would continue to move in China’s direction. In other words, as I emphasized earlier, Hong Kong is a mirror for Taiwan (“Life in the KMT’s alternate reality,” Sept. 10, page 8).
So, against this background, what message should Obama carry to Beijing?
One, that the US will continue its forward presence in East Asia and that it will continue to support freedom, democracy and human rights. Those are the US’ “core interests.”
Two, that peace and stability in the region can be achieved only if China respects its neighbors and does not encroach on their territories and interests. Allowing neighbors such as Taiwan to determine their own futures would be in China’s own interests.
Three, that human rights in China are also a key variable in US-China relations: Violations in Tibet, East Turkestan and Hong Kong cannot be argued away as “internal affairs,” but must be on the front burner as essential elements in determining whether the US and China are on good terms with each other.
In the meantime, the US can do much more in enhancing relations with Taiwan: It should help create the much-needed space for Taiwanese to make a fully free choice on the future of their nation — without outside interference or pressure from China. It can do this by moving more aggressively to welcome Taiwan into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It can do this by removing some of the outdated, self-imposed guidelines that inhibit a more normal relationship between the US and Taiwan. And it can do this by being more supportive of Taiwan’s membership in international organizations.
Moving on all of these fronts would be a signal that the US truly supports freedom and democracy in East Asia.
Nat Bellocchi served as chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan from 1990 through 1995. The views expressed in this article are his own.
China took advantage of the vacuum left behind when US carriers stayed out of the western Pacific Ocean due to COVID-19 outbreaks on several US Navy warships. The Chinese government is solidifying its hold on artificial islands in the South China Sea by moving in missiles and surveillance equipment, and formalizing its occupation by creating two municipal districts in the region under Hainan Island’s Sansha — Xisha District on Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島) to administer the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) and Nansha District on Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島) to administer the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) —
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) yesterday wrapped up its annual party conference-cum-national decision-making forums in Beijing: the National People’s Congress (NPC) and National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), known colloquially as the “two meetings.” They are normally tightly choreographed affairs, designed to project an image of stability and unassailable strength, but several events leading up this month’s sessions provided strong indications that all is not well in the state of Denmark. The first sign of major discontent came in March, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in China, when an article by real-estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a
Chung Yuan ChristiaN University is clearly in bed with the People’s Republic of China. This can be the only explanation why the school’s authorities have done their utmost to shield a student, who lodged a complaint against an associate professor, and then used thuggish tactics to compel the teacher to issue two separate apologies to China. The original complaint, filed by an unnamed Chinese student, was for remarks by associate professor Chao Ming-wei (招名威) during a class on the origin of COVID-19. A second complaint was filed by the same student after Chao, during an apology, stated that he was a