May , 1997 --- Washington-Taipei Relations and the ROC's Pragmatic Diplomacy: Questions and Answers
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Washington-Taipei Relations and the ROC's
Pragmatic Diplomacy:Questions and Answers

1997. May

Q.1. Most of the world has adopted the principle of one China in recognizing the PRC as the sole government of China. Taiwan also espouses the one China principle. So why do you want to pursue a separate international identity for Taiwan?

A.1. It is true that we espouse the one China principle, but to us that "one China" is the Republic of China on Taiwan. We are a sovereign state and have been since 1912. We are entitled to the rights of a sovereign state, which includes participating in all international organizations and maintaining normal diplomatic relations with all other sovereign states. Article I of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States defines a state as possessing a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. We meet all these criteria. We have a sovereign government exercising effective jurisdiction over well-defined territories with over 21 million permanent residents, and we are recognized by some 30 states. The PRC obstructionism is the only reason that other states have not recognized us. However, irritating this obstructionism may be, it is irrelevant to our status as a sovereign state. Article 3 of the same Montevid eo Convention specifically says that "the political existence of the state is independent of recognition by other states." Our existence as a sovereign state is independent of whether the PRC recognizes us or not.

The PRC government says that we cannot maintain normal diplomatic Relations because we are only a province of the PRC. This is absolutely untrue. The PRC government has never exercised effective jurisdiction over Taiwan, never collected a dime of tax, nor drafted our young men into its People's Liberation Army (PLA). In fact, their personnel, aircraft and vessels can only enter our territory with our permission.

In short, we are a sovereign state and as such we are entitled to normal international standing and participation according to international law.

It should be stressed here that the pragmatic diplomacy conducted by the Republic of China on Taiwan is definitely not aiming at "Taiwan Independence," as so absurdly alleged by the PRC. As a matter of fact, only when the Republic of China's international status is ensured can it begin talks with mainland China on an equal footing over the issue of how to unify the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, pragmatic diplomacy is, for the Republic of China, an indispensable part of the overall process of reunifying the entire Chinese nation.

Q.2. Japan has established normal diplomatic relations with the PRC since 1972. The United States of America has recognized the PRC government as the sole government of China since 1979. Since then, Japan and the United States have terminated diplomatic relations with ROC, and have had unofficial relations with ROC. In view of this, why do you ask the US and other states to help you get into all sorts of international organizations, including the United Nations?

A.2. The reality is not as simple as your statement implies. Neither Japan nor the United States has recognized PRC sovereignty over Taiwan.

Japan's position is outlined in the September 1972 Joint Tanaka-Chou Communique, which states:

The government of the PRC reaffirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the PRC. The Government of Japan fully understands and respects this stand of the Government of China and adheres to its stand of complying with Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration.

Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration affirms the 1943 Cairo Declaration that Japan, which then claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, would have to return Taiwan to the Republic of China, and not to the PRC. In 1952, Japan gave up its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan by way of the San Francisco Peace Treaty without specifying to whom the sovereignty would be transferred. In short, the PRC has no legally valid claim of sovereignty over Taiwan whatsoever.

In the Shanghai Communique of 1972, the PRC and the US state their respective positions separately. The PRC states:

The Chinese [the PRC] side reaffirms its position: . . .Taiwan is a province of China which has long been returned to the motherland; the liberation of Taiwan is China's internal affairs.

The ambiguous term "motherland" is intended to substitute for the Cairo Declaration that Taiwan be returned to the "Republic of China." I don't think I have to remind anyone that the Republic of China on Taiwan was still in existence in 1972, and is still going strong to this very day.

In the same Shanghai Communique, the US declares:

The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The US government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.

We have no quarrel with this statement of the US. However, it is important to point out that, here the US only acknowledges, not recognizes, the position of all Chinese on either side. Taiwan is a part of China, just as the PRC on the Chinese mainland is also a part of China. Both the PRC and ROC are parts of a divided China. Further, we absolutely support the US interest in a peaceful settlement of the dispute between us and the PRC. We do not know any other way of settling the dispute.

Q.3. Why doesn't Taiwan talk to Peking and get their acquiescence, if not agreement, to Taiwan's having the international participation and standing to which you aspire?

A.3. As a sovereign state, we do not need the approval, nor the acquiescence, of any state for the international participation and status to which we are entitled. Did your government ask for Peking's approval when it decided to join the ASEAN Regional Forum or any other international forum? Peking's obstructionism is the only reason that we have been excluded from many international organizations and that many states have refrained from maintaining normal diplomatic relations with us. What makes you think they will change their stance if we talk to Peking?

Q.4. Whenever relations between the United States and the PRC are good, relations between Taiwan and mainland China are good. Conversely, when Washington-Peking relations deteriorate, Peking's pressure on Taipei increases. Therefore, it is in Taipei's interest not to hinder Washington's relations with Peking. 

Taipei knows full well that Peking is dead set against its pursuit of pragmatic diplomacy. Peking regards this as violating the one China principle. The PRC also dislikes the ROC's lobbying our Congress to assist its admission to a host of multilateral international organizations. We would love to see Taiwan admitted to as many international organizations as possible. But every time we help you out, mostly in response to a demand by Congress, where Taiwan has considerable sympathy, Peking becomes furious and our relations with Peking suffer. When that happens, Taipei also suffers. Why does Taipei often do things that come back to hurt it?

A.4. First, US differences with the PRC are multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. Your disagreement with Peking over the Taiwan issue is just one of many issues. How about human rights, the market access issue, the intellectual property rights issue, and the issue of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction i.e., missile technology and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons? Even if we in Taiwan were to vanish suddenly from this earth, your dispute with Peking over these issues would not go away or be solved overnight. If the so-called Taiwan issue didn't exist, Peking would invent some other dispute to resist your demands on the issues mentioned above. So please don't blame Taiwan every time your relations with Peking deteriorate. 

Second, the ROC should not be held hostage to US-PRC relations. There are three sets of parallel relationships, Washington-Taipei, Washington-Peking, and Taipei-Peking. When Washington-Peking relations deteriorated, as in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 Tienanmen massacre, Taipei-Peking relations remained the same, no better, no worse. In recent months Washington-Peking relations have improved. But Peking's hostility toward us remains the same. The linkage simply does not exist.

Third, it is true that we have lobbied your government including Congress on this or that issue. But we always do it in accordance with US law, just as Israel and Japan do.

Fourth, Peking's policy toward us will not change regardless of whether we do or do not ask for US help in admitting us to various international organizations or selling us weapons of a defensive nature. Short of our succumbing to the "one country, two systems" formula, Peking will continue to blame us for attempting to derail Washington-Peking relations.

Q.5. The Clinton administration has decided to pursue a policy of engagement in hopes of fundamentally improving the relations with the PRC. What does Taipei think of this initiative?

A.5. We are all for the engagement policy and wish the initiative well. The hope is that if it succeeds, it will improve bilateral relations and foster stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. The Clinton administration will carry out the engagement policy via strategic dialogue (i.e., mutual visits of the highest-level personnel) on the premise of not regarding the PRC as an enemy. Accommodation will be the modus operandi. The goal is to integrate mainland China into the international system. A second goal is peaceful transformation of the PRC. This is to be implemented by disseminating Western, or modern values (e.g., human rights, democratic rule, and rule of law) via cultural, educational exchange, trade and investment. This is all for the good.

The critically important question is: Will the PRC leaders reciprocate and accommodate? They believe that they know full well why the US has adopted this strategy. In their view, the US is trying to induce them to accept international norms in order to prevent the PRC from gaining influence and eventually replacing the US as the dominant power in the region. They also realize the consequences of peaceful transformation in the long run: demise of the Chinese communist dictatorship and with it their own and their children's privilege as the ruling class. They have learned the lesson of the demise of the Soviet Union. They attribute the catastrophe to Gorbachev's reckless undermining of the Leninist party.

We have ample evidence that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or the PRC leaders have no appetite for the existing international norms. In their mind these are a set of rules of the game worked out by the US, and benefiting the US at the PRC's expense. We have a vivid Chinese expression: "To ask the tiger for its fur." To persuade the CCP leaders to peacefully transform the Party would amount to asking the tiger for its fur. They are not particularly wise in governing the country and extricating their people from poverty. But they are not so stupid as to willingly allow peaceful transformation to complete its course. We wish the Clinton administration well. And we certainly will do nothing to sabotage the initiative, contrary to the allegation of the PRC partisans in America.

Q.6. The last several years have seen the rise of nationalism in the PRC. Among others this will make the PRC leaders assume a tough posture vis-*-vis Taiwan, and will make any meaningful compromise more difficult. What are the implications of this for the management of the trilateral relations?

A.6. The CCP leaders used to justify their dictatorship in the name of Marxism, Leninism and Mao Tse-tung Thought. This no longer works. With the grand failure of the communist experiment, they have found a useful substitute in a crude form of nationalism. They have fomented ultra-nationalism in hopes of staving off the inevitable collapse of the communist dictatorship. For instance, they have used the Taiwan issue to incite anti-American sentiment. This may bode ill for Taiwan. If they had no Taiwan issue they would invent some other issue to stir up their xenophobic version of Chinese nationalism. But nationalism is a double-edged sword which can end up hurting them as well. They are keenly aware of this. For instance, they have restrained their own people who demand compensation from Japan for wartime atrocities. They exploit their brand of nationalism at great risk, indeed. They have attempted to cloak in the mantle of nationalism their resistance to the existing international order promoted by the United States and the West. They have also exploited nationalism to exert pressure on Washington with respect to the Taiwan issue. They also use nationalism to reject rightful demands from, and to justify their unreasonable demands of, the international community. Their demand to get into the World Trade Organization on their own terms comes to mind. Their willful but secret sale of missiles and other weapons of mass destruction to Pakistan and the Middle East are recent instances. Let me ask: Should the US accommodate them regardless of their deeds? Is the US prepared to sacrifice the rules of the game and the existing international order in order to accommodate the PRC? And is the US prepared to do so in spite of the fact that the PRC is interested in nothing less than replacing the US as the dominant regional power and dictating a new set of rules of the game? There are Americans who believe that mutual accommodation is the only way to bring about peaceful coexistence. Some PLA leaders have thought otherwise. They have already concluded internally that fundamental improvement in Sino-American relations is impossible given the enormous and long-standing gap between the US and mainland China in ideologies, social systems, and foreign policies.

Q.7. The PRC has proposed "one country, two systems" as a way out of the current impasse. Some in the United States have argued that the PRC has been very reasonable and conciliatory. After all, Peking would allow Taiwan to enjoy a degree of autonomy far greater than Hong Kong. All they demand is that Taiwan cease using its present name (ROC) and national flag, cease maintaining the Office of the President and the Executive Yuan of the Premier, and that no university use "national" in its title. It would even allow Taiwan to maintain armed services. But it insists that Taiwan terminate all such activities as "head of state diplomacy," "alma mater diplomacy " and seeking membership in international organizations, especially the UN. Peking considers all such activities provocative and tantamount to preparation for a declaration of de jure independence. There are those in the United States who feel that Taipei is indeed provocative and should be satisfied with what Peking has to offer. They say that Taipei's foot-dragging and obstructionism may provoke a war. As such, Taipei is playing with fire. In their view, Taipei's diplomatic adventurism in recent years has provoked Peking's military adventurism. This bodes ill for peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. In short, Taiwan is provocative, reckless, and may bring disaster upon itself. What do you think of this assessment?

A.7. For eighty-six years, the Republic of China has been a full-fledged sovereign state. Why should we renounce that status in order to please leaders in Peking who retain an obsolete 19th century mind-set and who are elected by no one and therefore do not even represent the people on the Chinese mainland? It is inappropriate to place us on the same level as Hong Kong. Hong Kong remains a British colony until July 1, 1997. We are and have been a sovereign state longer than most UN member states.

To characterize our pragmatic diplomacy as "diplomatic adventurism" is grossly unfair. To identify our pragmatic diplomacy as instigating PRC attempts to contain our foreign relations, and as the "cause" of the PRC's brazen military intimidation during the ROC's first-ever direct popular election of a president is to blame the victim instead of the bully. We adopted pragmatic diplomacy in an effort to stave off PRC attempts to completely eliminate our already muted international presence. Failing that, Peking resorted to military intimidation (in the form of missile tests) and then blamed us for it. What an absurd argument in support of a barbaric violation of international law!

We do not buy the argument that the "one country, two systems" is a symbolic issue. At the beginning of the Cold War, did Greece for the sake of existence, give in to the USSR's demand that it change its name, national flag, and refrain from having a president, a Foreign Office, and acquiring new weapons even of a defensive nature? Of course not.

The PRC government has indicated that President Lee Teng-hui is welcome to visit mainland China, provided that he comes in a "proper" capacity (e.g., as the chairman of his party, the KMT). At the same time, it is adamantly opposed to his going abroad to any countries in whatever capacity. What kind of communist logic is this, anyway?

Q.8. Last year, Taipei's diplomatic adventurism provoked Peking into military adventurism. It took the US sending two aircraft carrier battle groups to stop a possible escalation. Charles Freeman has warned Taiwan against dragging the US into a military conflict, saying that Taiwan cannot expect to write a check of independence to be cashed on American blood. What do you think of this characterization of the situation?

A.8. Peking conducted the military exercises and missile tests because it was hoping to disrupt our presidential election, the first ever in the long history of China. Why? Because government by consent of the people is the one Western value and practice that the PRC leaders fear the most. The very existence of democracy on Taiwan poses a threat to the PRC dictatorship. The presidential election had nothing to do with Taiwan independence, because the Republic of China has long been a sovereign state. The PRC's hope to sway the outcome of the election was futile. None of the four presidential candidates advocated immediate reunification.

We very much appreciate the dispatch of the two aircraft carrier battle groups. The US acted in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of the Taiwan Relations Act which reads:

It is the policy of the United States. . . to declare that peace and stability in the area are in the political, security, and economic interests of the United States, and are matters of international concern. . . [and] to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts, or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.

The US also acted to uphold the credibility of its commitment to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. If the US had stood idly by while the PRC carried out brazen coercion via military exercises and missile tests, America's allies and friends would have lost faith in the US's degree of commitment. Further, it is vitally important that the US stand firm and send an unmistakable message to Peking, lest there be even the slightest chance of repeating anything like the Korean War.

To hesitate and to appear weak is to invite avoidable military conflict.


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