PHOTO COURTESY OF CHUNGHWA SCHOOL OF ARTS
Members of the Southern Taiwan Society hold up signs criticizing President Ma Ying-jeou on a street near the Formosa Boulevard MRT station in Kaohsiung yesterday. The Southern Taiwan Society says Ma is conspiring with China and protested yesterday by holding up signs with statements such as “Incompetent government” and “All Ma’s election promises have bounced” to attract attention to their cause.
PHOTO: CHANG CHUNG-YI, TAIPEI TIMES
Listen to the voice
replacing Taiwan reality
Friday, Oct 10, 2008, Page 8
Double Ten day fiction has arrived again and so it is appropriate to reflect on the nation’s status since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took power in May and why Taiwan continues to be an orphan in the international community.
The confusion over Taiwan’s international status has its origins in the defunct Republic of China (ROC). When the ROC came into existence in 1912, Taiwan was not included in its Constitution because it was, at the time, a colony of Japan. After the Nationalists lost China’s civil war, the island became a refuge for them and the Constitution they brought with them. In other words, the ROC government was exiled to a land that was never part of its founding Constitution.
So it’s somewhat odd that Ma told a Japanese magazine earlier this week that, under the ROC Constitution, the ROC “definitely is an independent sovereign state, and mainland [sic] China is also part of the territory of the ROC.”
What era is Ma living in, and where? Espousing a discredited nationalist ideology in public demonstrates how far back Ma seeks to turn the clock on Taiwan’s maturing identity. It also dangerously lends credence to China’s unjustifiable claims over Taiwan.
Matthew Lee (李世明), chief of the Department of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said 171 foreign guests from diplomatic allies and other countries would attend this year’s Double Ten day celebrations, a significant reduction from 368 people last year. It is hardly surprising that so few foreign dignitaries would show up when Ma is focusing so much on China.
Justifying the large discrepancy, the ministry said that 584 guests attended Ma’s inauguration in June, effectively using up most of the Double Ten day budget. But the Double Ten day celebrations have their own budget. Moreover, the presidential election occurs once every four years, so calling Ma’s inauguration a national celebration is ridiculous. The real issue seems to be that Ma is trying to appease Beijing by keeping national day celebrations low-key.
It is ironic that this year’s festivities will be held without a military parade just after the White House approved an arms package for Taiwan. This contrasts with last year’s celebrations, which featured a military parade at a time when the government and opposition parties failed to reach agreement over the arms deal. But suggestions earlier this week by National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chao-ming (蔡朝明) that the 2003 SARS outbreak might be a biological weapon spawned by China makes a weapons package seem less relevant.
The current administration’s actions since it gained power — placing all its diplomatic and economic eggs in China’s basket while insisting that Taiwan is a “region” rather than a nation — betrays a government that has an interest in the fiction of a greater Chinese nationalism.
As recently as 2006, Academia Sinica researcher Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德) showed a steady increase from 1991 to 2004 in the number of people identifying themselves as Taiwanese. He also showed that those identifying themselves as Chinese fell proportionately.
In five months, Ma has brought the country back 10 years in terms of Taiwanese identity and a century in terms of creating a nation. Consequently, any meaningful participation internationally will have to wait at least another four years.
Listen to the voice
US must stand up
By Wu Li-Pei吳澧培
Friday, Oct 10, 2008, Page 8
The US embodies the ideals of freedom and justice that are the cores of democracy. The power of the democratic idea has evoked some of history’s most profound and moving expressions of human will and intellect, from Pericles in ancient Athens to Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The promise of democracy has mobilized people throughout the world and the international community looks to the US for leadership that serves liberty and justice.
As a country that practices the values of democracy and freedom, Taiwan deserves to be recognized as a member of the international community. Serving as an essential link in the chain of democratic nations along the Pacific Rim over the past two decades, Taiwan has evolved as an important player within the region, with a stakeholder interest in political and economic stability. Despite its impressive democratic achievements and high level of economic prosperity and development, Taiwan is barred from fully participating in the global arena.
Taiwan’s continued exclusion from the international stage is in direct contradiction with international law and the civilized world’s moral progression. Nations of the world look to the US to develop a straightforward, courageous and unambiguous policy that deals with today’s new political realities. It is time for the US to acknowledge Taiwan’s rightful place in the international community by establishing a “one China, one Taiwan” policy that grants full diplomatic recognition to Taiwan.
US STAKE IN ASIA
Taiwan is important to the US and the international community because of its vital role in spreading democracy in East Asia, its strategic importance to promoting peace in the Pacific region and its indispensable position in the prosperity of the global economy. The US has an immense economic and strategic stake in the Asia-Pacific region and Taiwan is essential to those objectives.
The US has helped Taiwan become a successful model of Asian democracy with competitive and transparent elections and high voter turnout. The Taiwanese people enjoy unbridled personal liberties, including freedom of speech, press and association.
Taiwan is also a critical player in the international economy. The country is the world’s third-largest holder of foreign currency reserves, the US’ eighth-largest trading partner and the world’s 17th-largest economy. Taiwan’s free-market economy is the epicenter of high technology R&D, manufacturing and distribution, with a dominant market presence in semiconductors, microchips and next-generation communications devices. The world relies on Taiwan’s ability to deliver products and innovation in these industries.
Beyond its significant economic ties with Taiwan, the US’ relations with its allies in the Asia-Pacific region are also linked to Taiwan’s security. A failure by the US to meet its security commitments to Taiwan, as vested in the Taiwan Relations Act and elsewhere, would potentially undermine the US’ ties with other allies in the region, such as Japan and South Korea, and perhaps even ripple beyond Asia to Europe and NATO.
Taiwan has profound strategic implications for the US and the Asia-Pacific region, yet for 60 years the US has taken an ambivalent official stance on Taiwan’s status, neither recognizing the sovereignty of Taiwan nor recognizing China’s claim to sovereignty over the island. Recently, Susan Brenner, Deputy Taiwan Coordination Adviser at the US Department of State, reiterated this view when she said that the US has “not formally recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and [has] not made any determination as to Taiwan’s political status.”
The US has never recognized China’s sovereignty over Taiwan. Militarily, politically, diplomatically and economically the US treats Taiwan as separate from China. This long-standing position dates to at least April 11, 1947, when acting US secretary of state Dean Acheson stated that the transfer of sovereignty over Taiwan from Japan to China “has not yet been formalized.” Taiwan’s formal international political status was left undetermined by the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1952 when Japan ceded Formosa without a recipient.
In practice, Taiwan is mostly seen through the prism of the US’ “one China” policy. In the context of the Cold War, the “one China” policy was designed to defer the resolution of the Taiwan issue by maintaining a strategic ambiguity regarding its status. It purposely left the US neutral about the eventual resolution of the issue. Unfortunately, today this policy is being used to deny the sovereignty of a democracy and its people the right to self-determination.
The “one China” policy was never meant to be a long-term solution, nor was it designed to accommodate the democratization of Taiwan and the economic and military rise of China. The policy expresses neither the situation in Taiwan nor the values and interests that the US promotes to the world. As a reflection of the US’ democratic values, the US has the responsibility to resolve the status of Taiwan and must give preferential weight to Taiwanese in determining their own future.
The Taiwanese have spoken. Since 1996, the people of Taiwan have made their choice clear though the ballet box by electing their own leaders and choosing democracy. It is now time for the US to act and recognize Taiwan as a sovereign entity.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, tens of thousands of Taiwanese sacrificed their lives and freedom in the struggle to gain liberty. That heavy price was paid not only for democracy but also because the people of Taiwan longed to establish a new and sovereign state as the unavoidable conclusion to centuries of colonial rule. This is a cause that the American people understand and identify with and one which the US government should support.
Today’s government on Taiwan represents 23 million people and is a multi-party democracy, with freedoms of press, speech, religion and enterprise. Most importantly, Taiwan has never been a part of the political entity known as the People’s Republic of China, yet Taiwan remains outside the UN and ignored by the international community. The people of Taiwan have established a thriving democracy in spite of this international isolation. In the area of globalization, however, continued international isolation threatens the future of Taiwan’s democratic miracle.
POKING THE DRAGON
The geopolitical threat to regional stability in East Asia does not stem from the independent, peace-loving nation of Taiwan. It stems from China, where at the start of this year, more than 1,400 ballistic missiles — augmented by around 190 cruise missiles — targeted the island.
China is growing into an economic powerhouse and its new-found economic strength has enabled it to launch ambitious military modernization. This modernization is aimed at improving China’s force options against Taiwan, and at deterring, countering and complicating US military intervention.
China is becoming more confrontational about the Taiwan issue. Not satisfied with the “status quo” of non-resolution on the status of Taiwan, the Chinese Communist government has increased its efforts to cut off Taiwan diplomatically, by bribing other countries to switch recognition from Taipei to Beijing. China is aggressively blocking Taiwan from joining international and non-governmental organizations and frustrating Taiwan’s efforts to find more international space.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE
China is very serious about overtaking Taiwan, and the US has not done enough to dissuade it. Taiwan has transformed itself from a dictatorship into a democracy. That momentous change has increased the chances of conflict in the Taiwan Strait — not because Taiwan is provocative, but because China cannot abide Taiwan’s democratic character and the reality that it has become a separate, autonomous entity. China’s leaders are terrified that the Taiwanese example of freedom and self-government might influence the people of China to want the same, challenging the legitimacy of the party’s rule.
The US should not appease China’s strategic desires, but instead should support Taiwan’s democracy by announcing a “one China, one Taiwan” policy that reflects the current reality and states a clear commitment to Taiwan and its defense. Such a policy would affirm the rights of the Taiwanese people to decide their own future and, more importantly, would reduce the risk of war with China by deterring China from using force against Taiwan. This policy would not only provide confidence to the people of Taiwan about the future of their democracy, but would also serve US interests and reassure the international community.
The clearest way of expressing that support is for the US to grant full diplomatic recognition to the sovereignty that already exists and which the Taiwanese people overwhelmingly wish to preserve. Maintaining ambiguous, informal ties with Taiwan is confusing and potentially dangerous and it obscures Beijing’s understanding of just how committed the US is to Taiwan’s defense and self-determination.
The longer the US and other countries participate in the charade of the “one China” policy and delay recognizing Taiwan, the riskier the situation becomes. China is biding its time, telling the world that some day there will be a reckoning over Taiwan, but Beijing doesn’t want to act now. It wants to act on its own timetable. At this point, China’s military capacity simply cannot match the US standard, and it is at this point the US must act. If the US resolved the status of Taiwan, Beijing would have no option but to back down and no reason to attack or blame Taiwan.
Recognition of Taiwan would bring stability and certainty, thus actually lowering the risks that Beijing would misinterpret the US’ position and threaten or actually commence military action against Taiwan. China will not like this turn of events, but inevitably, as the international community follows the lead of the US, China will have little choice but to accept full recognition.
Taiwan has intrinsic value to US interests that transcends cross-strait issues. Given the size of Taiwan’s economy, its position in the global supply chain in key sectors and its leadership role in promoting democracy, Taiwan’s power and influence in the international community belies its diminutive size and population. The independence sentiment on the part of Taiwan’s people is neither frivolous nor provocative, but rather the natural manifestation of a process that the US has supported. Taiwan is a poster child for American values, and as such Taiwan’s democracy must be preserved, promoted and recognized, not subordinated to an authoritarian Chinese state.
The success of Taiwan depends on the support offered by the community of democracies, as does that of all peoples determined to fight for freedom and human rights. The world should not stand by and allow China to crush a vibrant, successful and democratic Taiwan, and the US should show them the way. It is time for the US to embrace its principles and values-based approach to foreign policy, which in the long run will prevail. Let the reality of Taiwan, rather than the fear of China, be the guiding principle.
Wu Li-pei is the founder and honorary chairman of the Formosa Foundation.