Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Feeling the FEER

On Saturday I met some friends beneath the great gate of Nameinflux Hall.... UPDATE: forget it. I'm wrong.

Also in the news, Taipei has dropped plans for missiles that can hit Shanghai. The missiles were deemed necessary to enable Taiwan to strike China's bases on the coast opposite Taiwan.

Finally, since all news is ominous news today, let's take a look at this piece in the Far Eastern Economic Review posted yesterday. Entitled.....

Georgia's Lessons for Taiwan
by Jeffrey Bader and and Douglas Paal

....it is one more in a number of pieces that have attempted to extract lessons from the Georgia mess. The first interesting thing here is the authors: Jeff Bader, longtime China specialist with many government positions, is an advisor to the Obama campaign, rumored to be one possible author of the letter from Obama to Ma Ying-jeou. He also works for Stonebridge International, which advises US corporations on how to enter China (see this great piece by Ken Silverstein in Harpers last month).

We last heard from Douglas Paal on election day. A former AIT director appointed to the position (he didn't come up through the diplomatic service) Paal was widely held to detest the DPP and Chen Shui-bian. On election day this year he showed up to stage a dog-n-pony show for the KMT about Ma Ying-jeou's green card. Naturally, the FEER article contains the usual gratuitous hacks on Chen Shui-bian:

2) Don't provoke the bear, or the dragon, expecting the eagle to fly to the rescue. Georgia's President Saakashvili has shown a propensity for statements and actions that seems to say to the United States and Russia, "Let the two of you fight over me." His goal has seemed to be to encourage the United States and Russia to see Georgia as the target of a zero-sum security game and to appeal to the U.S. conscience to back him up. Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian took the same approach to the triangular relationship among Taiwan, the United States, and China. The result in Saakashvili's case has been to leave his troops alone to face an angered Russian military. In Chen's case, it led to heightened cross-Strait tensions, but in Taiwan's case, the United States showed wisdom and took issue with Chen and his provocative behavior and withdrew its support.

What really happened, as readers of this blog know, is that Chen's "provocative" behavior was the result of a sustained campaign to discredit Chen's actions and suppress Taiwan's international space by China. Thus China was "provoked" whenever Chen took action in the international sphere to expand Taiwan's presence or promote an independent foreign policy. This policy of "being provoked" by Taiwan's democracy was highly successful, and as Bader and Paal approvingly note, eventually the US even took the lead in helping China to attack Taiwan's advocacy of its own international space. It was a sad moment for US foreign relations..... I also love the way that the article says Chen did the same thing as Saakashvili in "provoking" the Great Power next door -- except, of course, that Saakashvili launched an unprovoked attack on South Ossetia that involved mass killing of civilians and attacks on Russian peacekeepers there. Yes, that's right -- closing the National Unification Council is politically equivalent to shelling civilians.

Another hack occurs later on...

4) Geography matters. Small nations near large powers should not forget who their neighbors are. Cuba has not prospered through its 50 years of defiance of the United States. Taiwan's newly elected President Ma Ying-jeou seems to understand well that an improved relationship between Taiwan and China is essential to Taiwan's future security. In the absence of unambiguous security commitments from the United States, such as those enjoyed by countries like Japan, small states might best seek a balance to the strongest possible U.S. commitment to their defense and survival, hedged by a non-hostile relationship with their big power neighbor. Taiwan's example shows that prosperity and full-blown democracy can find their way in a tyrannical shadow.

Here Bader and Paal stand reality on its head. As we know, the DPP well knew that improved relations with China are essential to Taiwan's future security, which is why the party repeatedly offered to talk to Beijing, including peace talks. That is why they legalized China investment, set up exchange programs, negotiated on contacts ranging from direct flights to tourism, and so on. The problem was not the DPP, but China's consistent rejection of talks. Since Ma does not insist on either democracy or sovereignty for Taiwan, it is easy to see why China is willing to talk with him -- note that Bader and Paal simply ignore the fact that the real issue is differing views of sovereignty, not differing views of the need for good relations with China. A remark grossly unfair to the DPP and its foreign policy unit.

The advice is all good advice, of course; it's the intepretation of history that's the interesting part. And of course, the appearance of a connection between the Obama camp and Paal.

MEDIA NOTE: The article's endnote reads:
Mr. Bader is director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. Mr. Paal is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Observe that the article does not mention that Bader has business interests in China, nor that he is affiliated with the Obama camp (from what I've heard, corrections welcome). Paal used to be a V-P for JP Morgan after leaving the American Institute in Taiwan. Interestingly, Paal's Carnegie Endowment for Peace page on him does not mention that. Paal worked in the Bush, Reagan, Carter, and Ford Administrations, and was once a senior official for Asia in the National Security Council. The blurb at the end in fact is an excellent example of Ken Silverstein's remark in his excellent Harper's piece...
In 2005, Bader joined the Brookings Institution, and invariably this is the affiliation cited when he publishes op-eds or delivers speeches. Hence, readers and listeners must imagine that Bader is a neutral, impartial observer.....

8 comments:

Thomas said...

"Jeff Bader, longtime China specialist with many government positions, is an advisor to the Obama campaign"

And Biden is Obama's pick for VP. Enough said.

Haitien said...

As much as I can understand the desire for a U.S. administration that will be more friendly to Taiwan, if you're voting in the upcoming U.S. elections, it's your duty to vote for whomever will do a better job for America - not Taiwan.

As much as I'd like to see it, if Taiwanese can't be bothered to stand up for ourselves, we have no right to demand that the U.S. do it for us. Otherwise we're just the Republic of Vietnam redux - another 扶不起的阿斗.

Anonymous said...

Rumors are that former AIT Director Doug Paal -- now running the Carnegie Endowment's China Program -- has been working some kind of cross-Strait peace deal related to Chinese missiles and the Congressional notifications that are currently frozen.

Paal was in Taiwan in July with a group of scholars widely considered to be sympathetic to Beijing's interests. See:

http://thetaiwanlink.blogspot.com/2008/08/doug-paal-returns-to-taiwan.html

The Republicans have their fair share of Pandahuggers.

Anonymous said...

"Saakashvili launched an unprovoked attack on South Ossetia that involved mass killing of civilians and attacks on Russian peacekeepers there."....Georgia's response may have been a mistake but it was hardly unprovoked and the "mass killings" did not happen, as humanitarian and other outside observers have noted, when they made it to South Ossetia. You would think you of all folks would be a bit more sensitive to the disinformation generated by authoritarian regimes.

Eugene said...

I am afraid that the analogy between Russia/Georgia and China/Taiwan is entirely sound.

True, Chen didn't launch any attack on China, the way Saakashvilli did. However it is also true that S. Ossetia militia had been shelling Georgia prior to Saakashmilli's attack.

What Bader and Paal were trying to say is that the Russia/Georgia situation was a sign to come had the China/Taiwan relation deteriorated. The point of the article was that Chen was provoking China in a manner that may have led the China/Taiwan relation into the current nightmarish Russia/Georgia situation.

You might disagree with Bader/Paal's conclusion, but their analogy is sound.

Anonymous said...

Although DPP/Chen's government claimed to talk with Beijing yet what they actually did made the door to talk closed. They only wanted to talk with Beijing as nation-to-nation but this is definitely not what Beijing can accept.

Runsun said...

>>>>
Although DPP/Chen's government claimed to talk with Beijing yet what they actually did made the door to talk closed. They only wanted to talk with Beijing as nation-to-nation but this is definitely not what Beijing can accept.
<<<<

Oh yea, first you become my slave, then we can talk. By not agreeing to be my slave, you are responsible for no talk.

Very educational.

Michael Turton said...

What Bader and Paal were trying to say is that the Russia/Georgia situation was a sign to come had the China/Taiwan relation deteriorated. The point of the article was that Chen was provoking China in a manner that may have led the China/Taiwan relation into the current nightmarish Russia/Georgia situation.

You might disagree with Bader/Paal's conclusion, but their analogy is sound.


The analogy sucks, as I have comprehensively pointed out elsewhere. In fact it is backwards -- South Ossetia is more like Taiwan and Georgia like China, with Russia for the US.

The idea that Chen "provokes" China is basically a propagandist position, like arguing that Benes provoked Hitler.

Michael