Saturday, January 24, 2009

The US Speaks on Taiwan

There's been much written on potential Obama policies here in East Asia, and the international media today focused on two small indicators. The first was Treasury nominee Tim Geither, who claimed that China was manipulating the yuan, and said that is what the President believed. Does that mean a new hard line on China? Probably not, since we are now 7 or 8 presidents into our engagement with China, and most have made similar noises, yet the sacrifice of long-term US strategic and economic interests to short-term business interests and the failure to push for democracy in China has continued unabated. This "hard line" is strictly for media consumption. It will have no effect on actual policy.

More interesting from Taiwan's point of view was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement yesterday that the US will support observer status in the WHA for Taiwan.

The administration of US President Barack Obama will continue to support Taiwan’s efforts to gain more international space, including becoming an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a recent statement.

The statement was made in response to an inquiry from senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Johnny Isakson of Georgia on Clinton’s stance on Taiwan’s WHA bid if she was confirmed as Washington’s top diplomat.
Wow! Taiwan can observe an assembly! A breakthrough!

Secretary of State Clinton said that it was important that China give a little, and observer status in the WHA, totally meaningless, will nevertheless be a tiny tiny step that all involved can celebrate as a gigantic diplomatic success. "China has given Taiwan a little space!" This will also be trumpeted by the Ma Administration as a demonstration of the wisdom of its policy of selling Taiwan out to China. A key question of WHA participation of course will be what Taiwan is called and whether it is treated as part of China, or given some quasi-independent status.

The real indicator of Obama policy is here: Clinton echoed the Bush foreign policy line that China ought to give Taiwan a little space, and that the US supports Taiwan's entry into the WHA. The foreign policy community loves the words stability and continuity, and that is what we are going to see from the Obama administration here in East Asia.

Also on the US front, William Lowther reports from Washington that two more US-based Taiwan experts, Randall Schriver and Michael Yahuda from my alma mater GWU, have added their names to the open letter to Ma Ying-jeou on the erosion of justice here in Taiwan:

Two important Taiwan experts based in Washington have added their names to the open letter published in the Taipei Times earlier this week expressing concern about what they see as an erosion of justice in Taiwan.

The new signatories are former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver and George Washington University academic Michael Yahuda.

In the original letter a group of international academics and writers urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to order an independent inquiry into the way police squashed protests during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).
My thanks go out to both of them.

For those interested in the new Obama world, International Affairs Forum has their latest read on it. It's a collection of essays on major areas of the world, and major issues. The China essay is by Harvey Feldman, the former ambassador here and a longtime observer of East Asia. He notes:
Indeed, Mr. Bush can boast in foreign affairs that he has established a vastly improved relationship with China. But it will take major and continuing efforts in both Beijing and Washington to keep that relationship from deteriorating during 2009 as economic stress builds.
Yes, well, that "improved relationship" came at the expense of Taiwan. It's easy to sacrifice old friends to make new friends -- real success would have been improving relations with China while not sacrificing Taiwan.

10 comments:

Taiwan Echo said...

"Does that mean a new hard line on China? Probably not, since we are now 7 or 8 presidents into our engagement with China, and most have made similar noises, yet the sacrifice of long-term US strategic and economic interests to short-term business interests and the failure to push for democracy in China has continued unabated"

That's true. But I feel that Obama is very different from average politician. The determination he displayed during the campaign to put the issue of energy-dependency as the top priority shows that he might be able to work toward a more visionary goal, but not tightened up by short-term gains.

Furthermore, when talking about the diplomacy in one of his debates, he acknowledged the problem that USA actually focus too much on very narrow part of the world, and mentioned a more global, more generalized plan should be applied. In that talk he actually mentioned China as one of the things USA should put in the radar, which is one of the very rare time I know of that China is mentioned during the entire presidential campaign.

Certainly, talks before being on that position and real actions thereafter could be quite different. But if Obama can't do it, I don't think any one else can.

Ah-Ben said...

"... real success would have been improving relations with China while not sacrificing Taiwan"

AMEN.

Do you think the US State Department is willingly blind to the shared intentions of the KMT/CCP or are they bedazzled by the snowstorm of utter lies and constructed 'reality' coming out of the KMT propaganda machine and thus unable to se the woods for the trees?

Anonymous said...

Taiwan doesn't even fulfill the conditions for WHA observer status. Taiwan really is only qualified to apply for full membership. Ridiculous what Taiwan has to put up with.

Raj said...

Wow! Taiwan can observe an assembly! A breakthrough!

Michael, the US could only support or oppose that. Would you prefer she said the latter? It's not like the US will support Taiwan doing one thing and then that's it. I think you have to give the Obama administration at least a chance even if in the end it isn't much different from what Bush did.

But there have been some supposedly Taiwan-friendly people lined up for the State Department - Kurt Campbell (assistant secretary of state on East Asia and Pacific Affairs) and Jim Steinberg (deputy secretary of state). That is surely if not great then a situation that doesn't harm Taiwan.

jerome said...

Ah-Ben said... "... real success would have been improving relations with China while not sacrificing Taiwan. AMEN. Do you think the US State Department is willingly blind to the shared intentions of the KMT/CCP or are they bedazzled by the snowstorm of utter lies and constructed 'reality' coming out of the KMT propaganda machine and thus unable to se the woods for the trees?”


Ah-Ben my friend, had you made the effort to pay attention to what came out of the US-DOS press releases over the years, you would have spared yourself the time involved in penning the above.

Rest assured Ah-Ben, that the US-DOS is well aware of its duties towards the Formosans under SFPT.

Over the years, NSC’s Dennis Wilder and Secretary of State Colin Powell, to name a few, have made it clear to everyone willing to listen that Taiwan is not at present a nation among nations and that the ROC is an undecided issue.

In 1952, the then ROC foreign minister, answering a LY hearing on the Taipei Treaty (an appendage of the SFPT), stated that they (Taiwan and Peng Hu) had not been transferred to us (the ROC).

Being that the SFPT and its sequel, the TRA, are the law of the land under the US Constitution and being that the US is a democracy upholding the rule of law, tell me, my friend, what is your worry?

Ah-Ben, as the real Formosan I believe you to be, I vouch you won’t fail to check the following key-words: Roger Lin, Richard Hartzel, Jeff Geer, Formosa Betrayed, S.F.P.T.. Learn, Ah-Ben, and spread the good word. AMEN.

Wulingren said...

Of course, Taiwan has been trying to get observer status and not succeeding.

Arty said...

Wow! Taiwan can observe an assembly! A breakthrough!

Easy comment to make considering Chen administration can't do it in freaking 8 years.

Democracy can't not be pushed or created with guns and ammo (i.e. Iraq). It takes time, and even when democracy is achieved, it is eternal vigilance. Go watch Jan. 22, 2009 "The Daily Show," it is classic.

Dixteel said...

The WHA thing (or anything related to that matter) has nothing to do with democracy, but everything to do with what China wants.

Of course it's very easy for China now to throw a bone to a dog. And indeed that's what the US is saying "hey, throw Taiwan a freaking bone, man."

The problem with some Taiwanese, especially Ma, is that they don't realize it's their full right to be part of WHA, and they will say "thank you, master, thank you for letting us into WHA. Thank you for giving us some bones, " which, no doubt, will be very emotional and move many to tears.

But that being said, I also realize there is nothing else Hillary can say at this situation anyway. I still have good expectation of Obama administration. But I hope more Taiwanese will have more dignity and backbones.

Anonymous said...

"Easy comment to make considering Chen administration can't do it in freaking 8 years."

It's so easy to hear the political talk show Chinese in your comments. Unoriginal and spoon-fed. I could watch TV instead of reading your lifeless comments.

Ma Ying-jeou didn't achieve this either. China allowed for it to happen. And they allowed it to happen because China has stepped up its rhetoric lately and Ma, unlike Chen, refuses to confront China discursively.

Ma promised Taiwan 一中各表. All we got is 一中. Ma promised mutual non-denial. Since Ma's inauguration as president, China outspokenly, repeatedly denies any legitimacy to the democratically elected govt in Taiwan or leave any room for an interpretation of a sovereign ROC.

If Ma Ying-jeou continues to cup China's balls and say nothing, then of course China will give Taiwan WHA observer status.

The DPP administration was not willing to put up with that. Most Taiwanese do not agree with Ma's China policies either (see latest polls).

Most things in politics are not impossible, but they are not without price.

Arty said...

Ma Ying-jeou didn't achieve this either. China allowed for it to happen. And they allowed it to happen because China has stepped up its rhetoric lately and Ma, unlike Chen, refuses to confront China discursively...Most things in politics are not impossible, but they are not without price.

No kidding, I personally find this comment "unoriginal and spoon-fed. I could watch TV instead of reading your lifeless comments." Of course it comes with a price; however, it is matter of opinion on is it worth it or not. Is Taiwan moving forward? Yes, but maybe at a price. Is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not.

I hardly find anonymous comments with personal attacks worth even two cents. You can hold on to your rigid ideologies just don't cry for helps (to the US) when you screw up in Taiwan.