Thursday, October 08, 2009

Good Writing and Good News

The Ma Administration is feeling the sting of foreign criticism, responding to an editorial criticizing the Rebiya Kadeer vsa denial in the Asian Wall Street Journal with this letter. It's a wonderful bit of evasive nothing:
First, the decision of not allowing Ms. Kadeer to visit Taiwan has been made in accordance with Article 18 of Chapter 4 of the Immigration Act, "Entry of Aliens and Exit of Aliens." This article stipulates that the National Immigration Agency shall prohibit an alien from entering the ROC if he/she is believed to endanger national interests or public security. This does not mean, however, that the ROC government disrespects freedom of expression. Indeed, the documentary about Ms. Kadeer's life has been shown at many venues in Taiwan.
Note that the government more or less blandly affirms that Kadeer has terrorist links and claims it carried out the action in accordance with some vague law. The letter then indignantly attempts to rebut WSJ's argument that the KMT Administration is aping Beijing's authoritarian ways. Ironic, in light of the latest kow-tow yesterday to Beijing, in which the government changed TAIWAN WELCOMES THE NBA to TAIPEI WELCOMES THE NBA. Excellent work by the WSJ.

Another good piece making the rounds was a surprisingly good op-ed by Philip Bowring in the NYTimes yesterday:

The most striking evidence of a desire to please Beijing — at the expense of the liberal values which have gained Taiwan much praise in recent years — was the denial of entry to the exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. This was done in the name of “national interest,” apparently linked to the finalization, expected soon, of a memorandum of understanding on cross-strait financial links.

For sure, the memorandum would be a major advance, enabling banks in particular to escape the confines of Taiwan, with its low growth and surplus savings, for the fast-growing mainland. And it would bring more mainland capital to local stocks and property. But the government of President Ma Ying-jeou may have forgotten that Taiwan’s national interest as an independent state, albeit one that may one day merge with the mainland, sometimes requires sacrifices. The degree of autonomy that Rebiya Kadeer has been seeking for Uighurs is a fraction of that enjoyed by Taiwan or even Hong Kong.

Bowring stays within the bounds of conventional establishment readings of Taiwan (financial agreement is good, Chen Shui-bian "provoked" Beijing) but he points out that Taiwan is moving closer to China than need be -- and how often do commentators notice that?? -- and also raises the issue of the worrying anti-democracy developments on the island. Wonderful job!

Still, the piece closes on an entirely conventional note:
None of this is likely to help Taiwan’s relations with its main supporter, the United States. Chen upset a natural ally in George W. Bush by needlessly provoking Beijing in an attempt to score political points at home. Now the KMT seems to have gone to the other extreme....
"...needlessly provoking Beijing..." The error here is profound, and I've discussed it before, but let's say it again: since all pro-Taiwan activity "provokes" Beijing, the idea of "needless provoking" is nonsense. Being provoked is a policy choice for Beijing, not a visceral reaction. Note how different the discussion is when China pulls the same crap with India -- issuing special visas (as with Taiwan) and claiming that everyone in Arunachal Pradesh is "Chinese". Yet only a madman would claim that India "provokes" China. It's true: Taiwan is unique.

Bowring also adds:
Taiwan lacks a strategic view of itself and how to balance relations with the Chinese mainland, the United States and the global economy with liberal democracy and de facto independence.
A nation can probably balance liberal democracy and global economic participation, but the sad fact is, the closer Taiwan moves to China, the farther it moves from democracy. Commentators haven't yet grasped that. They will.

More important is the charge that Chen Shui-bian screwed up US-Taiwan relations. This is often stated by US officials, but recall that the Bush Administration lowered relations with Taiwan and refused to sell it weapons in Bush's second term, leading to Taiwan supporters to charge Bush had instituted a veritable freeze. The Bush Administration found Chen a convenient whipping boy for that catastrophe disguised as a US government was also out to kow-tow to China. Chen was only partly to blame for the problems in US-Taiwan relations.

The Obama Administration demonstrated how far the Bush Administration had gone when the news came out yesterday that for the first time since the Clinton Administration, a US cabinet official was going to visit Taiwan. Gen Shinseki, currently Sec of Veterans Affairs, will be coming. This welcome development is in stark contrast to the Bush Administration's eight years of neglect and attempts to curry favor with China. The attempts to placate China have not yet run their course -- witness the President's refusal to meet the Dalai Lama -- but I suspect even the most ardent Sinophile in that Administration will eventually come around.
Daily Links:
SPECIAL: Rethink Afghanistan, huge new documentary asking the nation to reconsider that stupid war. $300 billion annually so our leaders can feel like they run a Great Power.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Thomas said...

"The attempts to placate China have not yet run their course -- witness the President's refusal to meet the Dalai Lama -- but I suspect even the most ardent Sinophile in that Administration will eventually come around."

Out of curiosity, why do you expect this? That Obama and his administration seem to be getting very little in exchange from the Chinese for their repeated attempts to placate Beijing is clear. However, I think the larger problem is that the political, business and media establishments are still chock full of those who imagine that China will act in US interests if only it is treated nicely.

This was the same mentality that drove Nixon/Kissinger to sell out the ROC initially and which motivated president after president to play nice with the dragon. Sometimes it almost seems as though China relations are a chronic personality disorder or addiction. Ephemeral happiness/benefits will come with just one hit more.

Anonymous said...

If they had the sign up as Taipei welcomes the NBA at the beginning, I doubt it would've been controversial. But covering up Taiwan in favor of Taipei in a last minute rush? Wow, since when did Taiwan become a dirty word? They are showing themselves for the disgusting lowlifes that they are.

Ben Goren said...

Now apparently Obama IS going to meet the Dalai Lama - just after he's been to Beijing to pay tribute. This is all especially tragically comic since it has been noted that China didn't even request that the President not meet the DL .. but Washington flinched anyway .... talk about kow tow ....

Anonymous said...

Don't blame Obama. The Dalai is too late for Katrina .

Anonymous said...

Using Taipei sign maybe a contractual issue with NBA.

Sneaking the Taiwan sign was a good try :)