Friday, November 06, 2009

The Once and Future US Retreat on China's Colonial Expansion?

Apologies for the light blogging; just swamped with work this week.

The US State Department's latest version of its background notes on Taiwan are out, so it is appropriate that we glance at US-Taiwan-China relations....

The Taipei Times hosted a commentary today from former Japanese diplomat Hisahiko Okazaki. Its major point:
Through the 37-year history of US-China engagement, the US has consistently retreated in the war of semantics about Taiwan. The US has been unable to muster points against the steel wall of one-party dictatorship. It lost inch-by-inch every time. Each time, however, Washington reassured the US public that its position hadn’t changed.

How deceptively the US position had eroded can be seen in the comments made by Clinton. He began his remarks on the “three nos” by stating that he was reiterating US policy on Taiwan but not specifying the time of the previous remarks, whether it was during his meetings in Beijing or much earlier. Then national security adviser Sandy Berger said the US had simply repeated its basic position.

In fact, the US has consistently shifted its position. It started with an admirably objective statement by then national security adviser Henry Kissinger in 1972: “The US 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 piece isn't bad in its intent, but that last paragraph is completely wrong. The Kissinger statement marks the beginning of the retreat, not the last outpost of sanity, for Nixon had agreed to throw Taiwan under a large public transportation vehicle (see here, here for fascinating Nixon/Kissinger exchange on Taiwan independence movement)....
However, accounts of President Nixon's secret talks with PRC Premier Zhou Enlai in China in 1972 reported that Nixon made promises on the question of Taiwan in return for diplomatic normalization that went beyond the communique issued at the end. The Carter Administration later called the promises: "Nixon's Five Points." Also, according to Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth's March 1999 testimony, Nixon pledged no U.S. support for Taiwan independence (second time after Kissinger's 1971 promise): "We have not and will not support any Taiwan independence movement." With the release on December 11, 2003, of declassified memoranda of conversation of the secret talks between Nixon and Zhou, there was confirmation that Nixon stated as first of Five Principles that "there is one China, and Taiwan is a part of China. There will be no more statements made -- if I can control our bureaucracy — to the effect that the status of Taiwan is undetermined." (source)
The Nixon-Kissinger dialogue linked above highlights another ridiculous aspect of the Shanghai Communique: nobody consulted the people of Taiwan. If you don't consult the people whose fates you are deciding, you can't blame them for refusing to go along. In fact Washington's position hasn't changed: the status of Taiwan is undetermined, as it most recently reiterated in 2007 when UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon rejected Chen Shui-bian's letter. What has changed is the obfuscation that swirls around that position, as well as the strategic calculus in Asia, and of course, the effectiveness of PRC propaganda.

Meanwhile SCMP reported today that the Chinese want Obama to sell out Tibet:
Diplomats from the world's two most influential nations are still negotiating details of the summit between Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao. The Chinese side has suggested Obama state that "Tibet is part of China's territory and the US opposes Tibetan independence", the Chinese envoys say.

Obama will visit Shanghai and Beijing between November 15 and 18. An agreement on this most sensitive political issue would be a triumph for Beijing and could help end deadlock on strategic issues, though human rights campaigners and the US Congress would be bound to criticise it.
The article says that while it is not likely Obama will make a public declaration, a behind-closed-doors agreement is not out of the question. Brrr.....
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Thomas said...

The problem is that most US politicians don't care about Taiwan any more than it suits their geopolitical project of the day. Eisenhower cared in the 50s despite fearing a war started by Chiang because Taiwan was a bullwark against China. Taiwan earned a respite during the Vietnam War because Taiwan was a base for operations. Taiwan had a brief shining moment during the late 90s and early 00s because it was democratic and easy to defend. Apart from that, how many US politicians care? On the other end, it is a must-have-or-die issue for most Chinese. It makes sense that US politicians would retreat.

The only thing that would change that would be a shift in world view regarding China (a new evil empire), a crumbling of China, or a relative lessening of China's economic power.

When will any of those things happen, absent a US administration that really is interested in preserving democracies? They're possible, but not likely. So this crap continues, and who know WTF Obama will say in BJ?

Anonymous said...

That dude about the restaurants wanted to show off his Chinese but he makes a small mistake. It's not "hundred-year-old-store", it's "hundred-year, old store" or alternatively "hundred-year-old, old store". And store is not so much a literal translation as it is a bad one. The Chinese for that means stores + restaurants.

Richard said...

Never could quite pin-point what was so special about the burgers in Taiwan, but they indeed have a distinct taste from those in the US. Maybe it's the type of buns they use, that semi-sweet kind. I don't know, but it sure does taste good!

Anonymous said...

The US created the taiwan problem and shd solve it.It is so because the US is stronger than China now.When China has attained parity,its a matter of time,the US will have to find a face saving way to exit.No matter how much the US spends on defence the pla will upgrade. At the moment the US has an assured destruction capability .It can destroy China  x times .The PLa are upgrading  so that they too will have an assured destruction capability maybe in twenty/thirty/x years time.If the US wants to tangle with China now they would escape total destruction maybe 30 to 50% of US would be ruined.This is sufficient to cause any US president to pause before ordering a nuclear atttack on china. Even with the missile shield the PLA will make sure at least ten n missiles will reach US homeland.