I made a plunge into the world of Taipei gossip and rumor, within which I have some relatively reliable sources. I heard, from the blue camp, a distinctly dispiriting account of the Ma administration. The government, so the analysis went, had staked, if not everything, then "ninety percent" on improving relations with China. Clearly, they had made some gains. On the trip home, I ran into a responsible American official who described the recent Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (aka ECFA, signed June 29) as "amazingly" favorable to Taiwan. Yet, little consideration, my Taiwan sources told me, had been given to the need for an alternative approach, should China prove uncooperative.Meanwhile Nat Bellocchi on the Status Quo:
Some among the blues said that even the ostensibly urgent appeals to the United States for advanced fighter aircraft and other weaponry had been undercut, via back channels that told the Washington administration that Taiwan did not really want approval of the weapons (this would have been before the sobering events of the summer). Other sources reported that the United States was aware of traffic between China and Taiwan that undercut the latter's public position. None of this seemed on the face of it implausible, given that when out of power the Kuomintang had stifled funding in the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan's parliament) for the Bush administration's unprecedented comprehensive arms sales offers to the island. Had they not done so new F-16s may already be flying in the skies over Taiwan.
The new cold breeze blowing from China, however, looks to have had some effect on Taiwan, and is likely to continue to do so. A foreigner who had recently met with a number of regional governments told me that in his opinion not one expected anything other than trouble from China in the years ahead. As already mentioned, Taiwan's government would seem to have slowed down the rate at which it has been embracing cooperation with China. As a coalition of other Asian states takes shape to counter-balance China, I argued in my presentation at the conference, it was unlikely that democratic Taiwan would take the side of a dictatorship against other democracies (among other things the military would never stand for this—I was told), and even more unlikely that the United States would seek to force a democratic country like Taiwan to make terms with a would-be regional hegemon.
However, during the administrations of former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), it was also used by the US to dampen initiatives that were perceived as “rocking the boat.”This was the same point I made a few days ago: the Status Quo evolved into a cage for Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui. But there was never any criticism of the Chinese missile build up in terms of the Status Quo. Now that Ma is in power and the KMT is sleeping with its pals from Beijing, there is no mention of the Status Quo at all. It has disappeared from the conversation.
The Status Quo was leverage. A tool, now tossed away.
Those bars of Status Quo could have imprisoned Ma just as effectively as they had Chen -- and been a moral bludgeon against Beijing. The US could have growled a few warnings, noting that Ma and the KMT had no majority support for the project of annexing Taiwan to China, and based them on the Status Quo. That now represents another blown opportunity -- now China is suddenly becoming more aggressive, and the KMT plan to put Taipei in China's orbit has stalled thanks to splits within his own party, as Waldron documents above, and effective opposition in the form of election defeats and low poll numbers. Had the US insisted on the Status Quo as a living policy, it might now be in a better position to re-incorporate Taiwan into the Japan-Taiwan-US security alliance.
Maybe it's not to late to start talking about the Status Quo. Could give those in the KMT and in the Ma Administration policy cover and the space to advocate a retrenchment at a greater distance from Beijing.
- New Chinese subs: aimed at the South China Sea
- China's Google Earth Copy says Arunachal Pradesh is part of China. How long before everyone realizes that we are now headed for war. How else can this end? Oh yeah, did i mention the growing strand of nutcakes who think China owns Okinawa now asserting themselves? That is why the Council on Foreign Relations' pious fretting about checking Chinese territorial moves is so obnoxious: it was precisely these elites who let China loose on the international system.
- 400 travelers stranded on the Suhua Highway. WTF let them go on that dangerous highway in a typhoon? A double failure of government and companies.
- Since EIAs, which have no teeth, aren't weak enough, a KMT legislator proposes a rule that lets companies ignore them. As if they weren't already.
- Taipei race still a tossup.
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