The Nelson Report sent this around, responses to Bush as well as other comments.
UPDATE: Bush responded to the comments below in a subsequent issue of the Nelson Report:
To suggest that Tsai is misreading her adversary is not to "lament" (as some of your correspondents seem to feel); it's to suggest the need for realism. At that CSIS conference, I think Mike Green referred to "coercion", not "force". One could expand the list of issues (e.g. adding Hong Kong) by saying that in many/most cases, Xi has taken a hard line and expected the other side to back down and make concessions.
As to requests that I say what Obama should do...here's the last part of my essay on the Brookings blog:
THE TAIWAN DEBATE...following on our Report last week on the excellent CSIS conference with keynote speaker Shelly Rigger, and our quoting former AIT president (and Cap Hill colleague) Richard Bush this week, two notes from the "green" side of the equation, bearing in mind that Formosan Association of Public Affairs, home of the first correspondent, is not the DPP, the political party now seen as a mortal lock to return to the presidency in January, which follows.
Richard is on travel and may get back to us on this later in the week:
GERRIT VAN DER WEES:
I saw you posted Richard Bush's piece on the return of the Taiwan issue to US-China relations. I would agree with the main point that Bush seems to be making through this article: for Beijing to exercise restraint, and "watch the walk, not the talk."
Where I have a problem with this piece is on the one hand the tone and tenor, where he explains/describes the Beijing position as a principled given fact, and on the other hand the quite often not so helpful description of events / positions on the Taiwan side, giving the impression that it is Taiwan / Tsai Ing-wen that will have to adjust their position.
In particular the phrase "Beijing isn't buying the vagueness" and his description of "radical populist groups" are setting the tone in a very wrong fashion: with Taiwan's blue-imbued press this can easily lead to distorted headlines such as "American academic says DPP policies are vague" or "US analyst says third parties are radical." Precisely because Richard is in such a prominent / sensitive / delicate position he should know to avoid statements like that.
Tsai Ing-wen has been as clear as she can be: she is for "a consistent, predictable, and sustainable relationship with China" (her CSIS speech in June). The ball is now in China's court: Xi needs to show he is a responsible stakeholder and is willing and able to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Relations would indeed improve significantly if he accepts Taiwan as a friendly neighbor. Clinging to vague anachronistic concepts such as the "92 Consensus" is not helpful. Even Lee Teng-hui who was president in 1992 has stated repeatedly there was never a consensus in 1992. So one needs to move to new concepts that are more sustainable.
And the description of Taiwan's third force groups as "radical populist" is not very helpful either. They are about as "radical" as the Brookings Institution itself is ... in the views of those on the right fringe of the US political spectrum.
So, Richard has correctly described that there is a new political landscape in Taiwan, but it would be good if main thrust of the argument would be more in the direction that this newly democratic Taiwan presents an opportunity for China to elevate X-Strait ties and work towards normalization of relations, instead of the gloomy specter of souring relations across the Strait that pervades so much of the "thinking" in the thinktanks in Washington.
Gerrit van der Wees
Editor Taiwan Communiqué www.taiwandc.org
MIKE FONTE, DPP rep here, brings in yesterday's NSC brief, which we sent out in full last night:
Thanks for your reporting on conversations re. Taiwan and the possible DPP presidential and legislative victories in January. The CSIS/Brookings event provided much to chew on. In his Brookings post, Richard Bush, as always, did as well.
In front of the Xi Jinping visit, the Administration has reiterated its position re Taiwan and the upcoming elections. NSC Adviser Susan Rice was straightforward, as is her wont, on 9/21 at Georgetown: "Our fundamental interest is in peaceful and stable cross-Strait relations, and we oppose unilateral changes to the status quo by either side."
Dan Krittenbrink (9/22) expanded a shade on his boss' words:
First of all, we respect Taiwan's democratic process; we will not interfere in it. And as Ambassador Rice made clear yesterday, our longstanding position on cross-strait issues remains unchanged. The U.S. One-China policy based on both three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act remains unchanged. Our fundamental interest is in cross-strait stability. Those key elements there, those are our bottom lines. Those will not change. And any discussion on Taiwan cross-strait issues between our two presidents will take place along those lines.
Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel added this note:
And we will always make clear when the issue arises that we place great importance on the maintenance of stability across the strait, that we respect, as Dan said, the right of the people on Taiwan to exercise democratic rights, and we'll continue to counsel restraint on the part of Beijing in order to maintain and to build trust and stability there.
The DPP presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, made clear in her CSIS June speech that she is fully committed to a consistent, predictable, and sustainable relationship with China. She will push for the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people, based on the existing ROC constitutional order and the accumulated outcomes of more than twenty years of negotiations and exchanges.
Her finely wrought phrases show as much diplomatic finesse as the US position in the Communiqués where the US "acknowledges" but does not "recognize" the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China.
Restraint is her middle name and she will not make any unilateral changes, all the while striving to build trust with China and its leaders.
I do not think much credence should be given to Ho Syu-yin's CSIS note that Tsai might be swept up in the "momentum toward Taiwanese independence" which he discerns or in Richard's worry that "small radical populist groups motivated by anti-establishment and anti-China sentiments" might move Tsai into a dramatic response to punitive treatment by Beijing.
As Shelley Rigger noted at CSIS, while there is massive public sentiment against unification with the PRC under any current political circumstances, the great majority of Taiwanese are well aware that pushing for legal independence would be futile, and so counter-productive to everyone interests.
The Taiwanese body politic and Tsai Ing-wen as DPP presidential hopeful are well aware of the potential dangers ahead but determined, at the same time, to keep their cool and explore the opportunities as well.
Michael J. Fonte
Taiwan DPP Mission in the US
On direct US-China policy regarding Taiwan, Loyal Reader Joe Bosco in Real Clear World
One more item for the president's agenda--I'm sure he'll welcome it.
...When Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to Washington next week, will U.S. President Barack Obama again miss an opportunity to permanently deter conflict with China over Taiwan, as he and his predecessors have repeatedly done?
Obama is proud of accomplishing things no other president could achieve: health care reform, recognizing the Communist government of Cuba, and negotiating the Iran nuclear deal.
A Landmark Decision
During Xi's visit, the president can unilaterally announce a landmark decision that won't require either the concurrence of the U.S. Congress (which would support him on this issue in any event) or reciprocal action by the government of China. On his own, Obama could declare publicly that the United States will defend Taiwan against aggression or coercion from China...
Just a reminder on the claim of Richard Bush about "small radical populist groups motivated by anti-establishment and anti-China sentiments" -- those "small" groups had massive public support, not only in polls which showed support for the services pact hovering around 20%, but in the enormous public protest which was at least 400,000 by very conservative estimates, probably over 500K, and may have reached 700K. Word choice and framing are always interesting: the Sunflowers were neither anti-establishment nor anti-China, but pro-democracy and pro-Taiwan, so mainstream it was almost dull. With massive public support and peaceful methods, they were neither small nor radical -- radical is an interesting word choice, considering that they were opposed by individuals whose rise to power was aided by their party's use of state violence and coercion against pro-democracy groups. Those are never described using the term radical...
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