Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Taiwan: the Tail that Wags Dogs

A friend of mine pointed me to this piece, Taiwan: the Tail that Wags the Dog, written last year by retired Admiral Michael McDevitt and promulgated by the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). NBR is an Establishment public policy think tank whose list of supporters includes people like Clinton Administration figure Brent Scowcroft and former CIA Taiwan desk and CRS Taiwan desk head Robert Sutter. The governing and advisory boards present many familiar names, including Nicholas N. Eberstadt, Robert Gilpin, Nicholas Lardy, Kenneth Lieberthal, Robert Scalapino, and John M. Shalikashvili.

The fascinating thing about this essay is its main idea, here cited from the executive summary:

This essay explores how Taiwan has been able to seize the political initiative from China, Japan, and the United States.

Main Argument
Taiwan has attained this leverage due to the interrelationship of four factors:

*Strategic considerations stemming from Taiwan's geographic position lead Tokyo and Washington to prefer the status quo, while leading China to strive for reunification. China's increasing military power, however, may suggest a Chinese intention to change the status quo.

*Shared democratic values and the fact that the "democracy issue" has greatly prolonged the timetable for reunification give Taipei political influence in both Washington and Tokyo.

*China’s constant threats of force actually empower Taipei in its relationship with Washington, and cause the United States to plan for the worst.

*Taiwan is a litmus test of U.S. credibility as an ally, a condition that in turn creates a perception on the island that U.S. military backing is unconditional.

I decided not to fall down laughing at the idea that Taiwan has "seized the initiative" from the three largest economies in the world, including a global superpower and the two most powerful and influential nations in Asia. Go, Grand Fenwick! It appears that like many who write on this topic, the author has mistaken Taiwan's responses to intiative-seizing by China for seizing of the initiative itself.

One thing that stands out in the executive summary is the way the author has adopted the language and thinking of the Chinese side to describe policy goals -- using reunification, which accepts that Taiwan is part of China, instead of the nuetral annexation. Even the US Establishment papers have by and large curbed their use of that framing. For example, consider how carefully Edward Cody of the Washington Post positioned his description recently:

But others predicted a bold move to revive support among the many Taiwanese who believe that their homeland should be independent in law as well as fact despite China's resolve to absorb it into the mainland.

Absorb is an excellent word that not only avoids a political judgment, but accurately describes China's long-term strategy.

Taiwan is a headache for the foreign policy Establishment since its ornery democracy that insists on an independence of its own interferes with smooth relations with China (translation: Big Profits), and thus, much of the writing that comes out of Establishment institutions on Taiwan consists of attempts to find a language and a stance that rationalizes the writer's cognitive dissonance as he, usually a decent human being, discusses how democratic Taiwan can best be betrayed to Communist China. Often this involves blaming Taiwan for being "provocative," thus inviting the reader to subconsciously adopt the point of view that Taiwan is an obstreporous child in need of discipline, and deserves its fate. Reading such stuff, one is reminded of Jan Masaryk's visit to Downing Street after the infamous surrender at Munich, where he told Chamberlain and Halifax: "If you have sacrificed my nation to preserve the peace of the world, I will be the first to applaud you. But if not, gentlemen, God help your souls."

The paper summarizes how Taiwan pulled off the amazing feat of seizing the initiative from Washington and Beijing as:

Unfortunately, the way by which a small nation of only 23 million people has been able to accomplish this feat of diplomatic jujitsu is by stoking the coals of Taiwanese nationalism on the island to a point just short of crisis with the PRC. Washington and Tokyo have not been amused by the willingness of Taipei to play diplomatic “chicken” with Beijing because the stakes of a miscalculation by either side are so high for all concerned. The purpose of this paper is to explore this situation and consider alternatives that could reduce the possibility of Taiwanese “provocations” eliciting great power responses.

This is bog-standard KMT propaganda -- the "Mad Chen" and Taiwanese Nationalism will doom us all! -- and it is sad to see it presented as "analysis." Those of us who were actually here in 2004 and 2005 (the period under discussion) do not remember a point "just short of a crisis." We remember the outflows of investment and inflows of goods, the increasing integration of the two economies, the beginnings of Chinese tourism in Taiwan and the talks over direct links, the visits to China by Lien Chan and other pro-China politicians from Taiwan, the flow of culture across the Strait, and many other things that bespoke of ordinary, if wary, relations between the two states. It is important to reiterate that the real madmen who will start a war occupy desks in Beijing, not Taipei. It is China that has pledged to plunge the region into war if it cannot annex Taiwan, not Taipei, a point McDevitt does forcefully acknowledge later in the paper (and all credit to him, too).

The paper opens with a section covering the strategic importance of Taiwan to the three powers. These arguments -- the Taiwan that is the cork in the bottle of Chinese regional sea control, the Taiwan that sits astride Japan's southern sea lanes. One interesting item is this footnote to this discussion of the annexation of Okinawa by Japan....
As early as 1879, when Tokyo asserted sovereignty over the Ryukyu kingdom by unilaterally annexing this island chain, Japanese strategists recognized the importance of having control over the islands spread along the major sea lanes between Japan and Southeast Asia.

McDevitt writes:

The Ryukyu kingdom had been a Chinese tributary since 1372 and concurrently a district of the Southern Japanese Satsuma domain since 1609. When negotiations between Tokyo and Peking to resolve the status proved fruitless, Japan unilaterally annexed them. See S.C.M. Paine, The Sino-Japanese War of 89 – 895: Perceptions, Power and Primacy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 90–91.

Fascinatingly, McDevitt completely leaves out the fact that Okinawa was an independent kingdom and was never ruled by China, instead, implying that Okinawa was indeed ruled by China! I suppose, if we are writing about how best to suppress pesky independence demands, it is a good idea not to mention the other islands that were once independent in the area.

Another puzzling contradiction of Establishment writing on Taiwan is the simultaneous claim that China supports "the status quo" (like pornography, we know the Status Quo when we see it....) while at the same time, noting that China is dramatically upsetting the "Status Quo". McDevitt does not fall into this trap, however, for he notes in his opening remarks that China will change the Status Quo.

The PLA's single-minded focus on Taiwan in recent years has, however, given the PLA the military capabilities necessary to reach Taiwan in a way that was not possible in earlier decades. The Chinese military is beginning to match Taiwan's qualitatively superior capabilities with equally, or nearly as advanced, Russian systems. As the December 2004 PRC defense white paper makes clear, the PLA is investing more in naval and air forces for the express purpose of establishing air and sea control over the seaward approaches to the PRC. If not balanced by increased U.S and Taiwanese capabilities, the PLA's modernization will inevitably change the defense equation for both Taiwan and the United States.

Instead, McDevitt falls into the other contradiction, that of asserting that the Mad Taiwan Government is the problem even while conceding that China is indeed giving every appearance of wanting to annex Taiwan by force. The real message sent in such discourse is that Taiwan should shut up and accept its fate.

Foreign policy establishment discourse on Taiwan has absorbed the KMT view of history, with its especial esteem of that murderer Chiang Ching-kuo. Thus McDevitt writes:

In 1986 President Chiang Ching-kuo decided to gradually rollback Kuomintang (KMT) authoritarian rule in Taiwan. Once in place, these political reforms resulted in a fairly rapid dismantlement of the institutions of repression.

One day in 1986, bored and hungover, Chiang decided it would be a good idea to completely reverse the course the KMT had taken for the previous forty years. "Durn, I'm tired of all the paperwork involved in political repression. Not to mention the ulcer and the complaints from my wives and mistresses. And my uncle still bitches about the time I had to imprison him. I think I'll just give the order now. What the heck, eh? Sentences like this that banish to the nether regions years of democracy agitation on the part of both mainlanders and locals betray information sources that are highly warped. It would have been far more truthful to acknowledge the democracy movement as the cause of democratization, and not to mention Chiang at all. Why not write an equally simple statement like "After many years of activism, opposition parties were finally legalized and martial law lifted in the mid 1980s"...

Of the four factors that McDevitt says have enabled Taipei seize the initiative, one was democracy:

The advent of democracy in Taiwan has also made it much more politically difficult for Washington to push Taipei into a unification dialogue in order to bring an end to Washington's 50-year security obligation. One of the most significant consequences of democracy took place in 1991, when Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui approved a set of Guidelines for National Reunification. In retrospect, this change put the island on a very different political trajectory in that Taipei dropped the pretense that the ROC represented the only legitimate government of China. As long as the PRC and the ROC each claimed to represent the true Chinese state and each aimed to reunify the country under its own political model, there was no dispute regarding concepts of "one China." Each side asserted it would end the Chinese civil war by "recovering" the territory occupied by the other.

Instead, Taipei's new guidelines accepted the PRC as the legitimate government of the part of China that Beijing controlled. This move effectively nullified the underlying premise of the 1972 Shanghai Communique that "Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that it is a part of China." As Harry Harding has stated, "Taiwan basically abandoned the vision of one country, one legitimate government that had been pursued by Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo, and for that matter Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping." The 1991 Guidelines for National Reunification softened the political blow of backing away from the old formulation of "one China" by stating that the ROC still envisioned a "one country, one system" future but only when the PRC had become"democratic, free, and equitably prosperous"—just like Taiwan.

This seems to make a kind of sense, until you realize how deeply unethical it is, and how much history it ignores. The heart of it lies in this sentence:

This move effectively nullified the underlying premise of the 1972 Shanghai Communique that "Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that it is a part of China."

Whoa! McDevitt does not add that prior to the Shanghai Communique the US position was that the status of Taiwan was undetermined (the ethically, democratically, and politically appropriate position). McDevitt does not add that Shanghai Communique was a memorandum of understanding among two governments about the status of Taiwan, neither of whom was the legitimate owner of the island, and none of whom consulted its people about its disposition. If don't get the consent of those whose lives and property you dispose of, you are hardly in a position to complain if they later decide your plans are worthless. But then the Czechs were not invited to Munich either....

In other words, Taiwan democracy is not the problem here. The problem is that the original plan to sell out Taiwan to China failed to take into account the wishes of the people of Taiwan, and policymakers are now paying the price for their urgent need to enjoy that feeling of Playing God with Other People's Lives. It was easy in 1972 to anticipate that the Taiwanese would take steps to avoid being annexed by China if given democracy, as that was known to both the Chiang government and to US policymakers (lobbying for Taiwan independence began in the 1960s, and there were numerous public and secret reports that gave accurate accounts of the island's political attitiudes). McDevitt represents a foreign policy establishment that resembles a man who becomes infuriated that the marriage he arranged for his daughter to make himself rich has been rejected by her.

Essentially, this analysis simply blames the people of Taiwan for the errors of US foreign policy decisionmakers. Had the US maintained its original position that "the status of Taiwan is undefined", it would currently have a great deal more strategic flexibility and it would still retain the moral high ground. It would not be locked into the clearly unacceptable goal of "pushing Taipei into a unification dialogue in order to bring an end to Washington's 50-year security obligation." Kissinger, not Taipei, trapped Washington in this moral and political nightmare where it has to sell out a democratic state to an authoritarian dictatorship.

This lack of understanding of Taiwan's situation is reflected in paragraphs like this:

Ten months after the March 2004 election in Taiwan, Chen himself suffered a political setback. In the December 2004 parliamentary elections, the people of Taiwan did not grant President Chen and his pan-Green coalition the majority in the Legislative Yuan that Chen was seeking. The election results were a relief to many China and Taiwan experts in the United States, both in and out of government, because the results seemed to demonstrate that the people of Taiwan were willing to restrain President Chen and his pan-Green alliance from going too far and risking conflict with the PRC.

I doubt there were very many people who voted for their local legislator with the idea that they were restraining the Mad Chen Shui-bian and his Violent Greens. Taiwanese people think and vote locally, and give every appearance of being blissfully unaware of the effects that their local votes may have on foreign policy, with the gigantic exception of the Three Links with China. Too, if voters wanted to "restrain" Chen all they had to do was not elect him in the first place (duh). The truly bizarre aspect of this is that McDevitt writes as if nothing restrains Chen but fortuitous circumstances -- as if he were happy to have his people mained and killed and his island blown to bits, and the region plunged into war and madness. Does anyone really believe that if the Greens had possessed a majority in 2004 that we would be heading toward war now? The idea is self-evidently absurd. Chen knows perfectly well, as every serious politician on the island does, that independence is not an option at the moment, and that Taiwan has very little strategic space, and that anything might provoke the (real) madmen in Beijing to plunge the region into war because the idea of an independent Taiwan is unacceptable.

Similar wording appears throughout the article. A few paragraphs down McDevitt explores China's threats against Taiwan, and writes:

The Chen administration would prefer to change the status quo peacefully, ideally with the blessing of Beijing or even unilaterally without the risk of war. Taiwan's ruling government is inhibited from doing so because Beijing will not agree to a peaceful separation.

It seems like a fine affirmation of the ultimate reasonableness of the Chen Administration, until you think about that "would prefer to change the status quo peacefully" with its implied concomittant "but they will do so regardless." McDevitt writes a bit further down:

The combination of growing military capabilities on one side of the Taiwan Strait and an energetic, highly nationalist democracy on the other side creates a powerful incentive for Beijing to employ its new capabilities. To discourage the use of force, either Chen Shui-bian must stop inciting the PRC or Beijing must consider alternative approaches.

It's Chen's fault again. Stop struggling and lie still you fool! McDevitt stops short of blaming Taiwan for the PRC's military modernization, but he does manage to blame Taiwan for making things worse:

This strategy has, however, had some success. Because of Taipei’s incremental approach toward creating a separate Taiwanese political identity, Beijing’s policy has changed focus from promoting reunification to simply preventing Taiwanese independence. Taipei’s short-term success may in fact signal a pyrrhic victory, however, since these gains have provided focus and a sense of urgency for PRC military modernization and, as a result, is increasing the prospect of cross-Strait conflict.

The PRC's long march toward a modern military began with its poor performance in the invasion of Vietnam in 1979, after which Deng sacked leaders, streamlined the military's administration, brought in a more combined arms approach, and initiated various other reforms. As the economy grew, and Communism's hold over the population collapsed, the PRC began a policy of stoking Chinese nationalism. Given that (1) official policy is more nationalistic; (2) the military is stronger; and (3) China's massive economy growth is giving it dreams of global superstardom, it is hard to imagine a situation in which it would not be gunning for Taiwan at this juncture in history. China's long-term goal is to displace the Washington-Tokyo alliance as the governing alliance of the region, and taking Taiwan is one way to do that. During the 1980s there was no democracy here, and no public sense of a Taiwan identity, but even still China pursued a policy of annexation.

McDevitt's own review of strategy, where he notes the strategic importance of Taiwan to China, undercuts his argument that it is Taipei's behavior that is giving the PLA "urgency and focus." China's desire to annex the island is expansionism no different from Russia's desire to have a warm-water port at the expense of its neighbors. The strategic importance of Taiwan is such that China would always want to possess it. Indeed, the demand for it at Cairo, as well as the numerous books and articles written prior to that meeting by Chinese intellectuals and political and strategic theorists, all show that annexing Taiwan was a key goal of intelligent and expansion-oriented Chinese thinkers throughout the twentieth century. The desire to annex Taiwan should also be seen against the backdrop of PRC and ROC claims to islands in the South China Sea and in other nearby waters. If only those crabs in the tidal pools of the Spratlys would stop inciting longtime Taiwan and PRC observer June Tefel Dreyer noted a while back:

In 1995 the government of the Philippines discovered that the PRC had constructed bunkers and radar installations on Mischief Reef, which Manila lays claim to, and also installed boundary markers fifty miles off the Philippines’ Palawan province to demarcate the limit of its exclusive economic zone. Beijing replied to Manila’s protests by saying that the structures were for the use of its fishing people. Then-president Fidel Ramos, a West Point graduate, escorted a tour of the structures for the press, pointing out to the militarily uninitiated that these were not installations for fishing folk. He also ordered the destruction of the boundary markers, prompting Beijing to accuse the Philippines of bullying the People’s Republic of China, warn it against involving the United States or the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) in the issue, and state that the restraint shown by the PRC shown over the Spratlys could not be permanent. This rhetoric was slightly softened when Beijing suggested talked on fishing rights.

A few weeks later, the government of Indonesia announced it had come into possession of a Chinese map showing the Natuna Islands as part of China’s exclusive economic zone. Since the Natunas, which contain rich gas deposits, have been under Indonesian jurisdiction, there was great concern in Jakarta. The foreign minister was sent to Beijing, where he was told that the Chinese government did not claim the islands. He was not, however, told how the map came to exist.

Gosh, do you think the government of Indonesia incited China to claim the Natuna Islands?

The final bit of leverage McDevitt says Taipei has over US is the US desire to appear credible to its allies:

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the credibility issue concerns the perception in Taipei. Taiwan authorities seem to have convinced themselves that, regardless of the circumstances, they can count on U.S. intervention should China attack. On a number of occasions during visits to Taipei, I have been told that the United States would not dare to stand aside due to worries of a loss of credibility — even if Taiwan had provoked the crisis. The importance of U.S. regional credibility would weigh too heavily.

I wish he had taken the time to explain who had made such comments and in what contexts. Sadly, McDevitt does not tell us. McDevitt then goes on to write:

Whether or not such impressions are correct, the illusion of unconditional U.S. backing frees Taipei from the precautionary measures of thinking through the consequences of provoking the PRC.

It's hard to take a sentence this stupid seriously enough to comment on it. The idea that Taipei is "free from" the "precautionary measures of thinking through the consequences of provoking the PRC" is absurd -- such consequences are discussed openly every day in the media, the national security council and other concerned government organs publish reports on them, there are military exercises held to simulate Chinese invasions, and so on. Even further, there are several major political parties who regularly and energetically debate the consequences of Taipei's China policy, and further, every politician on the island knows that the public supports the current neither-fish-nor-fowl independence of Taiwan. Once again, McDevitt returns to the theme of Chen-as-madman. The lack of local context for the paper prevents McDevitt from seeing how strange this sentence looks to those of us who actually live here where the Chen Administration's policies are the subject of unremitting partisan debate (and cannot be implemented because the legislature is controlled by the opposition). The continued presence of the Chen-as-madman scenario also bespeaks too much time spent listening to pro-China and pro-KMT thinking on the Taiwan issue. Time for some new perspectives in the foreign policy establishment, I think.

This is not to say that everything in this essay is bad. The conclusion contains some very insightful thinking that should have been more clearly detailed in the paper. Consder this:

The PRC’s threat to use force is the third and most important factor addressed by this paper. Beijing must certainly realize by now that while the threat of force is enough to scare the Taiwanese away from a declaration of independence, it is not enough to make the island desire reunification. In fact, the threat of force actually contributes to a perpetuation of the status quo. Over the long term, the threat of force is a losing proposition. It militarizes the situation and makes the prospect of great power conflict over Taiwan a very real possibility. The PRC’s growing global influence provides Beijing with a credible substitute for a militant policy as a way to deter Taiwan independence. By backing away from overt pledges of using force, China would also reduce the threat of conflict with both the United States and Japan over Taiwan. While not being able to resolve the issue of reunification, a diplomatic approach would go a long way toward demilitarizing the issue.

I would have liked to see that idea fleshed out. Unfortunately this is all a pipe dream -- Taiwan does not want to be part of China, and as McDevitt notes, only the credible threat of force makes the Taiwanese sit up and pay attention to China's demands. Hence China cannot demilitarize the issue, because to do so is to accept the idea that Taiwan will maintain its current status independent of Those Who Would Play God in Beijing.

McDevitt also makes this interesting point:

On balance, the fact that Taipei has been able to manipulate the PRC, the United States, and (to a lesser extent) Japan, is not a desirable situation for any of the three major powers involved. By subtly changing the status quo so that all three major powers are now committed to preserving it, Taipei may have actually introduced some stability into the situation. Much remains to be done, however, in order to ensure that Taipei’s strategy does not further change the status quo in a way that would precipitate a war.

In a paper where he has argued that the US role is to push Taipei to negotiate over annexation with China, and that China gives every appearance of wanting to violently annex Taiwan, McDevitt's assertion that all three powers are "committed" to preserving the status quo is absurd. It is also interesting that McDevitt argues here that Taipei may have introduced some stability into the status quo -- interesting because it implies that the status quo is fundamentally unstable. Further, he says that this is undesirable -- undesirable -- for Taiwan to stabilize the situation by "manipulating" Beijing, Washington, and Tokyo (Go, Grand Fenwick!). Apparently instability free of Taipei's horrible machinations is the preferred alternative here. Or perhaps Taipei's ability to move events is a signal that the foreign policy establishments of those countries are too incompetent to achieve such a stability on their own. Or -- here's a thought -- maybe it is a signal that Taipei exists and ought to have a say in its own fate, so that when that fate is realized, there won't be any complaints that the island doesn't accept the role that others have created for it without its consent. McDevitt's suggests that when Chen asserts Taiwan's interests he is "inciting," and when Taiwan attempts to have a say in what happens to it, it is "manipulating." But Taipei is not "manipulating" the three most powerful countries in the world -- it is conducting foreign policy -- a foreign policy that many here see as almost futile (it is comical to shift between the local perspective that Taiwan's foreign policy is a failure and a joke, a common tune in the media here and abroad, and McDevitt's assertion that Taiwan is a success making fools of Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo).

The lack of an understanding of the local situation here also shows in McDevitt's presentation of "Taipei" as the lone foreign policy actor here on the Beautiful Isle. In reality, the KMT has been conducting its own foreign policy with China for most of the Chen Administration, something that should have been known to McDevitt and mentioned in this paper (it has also been conducting its own foreign policy with visiting American notables as well). In fact, except for two references to the authoritarian period, the KMT goes unmentioned in this paper, as does the existence of the pan-Blue alliance. There is nary a hint that there are complex local opinions on Taiwan and nary a hint that these may have negative consequences for "stability." Instead, all is due to the action of Chen and the Greens, a position that betrays a profoundly pro-KMT slant either in the author's thinking or his sources. McDevitt also does not mention that the legislature has also been attempt to conduct its own foreign policy and curtail Presidential authority in that area. There isn't any monolithic entity out there calling the shots -- Chen can stoke Taiwan nationalism all he wants, but at the end of the day, the legislature is still killing the arms purchase in committee, the KMT is cooperating with the PRC, the foreign policy rank-and-file are largely mainlander and pro-Blue, and events in Asia, favorable like the Japanese move toward Taiwan in response to the Chinese military build-up, and unfavorable like the criminal invasion of Iraq by the US, remain out of its hands, with long-term consequences for the island still largely unclear.

In sum, Taiwan is not a source of instability. The "instability" arises from the refusal of decisionmakers in Washington, Beijing, and elsewhere, to recognize that the wishes of the people of Taiwan must be taken into account when Taiwan's fate is decided. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it is high time that policymakers stopped thinking that Taiwan is a problem that must be made to go away, instead of an opportunity to be grasped.


Anonymous said...

PRC hardly needs ROC economically. But its very important for them in terms of face. Especially now that they've hyped the issue so heavily for so long.

Now, for a concubine-state that has the tail wagging the dog, try Israel. Taiwan's leverage is a complete failure compared to how they have the USA wrapped around their finger.

We've got Bush saying he'll help end the war... by expediting weapons shipments to Israel. Talk about doublespeak!

Eli said...

Great post! Small point: I thought Brent Scowcroft was part of the first Bush administration.

Anonymous said...

good post. I'm not sure exactly where Stephen Young, the new AIT director, stands on this, but he seems to be quite concerned with assuring the people of Taiwan, or at least its businesses, that the U.S. stands behind its policy to secure Taiwan's interests without playing God. Mr. Young, who spent his childhood in Taiwan, and someone I know personally, is likely to be a trustworthy ally in promoting Taiwan's shared democratic values with the U.S.--an appropriate spokesperson during a time when China does indeed have the dog's ear.

Dan tdaxp said...

Very good post. I linked to it..

Interestingly, in the Kosovo War the United States tore up the Shanghai Communique. The Communique reads, in part

There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems and foreign policies. However, the two sides agreed that countries, regardless of their social systems, should conduct their relations on the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, non-aggression against other states, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. International disputes should be settled on this basis, without resorting to the use or threat of force. The United States and the People's Republic of China are prepared to apply these principles to their mutual relations.

This is a reformulation of Westphalian Realism, which holds that what goes on a state is that state's business. With its wars for human rights in Kosovo, Iraq, and other places, the United States rejected such a formulation in favor of something closer to a Responsibility to Protect.

Anonymous said...

I don't really have the background to understand this whole essay and your commentary, but well done for your own knowledge, ability and motivation to write about it!

Unknown said...

Wow, big post. I agree that Taiwan hasn't seized any initiative that I know of, but I think claiming Taiwan under Chen is not a source of instability is equally spurious. A few points:

"Too, if voters wanted to "restrain" Chen all they had to do was not elect him in the first place (duh). " Umm...Chen was elected with a plurality in 2000 and less than 1% of the vote in '04 - clearly the island has been divided over whether or not he needs to be restrained. More people certainly voted not to elect him in '00.

Also, the people never called for the dismantling of the National Unification Council or for any of the other destablizing moves that Chen has made to play to the extreme wings of his party.

Taiwan is certainly an opportunity - for foreign powers and foreign intellectuals to play armchair nation-builders with a population that has no such clearly-definable desire, and with little or no regard to the tremendous socio-economic damage caused by such an experiment.