Thursday, June 07, 2007

Asia Times on the Outdated Status Quo

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. to the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some."

One of the important themes of this blog is the Protean Status Quo, that elusive creature that lives in the Taiwan Straits, rarely surfacing long enough for positive identification. This week the Asia Times has a good article on how it has become outdated, a position that has been argued for since the 1990s.

Former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs James Kelly infamously defended another cliche of the US China policy during a House of Representatives International Relations Committee hearing in 2004 - the US one-China policy.

When asked to define this relic of the Cold War, Kelly stated: "I'm not sure I very easily could define it. I can tell you what it is not. It is not the one-China policy or the one-China principle that Beijing suggests, and it may not be the definition that some would have in Taiwan."

Today, the Taiwan Strait is one of the flashpoints in the world and no one, not even the high-level officials in the US State Department can clearly define the policy that is supposedly one of the fundamental pillars in the US-Taiwan-China relationship.

Just like the one-China policy, the policy of adhering to the status quo has deteriorated into a mantra where no one bothers to examine the content and review the background that first lent credence to the rhetoric. It is almost as if the status quo in the Taiwan Strait will be magically preserved as long as people keep reciting it. It is a policy of wishful thinking.

Ho's piece ends with a devastating observation:

During the height of the US civil-rights movement in 1963, a Newsweek poll showed that almost 75% of white Americans asked, "Why do the civil-rights leaders have to insist on equal rights for negroes so immediately?

"Why can't blacks accept the status quo?" they asked.

The piece was in response to Sen. Barack Obama's meeting with Chinese officials last month. Obama did not leave the cliched "No unilateral changes in the Taiwan Strait!" position. As many Congressmen are making Presidential runs, they are struggling with defining a position on Taiwan and China -- Obama's move was to adopt the Establishment position. By contrast, Republican right-winger Ron Paul showed total cluelessness on the issue last month, terming the Taiwan-China issue a "civil war" as if it were still 1950 in a CNN interview in May.

The Status Quo still has some mileage in it, I think. It is important to recognize that it is fluid and dynamic, which is why it is so hard to pin down. While this flexibility looks like hypocrisy, it gives the US-China-Taiwan (-and Japan) relationship wiggle room. Unfortunately, many in the US have come to see the Status Quo as whatever makes China happy, meaning that the US position has become a slow drift toward the China side, and that China can manipulate the US to do its bidding simply by "being provoked." Conservative commentators have been arguing recently that we need to recover the position we held until the early 1970s: that the status of Taiwan was undetermined. No one is listening at the moment, but that position is probably the only possible ethical grounding for a continued and flexible Status Quo.

In sum, the problem is not that the Status Quo has become obsolete. It is that the ethical understanding that underpins it -- the assumption that Taiwan is part of China -- makes no sense now. The search for a new Status Quo need not mean the end of that useful concept, but only its grounding in a sensible long-term ethical orientation.


Anonymous said...

many thanks for your insightful posting, dear Michael

having just been accepted to a Mainland China Studies' doctoral program in Kaohsiung, i will start working on Estonia's (one-?) China policy

the Baltic states know well what status quo feels like, and although the Cold War is (supposedly) over, its icy breeze is heading back again (as evident from the Samara meeting, or Russian 'new arms race' over the US defense system in Europe)

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't label Ron Paul clueless. He was advocating a policy stated by Jefferson: "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."
link Paul probably knows more about the Taiwan/China issue than 90% of the other shills that sit in the US Congress. (especially regarding monetary policy). He is not good news for Taiwan, but the saving grace for the USA.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the "black race" comparision as I'm black/Native American myself. I thought that was excellent. I have made countless comparisions of discrimination against Taiwan on a national level which is pretty much similiar to past discrimination of blacks. So very good article. Good analysis Michael.

BTW only 500 emails for the FAPA thing?! Oh my goodness! Where's the support? Lol. I've done my part. Hell, I even tried to be a part of the Formosa Foundation but it's based in California and they don't have something like that here in Alabama ^_^

Anonymous said...

Great post Michael, please do continue to keep us informed of the candidates' positions on this issue. I do agree with you that many of the candidates are totally clueless.

Mark said...

I agree with Taipei Marc; Ron Paul is far from clueless, and he isn't much of a right-winger. He's a constitutionalist who actually cares about the Republic our founders created.

Unlike all of the Senate, and everyone else in the house but Kucinich, he voted against escalation hostilities with Iran,he voted against the Iraq war in 2002, he voted against the patriot act, and he supports ending the war on drugs. If that platform makes him a "right-winger", then I'd be proud to be one, too.

You can't fault him for not wanting to go to war with China.

Michael Turton said...

I'm not going to argue about Paul anymore. It's obvious what he is.