Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nelson Report: Mad Chen leaps from darkness to slay unsuspecting innocent policies

The Nelson Report, which gives a view of the world from inside-the-beltway, contained this today. Non-Taiwan portions deleted....


SUMMARY: today and tomorrow its the State Department's turn to host the annual Senior Dialogue (SED) with China, Deputy Secretary John Negroponte doing the honors, in his role as Bob Zoellick's successor.

And it's coincidental, but no less potentially troubling for US-China relations that just as cooperation on North Korea moves to the front-burner for both Washington and Beijing, players in Japan and Taiwan have resurfaced with actions which go to the heart of potential conflict between the US and China.


We suspect that the last thing either the US or Chinese delegations wanted to talk about was Taiwan, but we also suspect that its unavoidable, given President Chen's recent, effusive remarks to Heritage Foundation president Ed Fuelner, calling for a constitutional referendum on changing the ROC's formal name to "Taiwan".

This may not sound like "fighting words" to any sane, sensible, normal human being, but within the agreed-upon lexicon of US-China-Taiwan relations, it's a big no-no.

That's since while apparently logical, it would be a unilateral change in the status quo, and therefore a direct breech of what the US feels is a time-tested, even-handed policy toward "both sides of the Taiwan Strait".

What the US does try to do, in compensation, is to recognize the very understandable and legitimate desires of the people of Taiwan for a degree of political space in the world. So the US supports Taiwan's official participation in any international organization where full sovereign state status is not a requirement...see the recent, annual fight over "observer status" for Taiwan at the WHO.

Of course, few on Taiwan, and even fewer of Taiwan's friends in Congress, think this is any kind of "solution"...hence Chen's "surprise" letter demanding full member state status at the WHO...something the Bush Administration felt deliberately undercut its efforts at a more realistic possibility.[MT: See the Nelson Report on the WHO letter. Chen still has a lot to learn....]

And it accounts for the periodic calls to "revisit the one China" policy which one hears from Congress and certain think tanks around town.

(We briefly note the "one China" problem at several points below...tentatively and with a full sense of humility. Pray be gentle in your comments.)

Displeased as China may be with Chen today, within the context of Bush-Chen relations its even worse: as we have frequently reported since 2003-4, Bush has personally warned Chen on this precise constitutional referendum topic, and has been repeatedly assured by Chen, and others on Taiwan, that Chen understood the ground rules.

So Chen of course knew the risk he was taking, which tells you something about why the Administration is so

But his statement goes to the heart of the "identity politics" being played out on Taiwan between the old KMT and the independence minded DPP, in the run up to elect a successor to Chen.

In essence, it seeks to define the boundaries between the old "one China" views of the KMT, and the evolving sense, even within the younger KMT membership, that they are part of an evolving something which is unique, and separate, called "Taiwan"...a place the DPP argues is already a fully and functionally independent country.

For better or for worse, the DPP dream is just that, given the US adherence to "one China", and the very practical reason for that...the PRC's likely resort to military means should Taiwan actually try to achieve formal, legal, internationally recognized "independence" from the US, Japan, and the United Nations.

National identity, politically and emotionally, comes up all the time, see today's excellent Brookings presentation by CNAPS Fellow Liu Fu-kuo, on various aspects of the Cross-Strait relationship. On the crucial point...improved Taiwan-China political was agreed that until there is an operating consensus on Taiwan itself, then resolving even such "practical" issues as direct flights and business visas will be inherently "political" for everyone involved.

An important pro-Taiwan player privately warned this afternoon, "This is a serious moment Taiwan now faces, and Chen doesn't care. He's leaving office, and he's trying to re-define the terms of debate from what's been forced on him. What he doesn't seem to grasp is that each time he does this, he makes US support for Taiwan more difficult, not more likely." [MT: The problem is of course Chen. Can't possibly be a problem that all three countries have....Somehow China never comes under condemnation for its position. *sigh*]

This expert went on to note that the dilemma now posed DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh, as he must now dodge the latest hand grenade thrown by Chen.

That means he must move to reassure the US (and China) that he won't be a bomb-thrower, while showing the voters that the DPP can be trusted vis a vis the KMT and it's far more accomodative, pro-mainland stance. Those moves would be difficult at any time, but with Chen still in office, and obviously willing to break all his promises to the US, no one...not the US, not the PRC, and not the Taiwan political class...can know from day to day "what Chen will do next".[MT: Mad Chen...he's baaaaack.......never mind that not one of the things that Chen has done has led to any real consequences between Taiwan and China. When will planners understand that for China, being provoked is a policy tool?]

To say this is potentially de-stabilizing goes to the heart of Bush Administration concerns since 2002.[MT: No, Chris. To say that it is potentially de-stabilizing is to argue that (1) China has no agency of its own, it's just a helpless prisoner of Chen Shui-bian's every whim -- any explanation that deprives one agent of its agency is a political construction, not an analysis -- and (2) is to ignore previous history that none of the actions Chen has taken has had any major effect, except on the minds of US analysts. Sad. The fact is that China will invade when it is ready, not because Chen Shui-bian wants Taiwan to enter the UN.] For its current application, see the very tough language used Tuesday by the State Dept press spokesman, excerpted below.

And recognize the "signal" being sent by this public dressing down. On Monday, the briefer was "on background". Tuesday, after what one must assume was an unsatisfactory back-channel conversation with Taipei, it was up front and in Chen's face...with the PRC delegation's arrival forming the background. [MT: My emphasis]

In the meantime, the US continues to operate under the increasingly difficult myth that there is but "one China"...the very bedrock of US-PRC relations since 1972...while everyone here prays (in one way or another) that we will get to that great day when the President of China, and the President of Taiwan can find a way to sit down together and work this one out.[MT: How? One wants to annex Taiwan, the other, to establish its independence. It can be worked out in a second, if Beijing grows up. Otherwise.... Further, the US betrayed Taiwan, didn't consult the people of Taiwan when it determined their fate and switched to the unworkable One China policy, reversed thirty years of standing policy, and then what? It expects that somehow things will work out successfully when each party has a different idea of what the agreement is and one party wasn't consulted? Just another successful day in the annals of Realpolitik!]

Officially, the US position is that so long as the resolution is both peaceful, and acceptable to the people of Taiwan, then it's OK with us.

In the interim, the US is forced by the facts of life...peace in Asia depends on peace between the US and use political force to keep Taiwan from declaring its formal, legal independence.

To say the least, this is a morally and politically uncomfortable stance for many in the US, especially in the Congress...latest example being next week's scheduled mark-up of a non-binding Resolution demanding liberalized official visas on a regular basis for the President of Taiwan and other Cabinet level officials to come here, and for US counterparts to go to Taipei.

We've appended the full text of the Resolution so you can see how the language parses with the issues noted above.

Here's the relevant part of the transcript of yesterday's State Dept press briefing, which we think is worth reading, in full, as it encompasses all the problems noted above (our underlining):

[MT: I've omitted this. Nelson underlined the portion where State "defines" its One-China policy. You can find it in the post below this one on the State Department]

Having read that, just consider how welcome the following will be to the White House and the Dept of State: this bill is going to be marked up in the full House Foreign affairs Committee next week.

"Expressing the sense of Congress regarding high level visits to the United States by democratically-elected officials of Taiwan." (Introduced in House)

1st Session
H. CON. RES. 136

Mr. CHABOT (for himself, Ms. BERKLEY, Ms. BORDALLO, Mr. ANDREWS, Mr. MCNULTY, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mrs. SCHMIDT, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. TANCREDO, Mr. BOYD of Florida, Mr. GRAVES, and Mr. TOWNS) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Expressing the sense of Congress regarding high level visits to the United States by democratically-elected officials of Taiwan.

Whereas, for over half a century, a close relationship has existed between the United States and Taiwan, which has been of enormous political, economic, cultural, and strategic advantage to both countries;

Whereas Taiwan is one of the strongest democratic allies of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region;

Whereas it is United States policy to support and strengthen democracy around the world;

Whereas, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Taiwan made a remarkable transition to a full-fledged democracy with a vibrant economy and a vigorous multi-party political system that respects human rights and the rule of law;

Whereas in spite of its praise for democracy in Taiwan, the United States Government continues to adhere to guidelines from the 1970s that bar the President, Vice President, Premier, Foreign Minister, and Defense Minister of Taiwan from coming to Washington, DC;

Whereas the United States Government has barred these high-level officials from visiting Washington, DC, while allowing the unelected leaders of the People's Republic of China to routinely visit Washington, DC, and welcoming them to the White House;

Whereas these restrictions deprive the President, Congress, and the American public of the opportunity to engage in a direct dialogue regarding developments in the Asia-Pacific region and key elements of the relationship between the United States and Taiwan;

Whereas whenever high-level visitors from Taiwan, including the President, seek to come to the United States, their request results in a period of complex, lengthy and humiliating negotiations;

Whereas lifting these restrictions will help bring a United States friend and ally out of its isolation, which will be beneficial to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region;

Whereas in consideration of the major economic, security, and political interests shared by the United States and Taiwan, it is to the benefit of the United States for United States officials to meet and communicate directly with the democratically-elected officials of Taiwan;

Whereas since the Taiwan Strait is one of the flashpoints in the world, it is essential that United States policymakers directly communicate with the leaders of Taiwan; and

Whereas section 221 of the Immigration and Nationality Technical Corrections Act of 1994 (8 U.S.C. 1101 note) provides that the President or other high-level officials of Taiwan may visit the United States, including Washington, DC, at any time to discuss a variety of important issues: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that--

(1) restrictions on visits to the United States by high-level elected and appointed officials of Taiwan, including the democratically-elected President of Taiwan, should be lifted;

(2) the United States should allow direct high-level exchanges at the Cabinet level with the Government of Taiwan, in order to strengthen a policy dialogue with Taiwan; and

(3) it is in the interest of the United States to strengthen links between the United States and the democratically-elected officials of Taiwan and demonstrate stronger support for democracy in the Asia-Pacific region.


MJ Klein said...

"Officially, the US position is that so long as the resolution is both peaceful, and acceptable to the people of Taiwan, then it's OK with us."

that means, as long as Taiwan accepts it's fate: to be subjects of Beijing and Communists - to have Taiwan raped and pillaged (again) by Chinese foreigners.

their advice to Chen really, amounts to:

"Shut up and take it, bitch."

what a country....

Anonymous said...

I'm ashamed. Michael you should run for President of the U.S. next year...nah j/k :)

Anonymous said...

As shameful as it might be (all politics are local in nature, folks), President Chen is merely turning up the rhetorical heat in an attempt to excite the electoral base of the party faithfuls ahead of the presidential election.

At the end of day, the so-called "status quo," murky as it may be, will be maintained. And, let's be frank here, neither the U.S. nor Japan wants to see Taiwan "reunite" with the mother ship for reasons both shared and distinct.

Now, only if those China hands in the State Dept. would loosen their ties, they might be able to breathe a bit better and advocate a more balanced approach, one not solely at the expense of Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

Taiwanese have to decide how high a price they are willing to pay for preserving their defacto independence.In other words they have to be able to inflict real damage on the PRC if it attacks.Taiwan's current arsenal does not scare China at all.