Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Establishment on US-Taiwan Relations

One of the hallmarks of Establishment thinking on the US side is the way it disparages independence and the way it simply waves its historical revisionism wand to make the hard-won gains 2000-2008 period disappear. For example, former AIT official here Syd Goldsmith wrote a formulaic Establishment piece on how the new Ma Administration promises relief for Obama....

There is nothing substantial besides fear and pro-independence opposition to suggest that any Taiwan president would acquiesce in Beijing's demands to recognize the so-called one China principle or accept a Hong Kong-style special administrative region settlement anytime soon. The demands of domestic stability will impel Ma to stick with the political status quo while he pursues agreements in other economic areas where understandings with Beijing reportedly have been reached.

The real significance of these historic direct links agreements is that it is becoming less urgent for both China and Taiwan to pursue political goals in their relationship. Instead, we might be witnessing the beginning of an era of cross-strait relations conducted in much the way that normal diplomatic relationships are conducted. Perhaps the era of outrage - Beijing demanding capitulation and Taipei screaming de jure independence - will be overtaken by what could be a continuing search for the benefits of increased interdependence.

Goldsmith writes: There is nothing substantial besides fear and pro-independence opposition to suggest that any Taiwan president would acquiesce in Beijing's demands to recognize the so-called one China principle or accept a Hong Kong-style special administrative region settlement anytime soon. Yes, that's right. Ma never downgraded Taiwan's status to that of a "region" and has no open, formal commitment to annex the island to China either on his own part or his party's. The recent wave of arrests of DPP politicians, as well as re-integration of the KMT with the government and the military in the best party-state style, that never occurred either. Ma never accepted the non-existent "1992 consensus" as the basis for negotiations, reversing a decade of pro-Taiwan diplomatic gains. According to Goldsmith, pro-independence paranoia invented these events. Note also that Goldsmith gives us the trope that pro-democracy and pro-independence types are irrational. It's irrational to want freedom and independence when there is money to be made! Silly independence types! It goes without saying that Goldsmith presents no evidence to support his claims that Ma does not threaten Taiwan's current de facto independence from China. Instead, readers are invited to believe it as an article of faith that all rational individuals adhere to.

But more importantly, observe how Goldsmith simply makes eight years of progress on China relations disappear into the phrase "era of outrage" in which Beijing and Taipei behaved irrationally. The reality is that cross-strait links blossomed under the DPP -- investment in China was legalized, direct flights occurred, rules for Chinese investment erected, exchanges of all sorts took place, and Taiwan investment in China may have crossed the $200 billion mark. Those irrational and paranoid DPP politicians negotiated an opening to China not seen since Taiwan was a colonial holding of the Qing. There would have been even greater opening, but -- and here's the utter refutation of the Establishment position argued for by Goldsmith -- it was China, not Taiwan, that chose not to negotiate. The Chinese simply waited hoping for Ma to win the election, since he was likely to be more pliable than the pro-Taiwan DPP. As reality has shown. The "era of outrage" was actually an "era of engagement" that the current KMT administration is building on in its negotiations with China, in which the world's busiest air route was between a city in China and a city in Taiwan.

Of course, Goldsmith ignores the fact that Ma is not running the negotiations with China -- and thus, speaking to the point of view of Ma ignores the reality that other KMT bigwigs like Chairman Wu Po-hsiung and Honorary Chairman Lien Chan are playing their own pro-China game, and have been since the DPP era. If only reality didn't have that annoying habit of being messy and complex.....

The world that Goldsmith posits is a hollow candy shell completely at odds with actual history. But it does have that chewy false dichotomy filling to it that the media finds so satisfying.

Very different from Goldsmith's piece is former Taiwan Representative to the US Joseph Wu writing for the conservative Jamestown Foundation. Wu was the last DPP appointee to the US post. After reviewing how the recent arms sale points to subtle changes in the US-China-Taiwan relationship, Wu observes:

Taiwan's domestic politics are severely divided over the course of the government's ongoing rapprochement with China. President Ma has not made any efforts to seek domestic reconciliation or attempt to communicate with the opposition over his intentions on cross-Strait policy. In fact, Ma’s statements and actions angered many people who believe that Taiwan should keep China at arm’s length. Taiwan appears to be more divided than before in the months since Ma’s inauguration, as evidenced by several large-scale, anti-government/a nti-China demonstrations. Consequently, Taiwan's status has been relatively weakened in facing the subtle and not so subtle threats from authoritarian China. A divided and weakened Taiwan severely threatens Taiwan’s national security, and is, by extension, not in the interests of the United States or Japan, its key ally in East Asia. All interested parties should therefore encourage the KMT to engage the opposition DPP in formulating its policy across the Taiwan Strait.
Wu has put his finger on several of the major issues: Ma has not attempted to conciliate Taiwan society, and thus the Chen Yunlin visit has resulted in a Taiwan that is exactly where China wants it: bitterly divided, the pro-democracy side weak, the pro-China side strong, and unable to identify or achieve actions in the interests of Taiwan. Note also that Wu specifically notes how this affects Japan -- it is common in shorter US writings to ignore Japan in the Taiwan security equation -- yet any attack on Taiwan from China will most likely require pushing planes and boats through Japanese air and sea space. Moreover, were China to come into possession of Taiwan, the next logical step is for it to move on the Senkaku Islands, currently Japanese territory but claimed by China since 1968. And the US and Japan have conducted naval exercises there under the US-Japan security arrangements.....

In other words of Goldsmith, a weakened, divided Taiwan captained by an Administration that is pro-China is a good thing for US security arrangements in Asia; while in the world of Joseph Wu, it is a bad thing for US security arrangements in Asia. Probably Wu is just another paranoid, irrational independence and democracy supporter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

China wanted to deal with Ma because they would not have to negotiate anything important.

Under the DPP, China would have had to actually put something on the table to make headway. Now, China just negotiates with Ma on the basis that the Chinese government is "not angry" and to keep it that way, the second KMT authoritarian regime had better make serious concessions.

Imagine if Taiwan was negotiating from a position of strength rather than weakness....