Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Glaser: 8 predictions for Hu on US-Taiwan Relations

Bonnie Glaser of CSIS, a longtime East Asia observer, has penned her thoughts on What Hu Jintao should expect on Obama Administration Policy Toward Taiwan. The entire piece is online.

PacNet #1 -- What Hu Jintao Should Expect: Predictions about Obama Administration Policy toward Taiwan by Bonnie S. Glaser

Bonnie S. Glaser ( is a resident senior associate at CSIS and a senior associate of the Pacific Forum.

Taiwan remains one of the most sensitive and divisive issues between the United States and China. What should Chinese President Hu Jintao expect from President Obama on this critically important issue? Until the new president is sworn in and key personnel are confirmed, the new administration’s policy will remain uncertain. Moreover, the overall framework as well as detailed policies will emerge gradually; a comprehensive policy statement on Taiwan is unlikely to be issued. Nevertheless, it may be useful to make some predictions. Below are eight policy objectives that are likely to be pursued by the Obama administration. They represent the musings of an independent scholar and interested observer with no special inside knowledge or access to the president-elect.

Glaser's observations, while probably on-target for some other world where the KMT is not annexing Taiwan to China and bringing it into China's political orbit, are wildly out of date for the current cross-strait realities. Among the highlights:

Look for the resumption of visits to Taiwan by U.S. Cabinet officials responsible for such issues as trade, agriculture, transportation, and energy, which were suspended during Chen Shui-bian’s tenure due to friction between Taipei and Washington.

The U.S. will continue to encourage cross-Strait negotiations that seek solutions to problems and peaceful settlement of differences. No steps will be taken to undermine the improvement in cross-Strait ties. On the contrary, the Obama administration will be cautious in making policy decisions so as not to derail cross-Strait progress.

U.S. opposition to any unilateral change in the status quo by either side of the Taiwan Strait – another component of the mantra that comprises the current "one China" policy – may be dropped. This formulation was added by the Bush administration to warn Chen Shui-bian to avoid provoking the Mainland and dragging the U.S. into a war in the Strait. Ma Ying-jeou's pragmatic approach to Beijing and his policy of easing cross-Strait tensions make this statement no longer necessary.

While China cannot be expected to relinquish its deterrent against Taiwan independence prior to the signing of a peace accord, Beijing can nevertheless make goodwill gestures now such as freezing short-range ballistic missile deployments, pulling back a number of missiles so they cannot be fired unless redeployed forward, and modifying its military exercises in a way that signals intent to lower the threat.

Under Ma Ying-jeou, Taipei has adopted a more realistic approach that seeks meaningful participation for the Republic of China in the United Nations and observer status in the World Health Assembly, the executive arm of the WHO. The Obama administration can be expected to fully back Taiwan in these efforts, as they are consistent with the U.S. policy of supporting Taiwan's involvement, but not membership, in state-based international organizations.

The Obama administration will support a healthy democratic system in Taiwan that reflects the aspirations of the Taiwanese people. President Obama may not refer explicitly to Taiwan as a beacon of democracy as did President Bush, but he will undoubtedly find ways to signal his hope that Taiwan, as well as other regional democracies, will serve as examples that encourage the development of greater democracy on the Mainland.

Glaser's piece is a typically blinkered example of Establishment mentality:

*Everyone talks about "progress" in cross-strait relations but no one ever answers the question "towards what" although that is perfectly obvious to everyone here: annexation.

*She refers to a "peace acord" (while linking it to a rhetorical opposite: Taiwan independence!) but what can "peace" mean in the Taiwan context, other than annexation to China? We're not at war with China, and it is not Taiwan that is the aggressor. Any "peace accord" is thus a submission, since China will insist on its One China framework.

*Her position on Chen Shui-bian remains the Establishment position: Chen provoked China, Ma does not. There is no recognition that Ma does not provoke China because he supports annexation, not democracy and independence, and there is no recognition that Ma is not running China policy, other KMT heavyweights are.

*She also hews to the line that Taiwan is going to make China more democratic -- although the reality is that as we move closer to China here, Taiwan becomes less democratic. In the real world, distance from China = democracy.

*It should also be noted that she positions Taiwan policy with respect to China (What Hu....) -- Taiwan is always the passive recipient of decisions adults in Beijing and Washington make. Why not "What Hu and Ma can expect...."

You only have to compare Glaser's weirdly out-of-touch writings with today's Taiwan News editorial, written by someone who is informed and understands what is going on very well.

It appears that the leadership of the CCP, together with many KMT leaders and pro-KMT media, mistakenly believe that the March 22 presidential election marked a total and irreversible defeat of "Taiwan - centric" and democratic political forces led by the DPP.

Hu and Ma may have been surprised by the results of a new opinion poll of 1,087 Taiwan adults which indicated that public support for Taiwan independence has continued to rise during the past year while interest in unification has plunged and that "freedom and democracy" top the Taiwan people`s list of "core Taiwan values."

Instead, Beijing has taken full advantage of the Ma administration's urgency to secure a breakthrough in cross-strait relations by portraying an international image that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are moving unification when what is actually happening can be more accurately described as a reconciliation of two authoritarian parties.

If decision-makers in the future Obama administration believe that this course is inevitably leading to "stability," they would be risking a grave political "blowback," especially if Taiwan - centric political and social forces unite against the resurfacing KMT party - state for its excessive tilting toward Beijing and its regression in domestic civic, human and judicial rights.

Washington's foreign policy establishment may have disliked Chen`s brash assertion of Taiwan`s identity, but they should keep in mind the dangers involved in the fact that Ma's KMT administration has adopted radical measures based on partisan ideology without careful and integrated calculation of external and internal risks and without any serious effort to gain domestic consent or consensus.

As I noted before, for the US foreign policy establishment, "progress in cross-strait relations" is The New Status Quo. Thus anyone who attempts to put the brakes on what is clearly intended as the peaceful annexation of Taiwan to China will be draw the ire of the foreign policy establishment in the US as "violating the status quo" even if the Administration itself does not use those terms.


Anonymous said...


an article on asian democracy and a short blurb on tw,9171,1869271,00.html?xid=site-cnn-partner

Tommy said...

Wouldn't you say that, while Glaser's comments are out of touch, they don't seem out of touch to many in the establishment, notably a certain presdent-elect who has little knowledge of China and Taiwan and who is being weaned on establishment thinking by his advisers? I would say that Glaser's comments are on target, not in their relevance to the situation at hand but in their prediction of how Obama's administration will attempt to handle the issue unless forced to do otherwise.

Interestingly enough, Frank Ching, that unabashed KMT/CCP tool, has published yet another editorial that discusses the Taiwan question, although this one refers to the CommonWealth poll. He frames it, of course, as if unification is the ultimate good, but he does note that Beijing and Taipei should take note of the fact that things are moving too fast and that this could actually be undermining everything that Beijing and the KMT want to achieve. While he doesn't address the fact that going slower would not necessarily make Taiwanese love China more either, I did think it interesting to read such a strident pro-KMT voice questioning (softly) the wisdom of the current KMT/CCP approach.

It seems certain political realities are starting to dawn on some people out there, even if they have not hit mainstream yet.

Michael Turton said...

Thomas, can you flip Ching article to me?

Anonymous said...

It goes to show that Taiwan's indigenization is a phenomenon which is independent of party affiliation and political gamesmanship (i.e. ethno-politics). The KMT better take heed. Fore too long they'd been running on the assumption that the separate Taiwan identity was directly tied to the DPP's use of ethnic mobilization of "Taiwanese". Not all separate identities become nationalist movements, but I think too many people in governments around the world have failed to account for how the existence of a separate government structure on Taiwan has made Taiwanese nationalism the preferred reality to Taiwanese.

Anonymous said...

What an idiotic article... where do they find these idiots?

skiingkow said...

"The Obama administration will support a healthy democratic system in Taiwan that reflects the aspirations of the Taiwanese people."

It doesn't take much to find out how the average Taiwanese citizen feels about cross-straits relations -- unless you have an agenda to push.

Anonymous said...

Yeah... I can find you 100 people who support eventual unification with China... but it might take me all week (unless I live in Taipei).

Richard said...

Anon made a good point in this:

"The KMT better take heed. Fore too long they'd been running on the assumption that the separate Taiwan identity was directly tied to the DPP's use of ethnic mobilization of "Taiwanese" "

It's still hard for me to fully understand (support KMT while supporting "Taiwan"), but I have a few friends that support the KMT, but will fully declare themselves Taiwanese and would not want to unite with China.

Anonymous said...

speaking about ethnics..

"Aborigines protest against lack of land rights"

i am still thinking chinese ocupants must leave this island to taiwanese alone.

--------"Yeah... I can find you 100 people who support eventual unification with China... "-------

lol.. depends on how much you are reading to pay for that.

Anonymous said...

There was a good blurb in this TT article a few days ago Ins and outs of KMT-CCP forum:

If truth be told, the KMT is well aware of China’s empty promises, but does not dare to say so openly.

Taiwan Echo said...

Even if any KMTer recognizes that the cross-straight integration is going too fast and could backfire, I don't think there's anything/anyone that can slow it down.

What matters most for those in the decision rinks of KMT are:

(1) who can sell Taiwan fast enough to gain the best reward from China;

(2) who can grab the credit of annexation of Taiwan and becomes the hero in Chinese history;

The trend is a full-speed downhill train that nobody can stop. Along the path, "what Taiwanese think" will never be in the minds of those chinks.

Remember how/why 228 happened? Exactly the same mentality:

All Taiwanese resources are allowed to have one and only one purpose -- to serve the needs of Chinese.

Ma Ying-jeou is in fact following the footsteps that was put up by Chen Yi 60 years ago, whose administration led to 288.

Dixteel said...

"*She also hews to the line that Taiwan is going to make China more democratic -- although the reality is that as we move closer to China here, Taiwan becomes less democratic. In the real world, distance from China = democracy."

That is very true, Micheal. More people have to realize this fact.

Some people outside Taiwan thinks Taiwan as a tool they can use to change China, and some people in Taiwan, including Ex-president Chen, thinks democracy is Taiwan's "weapon" against China. I think both of those type of thinking could be fallacy that puts Taiwan in danger.

Let's face it, Taiwan's democracy is still young and fragile, and right now it's in danger of falling apart. Even if Taiwan survives and has a strong democracy after a few decades, I highly doubt it will change China. Maybe by then people in Singapore would look at Taiwan and think about it, but China...most likely not.

Anonymous said...

China's real estate ambitions have been around a long time. The U.S. has not hampered those aspirations for a very good reason. Money. The U.S. has bankrupted itself under Bush and China is the banker of last resort. Otherwise, the U.S. would more likely shove democracy down China's throat like it does everywhere else in the world. The other place to get the money would be from the Rothchild's who have more money than the Chinese.

Anonymous said...

Glaser says at the beginning of his article that he has no special insight into the Obama organization. I think that as such the article is mislabeled. He backs up none of his statements with reasoning from publicly known information Obama et al. In fact, what he does say flies strongly against the anti-Taiwan rhetoric we've heard from Obama's VP choice.

The article seems more like Glaser's recommendations to Obama rather than predictions about Obama.

Anonymous said...

Taiwan Echo, did I read that right? Did you call KMT unificationists "chinks"? That's fantastic! How about "nigger", too? Detach that word from its race-based meaning but keep the class-based meaning like in "working like a nigger." Those promoting a slow track toward unification would be chinks, fast-trackers niggers. But we could also consider that people in Han cultures are generally known for working hard, and that there is the old ugly stereotype "lazy as a nigger," so we could reverse the labels. But I think the first set is better exactly because it doesn't use this old ugly idea, and also because it would really enrage unificationists in their love for racial identity if they got called niggers. This all puts a huge smile on my face. What fun to call premature-ejaculator sell-outs "niggers". Imagine what their faces would look like when they hear themselves labeled lower than menial workers. And using these terms would have a strong practical effect because the need to explain their meaning to a shocked world would give maybe the best possible chance to highlight the ugly thinking tht drives unification ideology. Maybe it would even wake up a few unificationists about how ugly their thinking really is.