Going Our Own Way: Taipei and Beijing Sign MOU during Barack Obama's Mainland Visit
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 18, 2009
United States President Barack Obama arrived in Beijing on Air Force One, at the same time that Taipei and Beijing were signing a MOU (memorandum of understanding) on cooperation regarding cross-Strait financial supervision.
This coincidence shows that in recent years both the global climate and the cross-Strait micro-climate have changed. Washington and Beijing are on a very different path than in the past. Taipei and Beijing are also going their own way.
Over the past several decades, especially during the Cold War, Taipei took its cue from Washington. When Washington attempted to contain Beijing, Taipei and remained Beijing's Cold War rival. Today however, given Washington-Beijing relations under Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, Taipei can no longer follow Washington's lead on cross-Strait relations. Instead, it must go its own way, and must think about how to go its own way.
The situation can be seen from many different angles. A detailed interpretation of Barack Obama's visit to Beijing and its implications for Washington-Beijing and Taipei-Beijing relations may be a matter of interpretation. But few disagree about its core significance. First, the larger trend reveals a clear tilt toward Beijing. Beijing holds close to a trillion dollars in U.S. debt. Secondly, during the Clinton and Bush administrations, Washington's tune was, "Do not contain Mainland China, instead welcome its participation in the international community." Today Obama's tune is, "There are very few global challenges that can be solved unless the United States and China agree." Thirdly, Obama is leading the U.S. out of Bush's era of "unilateralism." The United States' experience in Iraq and the impact of the financial tsunami have forced it to reexamine its role in the world. Together, these massive changes have impacted Washington-Beijing and Taipei-Beijing relations. Washington-Beijing relations are becoming friendler and more co-operative, and Beijing speaks with greater and greater authority. By the same token, given the new relationship between Washington and Beijing, Taipei must find its own way.
This tilt was hardly an overnight phenomenon. It is a steady trend that has prevailed for over ten years. In 1996, the Republic of China Presidential Election led to a U.S. aircraft carrier intervening in a missile crisis in the Taiwan Strait. The following year, United States President Bill Clinton spoke of a One-China Policy beneficial to Taiwan. The year after that, in 1998, Bill Clinton visited Mainland China, and in Shanghai issued the "Three Noes" policy. The Three Noes meant the United States did not support Taiwan independence, did not support One China, One Taiwan, and did not support Taiwan's membership in international organizations requiring national sovereignty. At the time, a reporter asked White House national security adviser Samuel Berger "If the democratically elected government on Taiwan were to choose Taiwan independence, or if a plebiscite on Taiwan independence won by a landslide, would the United States still refuse to support it?" Berger's reply at the time was "We would not." Newspaper editorials referred to this framework as "Five Noes." In 2005 Chen Shui-bian proclaimed his support for "democracy without conditions," and the holding of a "Referendum on UN membership." U.S. officials sternly referred to Chen Shui-bian as an advocate of Taiwan independence, who was betraying Taipei's interests. They pointed out that Ah-Bian's attempt to challenge Washington's One-China Policy was akin to driving headlong into a wall. These were the first two times Clinton's "Five Noes" were put into practice. This occurred during the most hawkish, most pro-Taipei Bush administration. Washington-Beijing relations are much closer under Obama and Hu Jintao. Taipei is bound to be more and more marginalized. The trend in cross-Strait relations over the past ten years is even more predictable, given the lack of disagreement between the two sides.
In fact, Chiang Ching-kuo's lifting of martial law, his implementation of a fully democratic system, and his opening of cross-Strait exchanges, could be considered a preview of the huge changes that were to occur. Chiang Ching-kuo was attempting to free Taipei from dependence upon the United States, and to allow Taipei to find its own way. But Lee Teng-hui took a wrong turn in the road. Chen Shui-bian marched farther down that road into a dead end. Chen Shui-bian eventually filed suit with a U.S. military tribunal, and proposed "ceding Taiwan to the United States." He attempted to turn the clock back to a time when Taipei was dependent upon the United States. He succeeded only in acting out an ugly farce.
After 9/11, the quagmire in Iraq, and the financial tsunami, Washington faced massive changes in the state of the world and the state of the nation. It had to reexamine its global strategy. Its relationship with Beijing was among the first it needed to reexamine and change. Any changes were bound to affect Taipei-Washington relations and Taipei-Beijing relations. Although Washington is still concerned about Taipei, it is no longer as powerful as it once was. Taipei must guard against its increasing marginalization in cross-Strait relations, given improving Washington-Beijing relations. It must go its own way.
Since the Ma administration took office, it has improved cross-Strait relations. The U.S. government, including the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon, have all sung their praises, with nary a dissenting voice. Some people consider this a sign of close agreement between Taipei and Washington on cross-Strait policy. But others hear overtones of something else entirely. Perhaps this is Washington's way of telling Taipei that it is time for Taipei to go its own way, that it is now on its own.
The MOU the two sides have signed use the terms, "the Taiwan side" and "the Mainland side." This is Taipei going its own way. It is also the two sides finding their own way. Beijing has made a point of reminding Washington that the MOU means Taipei and Beijing have already begun going their own way. The role of the United States will rapidly diminish. A new era of cross-Strait relations has truly arrived!
2009.11.18 04:14 am
值得注意的是，這種傾斜的大勢，不是一夕造成，而是十餘年來一貫的不變趨勢。一九九六年，總統大選引發美國航空母艦介入台海飛彈危機以後，翌年美國總統柯林頓即發表「一個中國政策對台灣有利」的評論；又次年，一九九八年柯林頓訪問中國，更在上海發表「三不支持」，亦即美國不支持台獨，不支持一中一台，也不支持台灣以國家身分加入國際組織。當場有記者問白宮國家安全顧問柏格：「是否縱使台灣民選政府選擇了（台獨）那條路，或（經由）公民投票而有壓倒性的傾向支持（台獨）時，美國也不支持？」柏格的答覆是：「也不支持。」當時，本報社論曾將此一架構指為「五不支持」。直到二○○八年陳水扁揚言「民主無紅線」，舉行「入聯公投」；美國官方疾言厲色指陳水扁是台獨分子，背叛了台灣的利益，並指：「（扁）欲挑戰『美國的一個中國政策』，是在推車撞壁（hitting into a wall）。」這可視為柯林頓「五不支持」後面兩項的首度實踐，當時卻是一度最挺台灣、最鷹派的布希主政時代。如今，歐巴馬胡錦濤之間更加親密的美中關係，與在美中關係中勢將更加邊緣化、也更不具歧見的兩岸關係，可謂只是順著十餘年來此一大勢巨變的必趨必至而已。