Taiwan is Taiwan, Finland is Finland
The Apple Daily (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
Chao Chun-shan, Committee Member, National Policy Research Foundation
January 02, 2010
In the latest issue of "Foreign Affairs," American scholar Bruce Gilley wrote that since the Ma administration came to power, its policy of reconciliation with the mainland has led the Republic of China in Taipei down the road toward "Finlandization." Gilley concludes that the United States must make some strategic and diplomatic changes. Before it expands official contacts with Taipei, it should consult with Beijing. Along with its allies, it must establish a new strategic plan. It must exclude Taipei, and make a thorough review of its policy of U.S. arms sales to Taipei.
The term "Finlandization" has its roots in the relationship between the Soviet Union and Finland. In 1948, the two sides established a special relationship with a "Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance." The agreement stipulated that if Germany and its allies attacked the Soviet Union or transited through Finland in order to attack the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union and Finland were obligated to assist each other. When faced with the threat of armed attack, the Soviet Union had the right to request military consultations with Finland. Finland could not organize or participate in any military alliance against the Soviet Union. Finland's actions had to be based on bilateral economic cooperation and a spirit of friendship with the Soviet Union. When the agreement was reached, then President of Finland Juho Kusti Paasikivi knew the Soviet Union might attempt to control Finland, but felt such an agreement was worth a try.
Without a doubt the Soviet Union acquired huge military and economic interests by signing the agreement. When Western scholars use the use "Finlandization," they mean that although a nation has complete sovereignty, its foreign policy-making powers have been severely curtailed. Another scholar characterized "Finlandization" as a "transitional stage between Western democracy and communism."
Hoping for Non-Confrontational Methods
Gilley claims that the Republic of China is similar to Finland during the late 1940s. For example, the area of the Republlc of China's active jurisdiction may be small, but it nevertheless posseses sovereignty. The Republic of China government in Taipei is geographically close to a major power. It shares common cultural and historical ties with its powerful neighbor. It has a strong "sense of independence," but is pragmatically required to accomodate the vital interests of a major power. More importantly, Republic of China political leaders and citizens currently seek security through integration rather than conflict.
The Republic of China's situation, as Gilley notes, bears some similarities with that of Finland. But cross-Strait relations are far more complex than relations between Finland and the Soviet Union. Taipei's current policy toward the Mainland is also significantly different from Finland's policy toward the Soviet Union. For starters, Finland shared a 1269 kilometer border with the Soviet Union. Finland faced a direct threat from the Soviet Union. It lacked strategic depth. It had little room to maintain its own security. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait are separated by water. The Taiwan Strait acts a barrier. It offers defensive capabilities. Secondly, Finland was part of a different regional power structure than the Republic of China. When Finland turned to the Soviet Union the United States and its NATO allies voiced no objections. Beginning with the Cold War, the United States considered security in the Taiwan Strait an important part of its Asia-Pacific interests. The US-Japan security system even considered security in the Taiwan Strait as matters along its perimeter.
Thirdly, the Finnish general election 50 years later strengthened relations with the Soviet Union. It cemented a national consensus. Republic of China citizens have a strong desire to defend themselves. The defense of the Republic of China is the greatest common denominator. Republic of China citizens all hope to emerge into the sunlight of the international stage, and have no desire to impose limits on themselves. Fourth, Beijing's policy toward Taipei's strategic goal is "one country, two systems" and "peaceful reunification." Its handling of the "Taiwan issue" is very different from the Soviet Union's policy objectives for Finland. Finally, the Ma administration's "diplomatic truce" or "pragmatic diplomacy" does not mean giving up the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. We advocate reconciliation with the Mainland. At the same time we also hope to strengthen our relationship with the Washington, Tokyo, and others. The two are complementary, not mutually exclusive. That is why the government is concerned that the controversy over US beef imports will affect Taipei/Washington relations.
In 1995, the Taiwan Strait crisis erupted. Later the Chen administration adopted a "two part battle plan" for Mainland and foreign policy. The United States, to avoid entanglement, issued Taipei a warning. It demanded that the DPP government accept full responsibility for its aggressive policy. That is why Gilley's claims are no surprise. They reflect the rapid adjustments Washington has had to make in the face of rising Mainland power. They also reflect the hope that Taipei will play the role of catalyst in the democratization of the Chinese mainland. It hopes that it will continue to participate in Washington's strategy of engagement with Beijing.
Taipei is hardly the only one to adopt a conciliatory policy towards Beijing. Washington and Washington's other allies, including Tokyo and Seoul, are all committed to improving relations with Beijing. Therefore, we believe that Gilley's argument that the Republic of China is moving toward "Finlandization," is merely one man's opinion. Whether it accords with mainstream views in the United States remains to be seen. Until then, the Republic of China government in Taipei has no need to make any rash remarks or haphazard analogies.
Source: The Apple Daily
January 02, 2010