A United States No Longer Certain and In Search of a Pretext
by Chang Ya-chung
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 2, 2010
Foreign Affairs Quarterly enjoys an outstanding reputation among experts in international relations. The current January/February issue includes an article entitled, "Not So Dire Straits," by American scholar Bruce Gilley, which reveals how some members of the US intelligentsia see Washington's role in cross-Strait relations.
After World War II, Finland was extremely cautious about how it dealt with the Soviet Union. Based on geo-political and economic realities, the Finnish government, with the full support of its citizens, took measures to avoid foreign conflict in order to ensure the survival and prosperity of the Finnish nation. Finland's cautious foreign policy should have received affirmation and praise. Instead, during the Cold War, Western scholars and politicians coined the term "Finlandization" to ridicule smaller nations who succumbed to the Soviet Union and who were unwilling to become followers of the United States. Naturally the United States did not use the term "Finlandization" to describe the nations who succumbed to them.
The Term "Finlandization" Reveals US Egocentrism
The article "Not So Dire Straits" uses the derogatory term "Finlandization" to describe Taipei's policy of reconciliation with Beijing. Some scholars in the US are apparently unaware that historically, constitutionally, culturally, and ethnically, cross-Strait relations are completely different from the relationship between the Soviet Union and Finland. The two sides share close economic and social relationships the Soviet Union and Finland never did. The author's use of the term "Finlandization" to describe Taipei's actions is neither here nor there, and brims over with US egocentrism.
The article concluded that since 1949 the United States has played an important role In stabilizing the cross-Strait situation, but that today this historic task has come to an end. The United States should make strategic and diplomatic changes in response to Taipei's "Finlandization." For example, the United States must henceforth consult Beijing before expanding official contacts with Taipei. It must re-formulate its military alliances, to the exclusion of Taipei. On the diplomatic front, it will publicly support cross-Strait peaceful development. But it will reduce the transfer of sensitive technology to prevent leakage from Taiwan to the mainland.
Most importantly, it will belatedly begin honoring the commitment it made to Beijing in 1982 to significantly reduce arms sales to Taipei. The author concludes by giving a positive spin on his "abandon Taipei, cozy up to Beijing," or "shrug off Taipei, lean towards Beijing" policy recommendation. He characterizes the United States' hands-off position on Taiwan Strait affairs as respect for China's territorial integrity. He says it will help ease Sino-US relations, and slow down China's military expansion, thereby increasing the likelilhood of Mainland China's "peaceful rise." The article concludes, "Now is the time for Washington to make an historic shift."
This article sees U.S. interests as the sole consideration for U.S. policy in East Asia. It underscores the sense of powerlessness the US feels as it loses the ability to influence cross-Strait relations. It also reminds one of the "hands-off policy" the US adopted towards the Republic of China in 1949.
Do as the United States Says, or Fend for Yourself
More importantly, it reveals the United States' concern only for its self interest. Like its "China Policy White Paper" of 1949, it passes all the blame for the United States' policy of "unburdening itself of Taipiei" or "abandoning Taipei" onto the KMT government. It spins its irresponsible policy as "inevitable."
This article reveals how some American scholars and politicians are attempting to compare Taipei's efforts to promote cross-Strait reconciliation, with Finland's refusal to side with the West during the Cold War. It attempts to turn Taipei's efforts to pursue cross-Strait into a pretext for the United States to cease playing a stabilizing role in the cross-Strait scenario.
The article avoids making clear that in the future, Taipei must take responsibility for its own security. The United States is no longer concerned. Taipei no longer has a role in the United State's future security arrangments for East Asia, because it has already been "Finlandized." It is no longer "our man." From the article, we see how once again the U.S. appears to be "respecting Taiwan's choice," but is merely revealing its true face, its "Do as I say, or fend for yourself" posture.
Understanding Washington's Policy toward Taipei
Cross-Strait peaceful development is not to the strategic advantage of any given world power. But it is to the advantage of mankind as a whole. It is a moral choice that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have a right to make. The United States should help and encourage Taipei in its cross-Strait interactions. It should help Taipei make use of its advantages. It should help both sides move towards peace. It should help the Mainland become more open, more free, and better governed.
We are saddened seeing a Taiwan policy no longer rooted in idealism. We regret seeing an uncertain Taiwan policy in search of a rationale. We must understand the nature of US policy toward Taiwan over the past 60 years. What justification did the United States have in 1949 for its White Paper on China? What justification did the United States have in 1971 for not supporting the Republic of China in the United Nations? What justification did the United States have in 1979 for breaking off diplomatic relations with Taipei? What justification did the United States have in 1982 for its August 17 bulletin? We are now hearing about "Taiwan's Finlandization" in mainstream academic journals, about Washington's readiness to "abandon Taipei and cozy up to Beijing," about about "unburdening ourselves of Taipei and leaning toward Beijing." Under the circumstances, should we continue viewing "cozying up to the US" as our number one priority? Should we continue to appease the US? Or should we give serious consideration to a different direction?
The author is a Professor at the National Taiwan University Department of Political Science, and a Chairman of the Society for Cross-Strait Unification.
在國際關係學界享有極高聲譽的《外交事務》季刊，這一期（2010年1、2月）刊登了美國學者季禮（Bruce Gilley）所撰寫的《不太危急的海峽》（Not So Dire Straits），傳達出美國知識界一些人如何看待未來美國在兩岸關係中的角色與作為。