David Shear Diametrically Opposed to Tsai Ing-wen on ECFAUnited Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 17, 2010
Tsai Ing-wen warns that the cross-Strait economic framework agreement (ECFA) upsets the strategic balance in Southeast Asia. She warns that Southeast Asia will become a "Sinocentric Southeast Asia" that will weaken and marginalize the United States' presence in Southeast Asia.
Her remarks may convey the ring of a "strategic international perspective." But they were clearly intended for Washington's ears. They imply that once Taipei and Beijing sign ECFA, Mainland China will become the "center of gravity" for Southeast Asia, and that the United States will lose influence. The subtext is that in order to prevent the United States from being marginalized in Southeast Asia, Taipei should not sign ECFA. The subtext is that if Washington wishes to maintain the current "strategic balance in Southeast Asia," it must not support ECFA.
Unfortunately for Tsai Ing-wen, Washington has offered precisely the opposite response. According to State Department Acting Deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid, ECFA is a "positive development" that the U.S. government "encourages." This was followed by similar remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Asian-Pacific Affairs David Shear. During a keynote speech Shear said that ECFA will benefit Taiwan and the world, and that the United States was delighted to see the two sides sign such an agreement. This remark may well be the most favorable evaluation of cross-Strait interactions that Washington has offered in 60 years. It was a rare moment in history.
David Shear's comments were actually quite circumspect. He reiterated that the United States does not support Taiwan independence, and is opposed to any party unilaterally changing the status quo. He added that cross-Strait economic exchanges and cultural relations were the healthiest they have been in decades. He said ECFA would accelerate this "positive development" and make Taiwan more attractive to foreign investors. He added that Washington was willing to strengthen Taipei/Washington economic cooperation by means of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). He said that for the past 60 years, Taiwan has developed politically, socially, and economically. He said this proved that Taiwan can be simultaneously Chinese, modern, and democratic. He said the whole world "can learn from the Taiwan experience" how to promote modernization. He said ECFA showed Taipei's desire to become "an important and valuable member of the international community." He said "The United States is strongly encouraged by this development." The Republic of China withdrew from the United Nations forty years ago. Since then, when has Washington ever praised Taipei so generously? During the 60 years since 1949, when has Washington ever reaffirmed Taipei's cross-Strait policy so enthusiastically?
The DPP should reflect on Washington's assessment of ECFA. Why is its assessment diametrically opposed to Tsai Ing-wen's? Tsai Ing-wen warns ECFA is harmful to the "strategic balance in Southeast Asia." She insists that the rise of [Mainland] China will lead to the United States' marginalization. But David Shear's remarks show no hint of such concerns. Just the opposite. Shear affirmed ECFA, saying it was helping to make cross-Strait relations the healthiest they have been in 60 years. He said it showed Taipei's desire to become an important and valuable member of the international community. He said Washington was deeply encouraged. David Shear was clearly evaluating ECFA from an elevated international and global perspective. But his international and global perspective was entirely different from Tsai Ing-wen's.
Tsai Ing-wen has a strategic perspective -- of sorts. Her strategic perspective is the outdated perspective of the 20th century Cold War. David Shear's comments represent a very different strategic perspective, a post-Cold War 21st century perspective.
For example: Tsai Ing-wen warns that ECFA will facilitate the rise of [Mainland] China in Southeast Asia. But in David Shear's eyes, Beijing has already erected an ASEAN plus N framework. Therefore Taipei has no choice but to sign ECFA. Tsai Ing-wen warns that Taipei must take measures to block the rise of [Mainland] China. But David Shear apparently believes that Taipei should strive to improve the environment for foreign investment. Tsai Ing-wen assumes that Taiwan must be "anti-Chinese," even "non-Chinese." But David Shear believes Taiwan can be simultaneously Chinese, modern, and democratic.
We have repeatedly urged both the ruling and opposition parties to take note of Washington's assessment of cross-Strait interactions. Washington has said nothing negative about the Ma administration's cross-Strait policy for the past two years. Now David Shear, addressing ECFA on behalf of the US government, has praised it to the skies. Needless to say this is a clear indication of Washington's strategic perspective.
Skeptics may conclude that this is Washington's way of jettisoning Taiwan. But a fairer evaluation would be that this reflects Washington's transition from military confrontation to political/economic coopetition. Washington remains committed to Taipei. But the nature of that commitment has changed. Taipei must learn to read the signs.
Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian over-estimated Washington's military commitment to Taipei. They clung to fantasies about Washington's desire to use Taiwan independence as an anti-communist pawn. Tsai Ing-wen has apparently compounded that error. David Shear has pointed out her errors, one by one.
The United States will not be marginalized. But Taiwan is being marginalized. This may well be a concern for David Shear. But he offers a completely different perspective, and a completely different set of countermeasures than Tsai Ing-wen.
2010.07.16 03:38 am