Sacrifices in the National Interest: ROC, or USA?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 18, 2012
Summary: The truth is, Taipei may have no choice but to be Washington's tool. It
may have to be Washington's pawn in its effort to contain Mainland
China. But changes are taking place, both short-term and long. We must
distinguish between being active and being passive. The Ma Ying-jeou
administration must maintain a sense of direction. It must see the Big
Picture. It must distinguish between right and wrong. It must turn
passivity into activity. It must maximize Taipei's advantage. Taipei's
direction will then be self-evident.
Full Text below:
President Ma Ying-jeou met with U.S. Senator Murkowski on the 15th. He said cross-Strait relations and Taipei-Washington relations do not conflict. He said the Republic of China government will continue purchasing advanced weapons from the United States, to ensure national security and maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait. But Taipei will also continue to improve relations with Mainland China. It will continue to expand bilateral exchanges. Simply put, arms sales from the US and cross-Strait reconciliation will coexist.
The day before, former AIT Director Richard Bush published a summary of his new book, "The Unknown Strait," at the Brookings Institution website. He said that if Beijing is hoping Washington will abandon Taipei, it is in for a disappointment. He said U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are not the biggest obstacle to reunification across the Strait. He said Washington's current policy will encourage Beijing to be more creative and seek a better way to resolve cross-Strait disputes. Put plainly, Washington has no intention of letting go.
On the surface, some of the arguments in President Ma's remarks and Richard Bush's new book make sense. But both men are merely looking after their own interests. At the theoretical level, both fail to see the strategic picture. Both lack vision. In practice, their views contain blind spots and internal contradictions. Everyone wants to avoid risk. But the current practice is to procratinate, and hope that circumstances will change for the better. But this "feeling one's way across the river" approach may not be the answer.
From President Ma's perspective, Taipei will continue improving relations with the Mainland. It will increase interaction and exchanges with the Mainland. Taipei must also be able to to defend itself. One must never assume that one's enemy is not coming. One must always ensure that one can defend oneself. U.S. arms sales mean that Taipei and Beijing cannot engage in comprehensive, long-term military confrontation. But perhaps they can offer the public on Taiwan temporary psychological reassurances. Perhaps they can show Washington's determination to defend Taipei. The two appear to go hand in hand. They seem to have no down side.
Taipei cannot and should not bet its future on the Beijing's good faith. It cannot bet its future on US arms purchases it cannot afford. Otherwise it will end ups as Washington's anti-China tool and patsy. It could even provoke a cross-Strait arms race. That would hardly be consistent with the interests of the Republic of China or the Chinese people as a whole. After all, national and ethnic identity on Taiwan are also involved. Many considerations must be weighed against each other. Taipei must be extremely cautious.
Richard Bush warned Taipei not to give Beijing the impression that reunification is hopeless. Do not make Beijing lose patience and misjudge the situation, he warned. Taipei must strengthen Taiwan's economy and reform the ROC's political system. It must prevent cross-Strait relations from becoming an asymmetrical form of interdependence. It must increase the price Beijing must pay if it attempts to pressure Taipei. Superficially such arguments sound reasonable. But on closer examination, they are actually rather questionable.
Washington has long urged the two sides to maintain a dynamic balance. The two sides should not increase tensions, thereby upsetting the status quo. But Washington's definition of the status quo must be clarified. On the one hand, Washington hopes that cross-Strait relations will improve, that the two sides will increase cross-Strait exchanges and reduce regional tensions. On the other hand, it wants to maintain over the situation. It does not want the two sides to move too fast, and become too close. Washington cares only about its own interests. It refuses to allow Taiwan independence. It also refuses to allow reunification. It refuses to allow Taipei to provoke the Mainland. It also refuses to allow Beijing to use force.
In concrete terms, Taipei's arms purchases merely fulfill its own false and temporary psychological need for security. But they are consistent with Washington's military interests. Taipei cannot and must not accept unreasonable terms for reunification imposed by Beijing. But for Taipei, Washington's continued intervention in cross-Strait affairs reeks of insufferable arrogance. It can only undermine future opportunities for cross-Strait integration. Washington wants Taipei to adopt the lowest possible standards. It does not want Beijing to feel that reunification is hopeless. Such thinking may accord wtih Washington's interests. But does it accord with the best interests of the public on Taiwan and the Mainland? That is debatable.
In fact, knowledgeable parties in the US understand that as long as the two sides reduce tensions, increase interaction, increase people to people exchanges, intermarry, and facilitate investments, then relations between Taiwan and the Mainland will become closer. Taiwan's need for psychological and military assurances will change. The process will take time. But this natural process is not subject to personal whims. One day Washington's policy of procrastination will no longer be viable.
Former American Institute in Taiwan Representative Stephen M. Young said that he is neither pro-blue, nor pro-green, he is pro-American. Similarly, Richard Bush's views reflect Washington's interests. Will Washington abandon Taipei? This question will be decided by whether it is in Washington's national interests. Washington's dismal record in this respect is well known. One need only recall the Polish uprising, the Prague Spring, the fall of South Vietnam, the assassination of President Allende in Chile.
The truth is, Taipei may have no choice but to be Washington's tool. It may have to be Washington's pawn in its effort to contain Mainland China. But changes are taking place, both short-term and long. We must distinguish between being active and being passive. The Ma Ying-jeou administration must maintain a sense of direction. It must see the Big Picture. It must distinguish between right and wrong. It must turn passivity into activity. It must maximize Taipei's advantage. Taipei's direction will then be self-evident.