United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 1, 2015
Executive Summary: US policy toward Taiwan is paradoxical. On the one hand, it upholds Taiwan's democracy. On the other hand, it explicitly opposes Taiwan authorities from seeking Taiwan independence. The US considers Taiwan independence counter to Taiwan's own interests, and non-conducive to Taiwan's democracy.
Full Text Below:
US policy toward Taiwan is paradoxical. On the one hand, it upholds Taiwan's democracy. On the other hand, it explicitly opposes Taiwan authorities from seeking Taiwan independence. The US considers Taiwan independence counter to Taiwan's own interests, and non-conducive to Taiwan's democracy.
The United States believes that Taiwan independence agitation within the private sector falls within the scope of democracy. But it believes that Taiwan authorities must not engage in Taiwan independence activity. The US made its views abundantly clear during Lee Teng-hui's terms and Chen Shui-bian's second term. Back then, Lee and Chen were still engaged in trickery. They deceived people at home and abroad. They took advantage of US goodwill towards Taiwan's democracy to promote Taiwan independence. This led in time to a blow up with the United States.
Now that the DPP may return to power, it will once again face this test. Joseph Wu recently visited the United States. He appealed to the United States "to defend Taiwan's democracy, in the hope of maintaining peaceful cross-Strait exchanges". With so much at stake, Tsai Ing-wen must not repeat the mistakes made by Lee and Chen.
During the Clinton era, the United States proclaimed that it would "safeguard democracy while opposing Taiwan independence". In June 1998, in Shanghai, Clinton reiterated the one China policy and declared that the US does not support Taiwan independence or one China, one Taiwan. This was part of its "three non-supports" policy. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told reporters that even if the elected government of Taiwan chose Taiwan independence, or an overwhelming majority of the public voted yes in a public referendum on Taiwan independence, the United States would not support it. This was the first time the pledge to "defend democracy while opposing Taiwan independence" was expressed in such unambiguous terms. Clinton aides were blunt. The one China policy is beneficial to Taiwan.
The following year, the KMT's 2000 presidential election prospects were gloomy. Lee Teng-hui announced his "two states theory" and pushed for a fifth constitutional amendment that would make his two states theory part of the constitution. Then American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Richard Bush immediately rushed to Taiwan to remind Lee Teng-hui that One China is the cornerstone of US policy, and has led to an environment favorable to a democratic Taiwan. In other words, Taiwan's democracy depends on the one China policy. Therefore those in power on Taiwan must not overturn the one China policy. This amounted to a reiteration of the “One China is advantageous to Taiwan” declaration. Because the US intervened, Lee Teng-hui was forced to retreat. While meeting face to face with Richard Bush, Lee withdrew his plan to incorporate his two states theory into the constitution. Richard Bush said, "I am firmly opposed to Taiwan independence!"
Alas, Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui repeated their mistakes. As the 2008 presidential election approached, Chen Shui-bian found himself mired in corruption scandals. He stage managed Taiwan independence political theater and demanded a public referendum paving the way for “Taiwan's entry into the UN”. The US State Department publicly and repeatedly blasted Chen Shui-bian, saying that the US hoped the people of Taiwan would see through the rhetoric of the referendum, and realize that the referendum is inconsistent with Taiwan's interests. It said Taiwan independence will not enrich Taiwan's democracy. The US once again declared that the one-China policy is favorable to Taiwan, while Taiwan independence is not. At the time, Chen Shui-bian openly defied the US. He dismissed the US statement as "election rhetoric", and promised that "nothing will happen after the election." As a result, Chen Shui-bian became persona no grata to the United States.
Chen declared that "Democracy has no red lines." But the US government's position is that “Policies must have red lines”. The two may seem contradictory, but this is a dialectical relationship. The United States feels that its one China policy achieves balance in cross-Strait policy. It defends Taiwan's democracy, therefore the Taiwan authorities must not overthrow the existing framework. This newspaper has long championed this view as well. We believe the opposition DPP has a right to advocate Taiwan independence. But it has no right to make it policy when it is in power.
The United States is gradually changing its wording vis a vis its one China policy. Before it said that the one China policy is beneficial to Taiwan. Now it says the 1992 consensus is favorable to Taiwan. The United States uses the one China policy to stabilize the Taiwan Straits, and defend Taiwan's democracy. But the one China policy had no room for growth. In March 2008, Hu Jintao mentioned the 1992 consensus and one China, different interpretations to George W. Bush on the hotline. This instantly increased US latitude on the one China policy. The meaning of the 1992 consensus and one China, different interpretations have yet to be finalized. But they have already become the United States' upgraded version of the one China policy. It has become nothing less than the common political basis for the tripartite relationship between Taipei, Washington, and Beijing. It is definitely not just a matter of KMT-CCP relations.
Therefore when the DPP repudiates the 1992 Consensus, it upsets the United States' Taiwan Strait policy. The US perceives the DPP attitude as nothing less than self-destruction. The US wonders why the DPP cannot seem to understand that the 1992 consensus is beneficial to Taiwan. Why inflict harm upon Taiwan's interests? That is why when Douglas Paal visiting Taiwan in 2012, he said the 1992 consensus is the cross-Strait bottom line. This March, Barbara Schrage explicitly referred to the 1992 consensus as beneficial and essential to the United States and to cross-Strait relations. She urged Tsai Ing-wen not to evade the reality of the 1992 consensus. This amounted to a declaration that the 1992 consensus is favorable to Taiwan.
Lee and Chen used Taiwan independence as election tools. But in the end, they shot themselves in the foot and seriously undermined Taiwan's interests. Does Tsai Ing-wen really not know that the 1992 consensus is beneficial to Taipei, Washington, and Beijing? Is she really determined to reduce the 1992 consensus to election rhetoric? She is advised to pull back from the brink. She must never repeat the mistakes made by Lee and Chen.