China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 15, 2016
Executive Summary: Former Vice President Annette Lu published an article in the China Times yesterday. She said there was no reason to be excited about the Trump Tsai phone call. On the contrary, she voiced unease, and called on President Tsai to be prepared for the storm that is about to hit. As a veteran green camp political leader, Annette Lu's reaction was level-headed. She hoped that President Tsai would "know thyself”. If Tsai is willing to be a bargaining chip for the US, she will not merely break with the Mainland, she will also have to pay the US protection money. Therefore she would be well advised to let cross-Strait problems be solved by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Full Text Below:
When president elect Donald Trump openly questioned the Mainland's “one China policy” the official response from the Tsai government was quite low-key. To everyone's surprise, Taiwan independence elders were uniformly silent. Instead, it was the Western media that seemed determined to make the most of the issue, especially the New York Times, which accused Trump of provoking China over its most sensitive core interest. If he persisted, the Mainland would have many bargaining chips it could use, and Taiwan would be its first victim. The Times noted several of these. They included trade sanctions, investment slowdowns, aid to North Korea, and aid to Iran. Among these, Taiwan most fears a Mainland launched diplomatic war that deprives Taiwan of its diplomatic allies. The Mainland could also limit investments on Taiwan and the number of Mainland tourists to Taiwan, thereby undermining Taiwan's economy.
The New York Times does not support Trump. Nor has it ever hesitated to criticize the Mainland. Trump's use of the One China Policy as a bargaining chip makes people shudder. Clear-minded people know it was not exaggerating. The Mainland is fully capable of punishing Taiwan. That was never in question. The only question is whether it wants to. The Trump Tsai phone call may have given Taiwan independence elements some cheap thrills. It may have held out hope that Taiwan would become a bargaining chip the US uses to check and balance the Mainland. But the question is, at what price?
What is a bargaining chip? It is the ante a gambler puts up before a bet, in the hope of making a greater gain. The concept of bargaining chips applies in many other areas, including international politics. Bargaining chips are often viewed as units of trade among players. All this talk about bargaining chips however, presumes that Taiwan's current and future status will not determined by Taiwan itself, but by the major powers. The United States has long treated Taiwan as a bargaining chip between the Mainland and the United States. This did not begin today. It began with the outbreak of the Korean War. Taiwan became the United States' unsinkable aircraft carrier in the first island chain, part of its plan to contain the Mainland. Its fate was sealed back then. Past US presidents have allowed Taiwan to save face. Trump did not. He made Taiwan's status explicit. The situation is now abundantly clear. In the current Great Game of Nations, is Taiwan a player? Or merely a bargaining chip? If the former, then it must possess the strategic wisdom to play with others. If the latter, then all it can do is wait and hope that others will be merciful.
Do not say that Taiwan is too small, and therefore lacks the means to play among the major powers, or that it cannot afford to play. Many small nations in the world today lack even Taiwan's resources. Yet they are still able to play among the major powers. Leave aside North Korea for the moment. Singapore has less territory and fewer people than Taiwan. But who can deny its key role in the Southeast Asian Great Game? During the Chiang Ching-kuo era, the United States feared the Mainland, and refused to sell second-generation fighters to Taiwan. Old F-104 fighters crashed often, and were derided as "widow makers". Taiwan's own IDF showed the United States that Taiwan could produce its own fighters. Therefore the US sold the F-16 to Taiwan, to the benefit of US arms merchants. During the Two Chiangs era, Taiwan remained dependent upon the United States. Nevertheless it maintained its Chinese identity.
Taiwan must not resign itself to being a bargaining chip. The reason is simple. A player retains the initiative. A bargaining chip passively permits others to do with it as they will. When one is reduced to the status of a bargaining chip, do not assume that the players will feel any sympathy for you. As long as you can be traded for something more profitable, you will be. Never forget that Trump is a businessman. For businessmen, the main theme is trade. His eyes will always be focused on the interests of the United States, never on those of Taiwan. If Trump really “loved Taiwan”, he would proclaim that "Taiwan is the 51st state of the United States" and that Taiwan is protected. Is Trump about to do that?
Following the Trump Tsai phone call, Trump repeatedly railed against Mainland China. It appeared as if a sudden change had suddenly come over US-China relations. If some people on Taiwan are excited about this, their reaction can only be described as foolish. How do they know he is not merely bargaining with the Mainland? Is it not obvious Trump is using the Trump Tsai phone call as leverage, to raise the price during negotiations with the Mainland? If the Mainland is willing to pay Trump's asking price, who says the Taiwan chip will not be sacrificed and traded? The New York Times has already listed the Mainland's other chips. Has Taiwan counted its own chips? Do they really outnumber the other side's chips ?
As history can attest, numerous US presidents have loudly criticized the Mainland before taking office, and left Taiwan with high expectations. But when push came to shove, the presidents who inflicted the most damage to Taiwan, were often the ones who criticized the most loudly. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush Jr. all did the same with the Mainland. Is Trump really going to be the lone exception? Especially since this time the outcry was the loudest. Therefore, will the injury visited upon Taiwan also be the greatest?
Former Vice President Annette Lu published an article in the China Times yesterday. She said there was no reason to be excited about the Trump Tsai phone call. On the contrary, she voiced unease, and called on President Tsai to be prepared for the storm that is about to hit. As a veteran green camp political leader, Annette Lu's reaction was level-headed. She hoped that President Tsai would "know thyself”. If Tsai is willing to be a bargaining chip for the US, she will not merely break with the Mainland, she will also have to pay the US protection money. Therefore she would be well advised to let cross-Strait problems be solved by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.