Monday, July 20, 2015

Does the US Buy Tsai Ing-wen's Cross-Strait Rhetoric?

Does the US Buy Tsai Ing-wen's Cross-Strait Rhetoric?
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 21, 2015

Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen is the DPP's 2016 presidential candidate. The probability she will be elected is high. Does the United States buy Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait policy rhetoric? Does it trust her to deal with cross-Strait issues?

Full Text Below:

Tsai Ing-wen is the DPP's 2016 presidential candidate. The probability she will be elected is high. Does the United States buy Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait policy rhetoric? Does it trust her to deal with cross-Strait issues?

This question is worth exploring. The trilateral relationship between Taipei, Washington, and Beijing means that whatever one party does affects the others. The person or political party who leads the ROC must be able to maintain balance in the relationship between Taipei, Washington, and Beijing. Any imbalance, including instability in the Taiwan Strait, will negatively impact the fate of 23 million people.

Tsai Ing-wen visited the US in her capacity as DPP presidential nominee. She visited the US State Department and met with Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. She received red carpet treatment. That means Washington thinks she may well win. As a result the Taiwan media termed Tsai's visit a "great success". During a dinner reception with overseas Chinese, Joseph Wu, DPP Secretary-General and ROC representative to the US, in a moment of jubilation, described Tsai's visit to Washington as "very successful".

Soon after, President Ma Ying-jeou transited the United States. He returned to his alma mater Harvard University, where he delivered speeches and participated in academic discussions. President Ma's visit attracted little attention in the Taiwan media. He reminisced about his contribution to stable trilateral relations between Washington, Beijing, and Taipei. He spoke of how he got the two sides to trust each other during his seven-year term. US officials were unstinting in their praise of President Ma's speech and successful discussion groups.

Washington gave both Tsai Ing-wen and President Ma the red carpet treatment. But when responding to Tsai Ing-wen's speech, US officials merely reiterated that the US position has always been to develop strong unofficial relations with Taiwan, and that the US abides by the One China Policy, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Taiwan Relations Act. The US response was mere pro forma lip service, devoid of real substance.

If the United States bought Tsai's rhetoric, why was it so reluctant to offer a few words of praise? Contrast this with the praise it heaped on Ma Ying-jeou. Why did the United States give people the unmistakable impression of favoritism?

Contrast this with the situation four years ago. The United States did not criticize Tsai Ing-wen. But refraining from criticizing is a long way from heaping unstinting praise. Raymond Burghardt, President of the American Institute in Taiwan, said the United States chose not to criticize Tsai this time. But it listened carefully to what Tsai Ing-wen had to say. There is a big difference between what she says and what she thinks. What Tsai said, the United States heard. But did the United States buy what she said?

The United States listened but said nothing. There are two reasons for this. One. The United States did not want people to think it was taking sides. It was reluctant to criticize a presidential candidate who was likely to win. Two. The DPP did its homework. For example, Tsai Ing-wen submitted an editorial to the Wall Street Journal, saying "My priority is to increase cross-Strait mutual trust and cooperation." The United States is naturally not about to criticize such a statement.

Is Tsai's cross-Strait policy path acceptable to the United States? Consider what Joseph R. Donovan Jr., Managing Director of the American Institute in Taiwan said recently at a Taiwanese American Conference-East Coast (TAC-EC). The event was sponsored by pro-green overseas Taiwanese. Donovan, the guest speaker, reiterated the United States position. He said the US insists on a cross-Strait relationship acceptable to people on both sides of the Strait, and the peaceful handling of cross-Strait relations.

When referring to cross-Strait policy, US officials sometimes say, "should be acceptable to people on both sides of the Strait". At other times they say, "should be acceptable to the people on Taiwan". Generally speaking, the former is more common when the Republicans are in power, while the latter is more common when Democrats are in power.

Suppose the Democratic Progressive Party was currently in power? Suppose pro-green overseas Taiwanese were the host? Suppose Donovan said, "should be acceptable to people on both sides of the Strait"?  That would have amounted to a declaration to the green camp that "The United States does not support Taiwan independence".  That would have clearly refuted Tsai Ing-wen's longed for "Taiwan independence DNA" thesis.

For Tsai Ing-wen, cross-Strait policy poses a dilemma. She must seek US approval. She must also accomodate the DPP and its long held position. She must bob and weave, and ultimately avoid giving a straight answer. Following a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, three times she was asked what she meant by "maintaining the status quo", and the "1992 consensus". Three times she gave the same answer: "Please read carefully the contents of my speech." Her evasions made that day's BBC headlines, and became the butt of jokes by the news anchor.

Just before Tsai Ing-wen's visit, Susan Thornton, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, heaped praise on the Ma administration's cross-Strait policy, thereby setting the tone for the future of cross-Strait relations. Following Tsai Ing-wen's departure, President Ma Ying-jeou transited the United States. Raymond Burghardt repeatedly reaffirmed the Ma administration's cross-Strait policy. On the one hand, the US repeatedly praised the Ma administration's cross-Strait policy. On the other hand it remained tight-lipped and refused to affirm Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait policy. Does the United States buy Tsai's cross-Strait rhetoric? Isn't the answer obvious?

The US government position is abundantly clear. It wants cross-Strait peace and stability. Recent US official remarks include the following: "encourage both sides to continue constructive dialogue; encourage Taiwan to continue its zero accident policy, low key maintainence of stability; we want to see this approach continue; the United States clearly looks forward to this." Does Tsai have a clear response? If she cannot offer a clear response, how can she gain the trust of the other side?

In 2000, President Chen Shui-bian's inaugural speech included his "five noes". The United States did more than ask for such a declaration. It demanded such a declaration, Fifteen years have elapsed. The balance of power between the United States and the Mainland has shifted. The United States looks forward peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait even more than before.

ROC presidential candidates must have the determination, the strategy, and the ability to ensure peace in the Taiwan Strait. They most assuredly cannot simply tell people "Read the contents of my speech".

20150721 中國時報














美國政府的立場很明確,就是兩岸和平與穩定。綜合最近美國官員談話,有如下述:鼓勵兩岸繼續建設性的對話;鼓勵台灣繼續「零意外」、「低調」以維繫安定;希望看見這樣的作法持續下去(We want to see this approach continue)」。面對美國這樣的明確期待,蔡英文有什麼明確回應?如果不能有明確的回應,如何能贏得對方的信賴?



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