China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 29, 2016
Executive Summary: The Tsai Trump phone call opened Pandora's Box. How will Taiwan deal with the consequences? That is difficult to predict. But the Mainland has already begun building a high wall to defend one China. Such is the paradox of history. The KMT, which steadfastly defended one China and befriended the Mainland, ironically ensured Taiwan's autonomy. The DPP, which obstinately opposed one China and incited cross-Strait conflict, ironically accelerated the process of cross-Strait reunification.
Full Text Below:
ROC Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee has responded to Control Yuan inquiries about the difficulties Taiwan has encountered attempting to join international organizations. He admitted that United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 and Mainland insistence on the one China principle have had an effect. With the exception of the WTO and APEC, membership in international organizations is difficult without Beijing's approval. David Lee's remarks made Taiwan independence advocates very uncomfortable. They inadvertently shattered their carefully crafted illusion. Lee believes Taiwan has the right to join the United Nations and other international organizations, regardless of whether the Mainland approves. He said Taiwan could not join these organizations only because the Kuomintang was incompetent and weak when it was in office.
Lies are eventually exposed. Such lies, spread by the DPP after assuming power, cannot withstand scrutiny. The DPP will not be able to continue passing the buck to the KMT. The DPP now enjoys “total governance”. Therefore it must assume “total responsibility”. When it is unable to join international organizations, when diplomatic allies break off relations, it will have to accept responsibility. Some DPP leaders are attempting to shape public opinion. For example, Sao Tome and Principe has severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan. DPP leaders insist this is good for Taiwan, because these countries cannot help Taiwan. Ending diplomatic relations reduces our expenditures. Taiwan needs only to improve relations with major nations, they say. But six months ago, these same people were blasting the Ma administration because Gambia established diplomatic relations with the Mainland. They blamed the Ma government's diplomatic truce for the loss.
In fact, their allegation that small nations cannot help us join international organizations is self-contradictory. Political realities mean that Taiwan must rely on diplomatic partners in the United Nations or other international organizations to increase its exposure, or submit membership requests. As members of these organizations, these nations have the right to invite Taiwan to join. They may not be able to persuade other nations to accept Taiwan. But their requests are an indispensable first step.
The United States Congress often passes legislation that supports Taiwan's accession to international organizations. But these are mostly symbolic gestures, with no binding effect on the executive branch. The United States never advances such proposals in international organizations, still less help Taiwan join them. In other words, even from the most utilitarian perspective of diplomatic relations, few nations consider themselves obliged to help Taiwan.
Many in the DPP persist in self-deception. This hampers Taiwan's understanding of the international situation. It also blinds people to the subtle cross-Strait balance of power. The Mainland has announced the resumption of diplomatic relations with Sao Tome. Many consider this irrelevant. Many mock it. They assume it will further alienate Taiwan from the Mainland. They fail to realize that years of cross-Strait interaction has familiarized the Mainland with Taiwan. The Mainland understands the impact of cross-Strait exchanges and military threats on Taiwan's public opinion. Why has the Mainland exerted diplomatic pressure on Taiwan? Why has it dispatched military aircraft to circle Taiwan? The underlying reason of course is that the Tsai government has refused to recognize the 1992 consensus. But from a tactical perspective, the answer can be found in Mainland policy toward Taiwan, which is carefully measured.
In the past, the two sides have often engaged in diplomatic warfare. During the Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian eras, Taiwan benefited from its economic strength. This enabled it to compete for diplomatic relations with the Mainland. It both gained and lost, but gains outweighed the losses. The Ma government proposed a diplomatic truce. It did so as a gesture of goodwill towards the Mainland. Now however, Taiwan no longer has the ability to compete with the Mainland for diplomatic relations. Never mind diplomatic truce. Taiwan can only hope that the Mainland refrains from competing for diplomatic relations. If the Mainland proceeds, Taiwan can only sit back and watch as other nations drift away, unable to do anything in response. This is the most serious crisis facing Taiwan today. This is the shrill warning the Mainland has issued to Taiwan with the Sao Tome and Principe diplomatic break. David Lee is on the frontlines of this diplomatic battlefield. He feels all of this deeply. That is why he did not deny that Taiwan's participation in international organizations requires Mainland consent. He revealed the reality of Taiwan's plight. The same is true of the imbalance in military strength.
The DPP government finds itself in a dilemma. How will it respond? Other than engage in self-deception, it can do nothing. The DPP government can only take one of two paths. The first is to humble itself and take a hard look at the KMT government's cross-Strait and foreign policies. It must not turn a blind eye to KMT successes in its struggle with the Mainland, merely because of partisan rivalry. It must seek a new consensus with the Mainland, and return to the proper path. The other is to continue blindly down its current path, amidst cross-Strait tensions, toward eventual decline. The Mainland may use the opportunity to continue its attacks, eventually completing the diplomatic and military encirclement of Taiwan. Eventually Taiwan will no longer have any chips to play, and will be forced to accept "reunification without dignity".
President Tsai may attempt to take a third path, namely to maintain the ambiguous status quo. But evolutionary changes have proven that external forces will inexorably erode this ambiguity. The Tsai Trump phone call opened Pandora's Box. How will Taiwan deal with the consequences? That is difficult to predict. But the Mainland has already begun building a high wall to defend one China. As the Mainland sees it, the path of ambiguity will eventually merge with the second path.
Such is the paradox of history. The KMT, which steadfastly defended one China and befriended the Mainland, ironically ensured Taiwan's autonomy. The DPP, which obstinately opposed one China and incited cross-Strait conflict, ironically accelerated the process of cross-Strait reunification.