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Home > East Asia > 

Resist China's divisive approach
Paul Lin
12/7/2004

The US presidential election had many similarities with Taiwan's presidential election in March this year.

First, the close opinion polls. Second, the media's position, leaning toward Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry. Third, the campaign topics, focusing on national security. Fourth, the intervention of outside forces, trying to influence the election.

If we apply these conditions to the presidential candidates, there is no doubt that US President George W. Bush found himself in a position similar to President Chen Shui-bian, and that Kerry found himself in a position similar to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan.

Kerry, however, handled the election outcome radically different from Lien, which highlights the difference in democratic maturity between Taiwan and the US, as well as differences in the two individuals' character.

The day after the election, although the ballot count was still incomplete, Kerry's team came to the conclusion that the result was basically settled. They did not place their hopes on the slimmest of chances, because they didn't want to affect national unity by having to wait another 11 days before Ohio's provisional votes could be counted. Kerry, who had at first refused to concede the election, made the decision to do so in a phone call to Bush. Both parties have acknowledged that something has to be done to deal with the national divide.

Looking back at the many disturbances that have occurred in Taiwan following the presidential election on March 20, I don't know how many such 11-day periods have gone by because of that person who is constantly stirring things up in the belief there still is a glimmer of hope.

Not only are there several lawsuits in progress, but several experts also keep issuing sensational statements and severe criticisms. This spirit, however, has dissipated over time, leading the mighty chairman to roll up his sleeves and take to the streets, provocatively calling the president a cheater and saying that everyone has the right to execute [a deliberate double entendre -- in Chinese the word used can mean both "to execute a criminal" and "to condemn"] him, thus once again inciting supporters to create disturbances.

With the case already brought before the courts, how can this chairman override the court and pin a crime on the president, and how can he call for his lynching? How can this be called "rule of law?" Is this the "green terror" that they keep talking about, or is it a return to the "white terror" of the authoritarian era?

Aren't these endless squabbles all about creating and deepening divisions to promote their own interests and the interests of a small group of people? Do these interests coincide with the interests of Taiwan and the KMT, or with the wishes of China? The truth is that Lien will never have another chance to run for president, and so he has staked everything on a final bet.

Bush's re-election means the continuation of past domestic and diplomatic policy, which means that Taiwan's pro-China lobby can give up any unrealistic hopes for a major change in the US-China-Taiwan relationship. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should immediately clarify the misunderstandings created between the US and Taiwan during Taiwan's presidential election campaign as a result of domestic political requirements.

China's official English-language mouthpiece the China Daily published an article by former Chinese vice premier Qian Qichen attacking Bush's foreign policy and complaining about the US spirit in an attempt to influence the outcome of the elections.

The US objected strongly to the article, which made an excellent match with Osama bin Laden's videotaped threats to the US. It revealed the insincerity of China's friendship with the US, instead displaying its true animosity.

There will be a price to pay for Beijing's failed opportunism. The US' "one China" policy will not change yet, nor will policies on economic cooperation with China aimed at winning commercial advantages, but the US will strengthen precautionary mea-sures and containment of China when it comes to security issues.

Past differences between the State Department and Pentagon in their views on China show that the Pentagon was right. At a time when the US' war on terror is intesifying, they should remain clear on the fact that the most evil state is China.

Some of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's statements during his visit to Beijing last month have had an impact on the Taiwan-US relationship. The US' partial explanations have not succeeded in restoring the original relationship, just as the US still is uncertain about Taiwan.

But the issues between Taiwan and the US are still issues between friends, just as are the issues between the US and Israel. The US, however, recognizes the destructive impact it would have on the US and the world, and particularly on security in the Far East and Southeast Asia, if Taiwan falls into China's hands.

Taiwan must also understand US strategy and offer effective cooperation instead of adding to the US' troubles. But Taiwan is a democratic society, with pro-China politicians attempting to topple the legally elected government as well as those who have been labelled Taiwan independence activists by China.

To sum up, Taiwan and the US should look at the grand scheme of things and not accept China's provocations and attempts at dividing the two.

Given China's rapid military expansion, the importance of communication and cooperation between Taiwan and the US is growing by the day, and it is necessary to consider the establishment of a direct communication mechanism aimed at maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait.

The DPP should also take a long-term approach and prepare for future needs by training diplomatic talent with an American contact network in US Ivy League universities.


Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.



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