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Don't listen to China's lies, U.S. is on our side
Paul Lin

In spite of any friction between Taiwan and the U.S. caused by the U.S. during President Chen Shui-bian's whirlwind tour earlier this month, the two countries' fundamental interests remain aligned, and that is why two recent initiatives by the U.S. indirectly also helped Taiwan.

The first is the U.S. announcement that it seeks to normalize diplomatic relations with Libya. Although Chen's recent visit to Libya was a diplomatic breakthrough, pro-China forces slammed the visit as an attempt to consort with a rogue nation in definance of the U.S. On May 15, three days after Chen had returned to Taiwan, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.S. and Libya would renew full diplomatic ties, and that the U.S. would remove Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The announcement no doubt embarrassed pro-China forces in Taiwan. They had just finished extolling the importance of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship and criticizing Chen; their true colors would have been revealed if they were to suddenly shift gears and adopt an anti-US stance to keep the heat on Chen. However, being China-friendly, their true nature is to oppose the U.S. -- drumming up US-Taiwan relations at the time was merely part of a strategy to undermine Taiwan.

Libya's interaction with democratic Taiwan is beneficial to the former's image, and will promote improvements in Libya's behavior. This is something that the U.S. looks forward to, especially as North Korea and Iran, with China's support, continue to lock horns with the U.S. Resuming diplomatic ties with Libya after a quarter century of enmity is a constructive development in the U.S. effort to forge a united front against terrorism. Muammar Qaddafi's comments regarding China's oppression of Taiwan during his meeting with Chen, were especially moving. Such boldness and support is rare.

Before all this, U.S. President George W. Bush met Chinese human rights advocates Yu Jie, Wang Yi and Li Boguang at the White House on April 11. The meeting, which was extended to an hour from the originally scheduled half-hour, took place in a residential room, and was very cordial and warm. The human rights advocates discussed with Bush problems pertaining to religion in China and their own families' situations there. Afterwards, they even prayed together.

Although the meeting was nominally focused on the topic of human rights in China, it had more to do with religion which is an important aspect of human rights. The meeting's intense focus on religion became especially controversial when a non-Christian member of the human rights coterie did not attend the meeting, sparking speculation among dissidents. China capitalized on the buzz to advance its divide-and-conquer strategy.

In the past, US presidents have met with exiled proponents of democracy. Nowadays, not only has the president met with dissidents from China, but their topic of discussion has often been religion, indicating that the US hopes that freedom of religion can be the starting point in promoting democracy in China. The inclusiveness of religion can solve the disputes within China's democratic movement.

The democratization of China in turn could generate a resolution to the Taiwan problem. However, recent disputes among Chinese democratic proponents reveal just how complex the dynamics of the Chinese democratic movement are. It is hoped that such proponents will come to appreciate the greater cause and set aside their disputes.

Religious freedom thrives in Taiwan, and the country needs to capitalize on this to promote democratic reform in China, and to confront that nation's united front tactics.

Paul Lin is a New York-based political commentator.

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