Washington Times: "The Future of Taiwan"

"Yes, Taiwan is a Democratic and Independent Nation"

On 7 April 1998, the Washington Times published the following Op-Ed article by Professor Parris Chang, who is a member of the Legislative Yuan in Taiwan. Prof. Chang also heads the DPP Mission in the United States.

Washington, 7 April 1998. In recent weeks, several ranking former Clinton Administration officials, including Joseph Nye (former Asst Sec. Defense), William Perry (former Sec. Defense), and Anthony Lake (former Nat'l Security Advisor) have visited Taiwan. Why? Were they engaging in second track diplomacy? Or were they pressuring Taiwan on behalf of the Clinton Administration to talk with China?

The remarks of these former Clinton officials reveal their apprehension that a future Democratic Progressive Party-led (DPP) national government in Taiwan would antagonize China. What nonsense! Such a view is both uninformed and biased.

The US Administration's "One China" policy, which premises that all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait believe Taiwan is a part of China, is outdated. More and more, Taiwanese are asserting their own distinct Taiwanese identity - and the literature, social trends, and opinion polls reflect this.

After all, Administration officials are hell-bent on preserving the "One China" fiction first established in 1972 rather than try and develop a real China policy that addresses today's reality and Taiwan's democratization.

The incredulous belief that a democratic Taiwan's right to determine its own future independent of China will somehow antagonize China's dictators is ridiculous. Rather than blame Taiwan, US Administration should start working together with the DPP in consultation on Taiwan-China relations.

It is a dangerous illusion that the KMT will hold on to power much longer. Frankly speaking, the DPP's strong gains at the polls reflect the public's confidence in a DPP-led national government. The public has more confidence in the DPP than in the KMT or the New Party to protect Taiwan's peaceful coexistence with China rather than unification (unification would surely come under China's terms).

At the same time, current and former US officials should recognize that the DPP has always been a very responsible political party advocating friendly and open dialogue with China. In fact, its recent intra-party debates (Feb. 15-18, Taipei) came to that same conclusion.

Besides, it is China not Taiwan that ended bilateral talks, protest against President Lee Teng-hui's visit to his alma mater, Cornell University, in 1995.

The DPP has long advocated practical policies, which prioritize the safety and well being of Taiwan's 21 million people. To this end, the DPP leaders have repeatedly stated that once the DPP becomes Taiwan's ruling party, it will not formally declare Taiwan's independence - it doesn't have to because Taiwan is already an independent, sovereign state. When DPP comes to power it simply inherits the government of such an independent country.

Since the DPP has already affirmed that it need not reiterate Taiwan's sovereignty and that the party is ready to improve bilateral relations with China on a host of issues, then what is it that really worries US administration officials? Perhaps it is Washington's own inability to engage China on Taiwan's right to exist.

Fundamentally, China cannot comprehend that democracy has led Taiwan down a different road. Taiwan is a full democracy whose people freely elect their leaders and increasingly is asserting their distinct Taiwanese identity. The Taiwanese people do not want to live under China's communist rule. America should not try to play God and dictate Taiwan's destiny.

How about urging China to let the 21 million Taiwanese people determine their own future? Is that such a far-fetched idea? Hasn't the Clinton Administration said that it wants to promote and enlarge democracy around the world? As a first step, US officials, current and former, should stop acting like China has a say in Taiwan's future. Washington would do well to face the reality that Taiwan exists as an independent and democratic policy.

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