Washington, 14 May 1998. At a hearing before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, two testimonies were presented on U.S.
relations with China and Taiwan.
Mr. Stanley Roth, the State Department official
responsible for East Asian and Pacific affairs tried to assure the
U.S. Senate that Taiwan's interests will not be sacrificed during
the upcoming visit of US President Clinton to China.
However, the Administration's policy was criticized by Prof. Arthur
Waldron, who is Lauder Professor of International Relations at
the University of Pennsylvania, and serves a Director of Asian
Studies at the Washington-DC based American Enterprise Institute.
Below we present Prof. Wadron's testimony in full.
Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth said he wanted to "take
this opportunity to categorically deny that progress at the summit
will be achieved at Taiwan's expense." Despite widespread
rumors to the contrary, he said: "There will be no `fourth
communique' regarding (US) arms sales to Taiwan."
Roth also said that the US position on Taiwan remains unchanged. "We
remain committed to our relationship with Taiwan in accordance with
the three US-PRC joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, and
continue to support the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue,"
In an effort to justify the administration's engagement with
mainland China, the assistant secretary said that Washington's
efforts to improve relations with Beijing are intended "to
strengthen peace and stability in East Asia and in that sense will
benefit the region as a whole, including Taiwan."
Testimony of Arthur Waldron
Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee
May 14, 1998
Mr. Chairman, Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen: A "strong,
stable, secure and open China": that is the repeatedly
expressed goal of the administration's tactic of "engagement"
with Beijing. I have no wish this morning to challenge that goal,
which seems to me eminently reasonable. Rather, I will raise
questions about how realistic it is, at least in the short term, and
about the tactics used to reach it.
First, as to realism. Change in the economic and social realms in
China since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 has been real and
extremely impressive. It might therefore seem reasonable to suggest
that these changes will transform seamlessly into political change
as well: indeed, the need for the United States to foster such
steady and gradual change would appear to be the premise of the "engagement"
policy. It may work: One can hope that change in China will follow
the examples of Taiwan and Russia and the Philippines, among others,
where the transition from dictatorship to democracy has been
surprisingly smooth-and not those of Romania or Indonesia, or China
itself in 1989.
But we cannot count on such a smooth transition. Although economic
and social change in China has been so rapid and so extensive that
the country now finds itself at the point where some sort of
government opening to the people is inescapable, the signs from
Beijing are that no such opening is being prepared. Rather, the
regime looks set to attempt to ride out the storm, hoping a
combination of selective domestic repression, continuing economic
growth, and foreign support, will provide it with a legitimacy and
stability that it has not secured from its own people.
However China is no longer a land of impoverished subsistence
farmers ruled by an all-powerful "Chairman" in Beijing,
and therefore we may doubt whether such an approach will work. It is
a land today of entrepreneurs, of mobile labor, of vast investment,
of markets of every sort, of high culture and of education-in short,
of every sort of ferment. Plans for economic change, moreover,
envision major remodeling including putting millions of people out
of work. Such measures demand governmental legitimacy. The society
that China has become today can no longer be ruled autocratically.
Its people must be involved in making the laws and legitimating
authority. That means the sort of liberalization we have seen
elsewhere in Asia and in the former Soviet bloc. To stand against
this tide in China is to risk chaos and catastrophe.
Like the desire for prosperity, the desire for freedom and
personal autonomy originates in China itself. These are not alien
concepts, applied by arrogant and insensitive foreigners.
Constitutional government has been a dream of Chinese people since
the early years of this century. Many people supported the
Communists in 1949 because they expected Mao and his followers to
create such a regime. Although they were bitterly disappointed, such
desire for political freedom continues to find a place in China and
in the Chinese communist party. Today, however, political reformers
are absent from the highest reaches of Party leadership and
discussion of serious political reform is forbidden in the official
media. Liberalizers of the past are still non-persons. Thus, Zhao
Ziyang, Prime Minister until 1989, remains incommunicado, under
house arrest. The name of Hu Yaobang, late Prime Minister and also a
political reformer, is too sensitive to be published in the official
People's Daily. There is much talk about the bold economic reforms
Prime Minister Zhu Rongji is supposed to under take; silence about
the equally pressing need for bold political reforms.
These are not the omens of imminent and decisive political reform.
My prognosis, therefore, is that the current Chinese administration
is not going to move quickly enough to make the political changes
that its already very successful economic reforms require-and that
the result will be an increasingly tense and disorderly situation
inside China. A beleaguered Chinese government will almost certainly
use force against its own people-several protesting shopkeepers were
shot dead in Chengdu just a few days ago-and may well try to
distract the population with nationalism and imaginary external
So while the goal of a "strong, stable, secure and open
China" is desirable, it is unlikely to be achieved soon, or by
gradual steps. Major bumps can be expected in the road ahead as
China changes regimes. Therefore even as we seek to foster such
change through engagement, we must hedge against risks.
Foreign policy often mirrors domestic policy, and a China that is
repressive at home is likely to be provocative and bullying abroad.
We have seen plenty of examples of such behavior recently. Probes
and intimidation in pursuit of dubious territorial claims continue,
as the Japanese, the Indonesians, the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, the
Taiwanese, the Indians, and others will testify. Chinese can be
enormously courteous, but they are also masters of conflict: the
protracted game, the zero sum "ni si wo huo" ["you
die I live"] struggle, the arts of isolating and intimidating
adversaries, disarming and confusing opposition, and then quietly
bludgeoning whoever remains-these are unattractive but well
developed parts of the Chinese cultural inventory. Current Chinese
military preparations, moreover, seem designed to be used in
connection with such tactics. Any sound US policy must deal with
these serious challenges, by steady and unflinching deterrence.
Indeed "deterrence"-broadly speaking, the willingness to
counter Chinese threats, support allies, and brave Beijing's
displeasure (which is often expressed with the extravagant rhetoric
of "calculated over reaction")-is the second component
(engagement being the first) of a successful China policy. It is the
one that is largely missing from the current Clinton administration
The reason for this absence is worth noting, for it gets at what
is fundamentally wrong with the administration's strategy.
Engagement and deterrence go together: one will not succeed without
the other; they are mutually supporting. But that is not how the
administration seems to understand it. They see the two as inimical:
one either has a "friendly" relationship with China or a "hostile"
one. Engagement is the route to the first, deterrence, to their way
of thinking, leads to the second. Therefore deterrence is traded off
in pursuit of engagement.
Nowhere is this pattern clearer than in our dealings with Taiwan.
To be fair, the United States has shown itself on balance to be a
very good friend to Taiwan: through unofficial contacts, military
sales, and the carrier deployment in 1996, we have underlined our
commitment to this brave and democratic society. However, when China
confronts us, some in government still show a lamentable tendency to
sign chits on Taiwan's future as a way of appeasing Beijing today.
This practice has already gone too far, and should be stopped. I
hope very much that President Clinton will stonewall any such
Chinese demands in preparation for his trip: for example, he must
refuse to incorporate the so called "three noes" into any
official U.S. statement. [These are "no support for one China
one Taiwan," "no support for Taiwan's entry into the UN",
and "no support for Taiwan's independence."]
Looking to the future, it is important that we be as realistic
about Taiwan as about China. Our current Taiwan policy of no
official recognition or contact works against our national
interests. Given that the Taiwan Strait is an area of potential
conflict on a level with Cyprus or Korea or the Middle East, it is
important for us to have maximum contact with all players, in order
to have maximum leverage. I have a student, an army Colonel and a
career China specialist-a key player, in other words, in our Asia
policy-who, because of US government restrictions, has never been
able to visit Taiwan. This amounts to tying our own hands. When I
look forward, I ask how we are going to be able to secure our
interests in the Straits area if our top officials cannot meet top
officials from Taiwan. Arafat, after all, has come to the White
House, not to mention Jiang Zemin, China's unelected president. No
genuine dialogue or negotiation can take place at second hand yet we
have, of our own accord, discarded, in the Taiwan relationship, all
the standard tools of diplomacy.
Why? The answer is simple. In the 1970s, when we broke relations
with Taiwan, we thought we were in fact ending Taiwan's existence as
an independent player. The idea was, as Richard Holbrooke has put it
in a different context, "a decent interval followed by
anschluss." The arrangements proposed by the Carter
administration for Taiwan make sense as a transitional structure,
but not as a permanent status. Contrary to expectations, however
Taiwan did not disappear: that is owed first of all to the people of
Taiwan, whom we underestimated, and second, to the many Americans
who created the legislative instrument of the Taiwan Relations Act.
Unfortunately some in government are still living in the 1970s
when it comes to Taiwan. But objectively we must recognize that in
our eagerness to please China-trading off deterrence for
engagement-we (and Beijing) have painted ourselves into a corner
with our joint policy of debasing words and twisting diplomatic
usages in an attempt to deny reality. Despite the urgings of those
who want more chits signed-who want, for example, official US
opposition to Taiwan in the UN and international organizations, or
want a freeze in arms sales, or want pressure on democratic Taipei
to settle with autocratic Beijing-it is clear that today we must,
just for starters, drop the brush and stop painting. The corner is
already too small. Then we and Beijing can consider more realistic
and constructive approaches.
Important as Taiwan is, however, too much focus on it can lead us
to overlook the larger regional and international context of our
China policy. This brings me to my final and perhaps most important
point. I fear that by making China the centerpiece of its Asian
policy, instead of working with regional powers that share our
values to create a multilateral security structure, the Clinton
administration may be unwittingly recreating the sort of situation
in Asia that has repeatedly led to trouble in Asia earlier in this
century. For example, many scholars believe that an American
overestimation of China and underestimation of Japan in the 1920s
and 1930s contributed to the breakdown of Asian security that
brought on World War II. We must not repeat those errors now that
the Cold War no longer gives structure to our Asian policy.
The lesson of history is that American interests in Asia will best
be served by working with states that share our economic and
political values: Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the ASEAN states, India,
Russia. We hope that China will become such a state in the future,
but that result is not a certainty. Rather, as we have seen, China's
future today is a question mark.
In the 1970s our current China policy took its initial shape from
the demands of the Cold War. It was "strategic": driven by
the need in both Washington and Beijing for an ally against the
Soviet threat. That threat has now disappeared, so it makes no sense
to talk, as the Administration does, of a "strategic
partnership" with China*. The sorts of massive strategic issues
that dominated the Cold War world no longer exist globally. Their
place has been taken by what I call "governance" issues,
and on these China lags far behind the rest of the world. During the
Cold War shared strategic interests overshadowed these problems but
today we can no longer avoid facing them. A liberalizing China will
strengthen peace, but a China whose government attempts to sustain
an outmoded dictatorship will be volatile domestically, and possibly
dangerous in a world of democracies.
So until China matches her economic progress with political
liberalization and a peaceful foreign policy, America's Asian policy
should avoid staking too much on Beijing. Some in Washington seem to
think that if only we can get China policy right, then the rest of
Asia will somehow fall into place. The truth is the opposite: Asian
policy is like a jigsaw puzzle with China the last piece to be fit
in. Things will go well with China only if we place our primary
emphasis on our traditional friends and states that share our values
and economic system. If China reforms and makes herself stable that
will be a great gain for all concerned. But we cannot cause that to
happen and if we count on it and things go wrong, then problems in
China may lead, as they did earlier in this century, to crisis in
Our goal therefore must be to forge an Asian security order
robust enough not to be shattered by tremors originating in China.
What sort of policy will meet this requirement? First, it must be
one understood and supported by the American people. The thirty year
tradition of secrecy in China policy, of Congress and the White
House at loggerheads, of executive actions in the teeth of public
opinion-all of that must come to an end. The administration must be
candid with the American people and the world about every aspect of
the policy, from the good things, such as releases of prisoners and
mutually advantageous trade, to the problems-such as espionage,
military development, repression, and so forth.
Second, the policy must begin with our allies and friends, and not
with Beijing. Our policy today is reactive: it makes no sense on its
own (why derecognize Taiwan?) but is intelligible if you look at the
Chinese demands that have given it shape. We must adopt a positive
policy, developed through extensive preliminary consultation with
other interested states. Symbolic actions are important here.
Taiwan, after all, took the brave action of releasing political
prisoners and allowing the exiles to return at a time when it had
almost zero international status. Korea and the Philippines have
shown the path to Asian democracy. China, which is far stronger, has
shied away from any similar action. Yet which state receives the
most symbolic attention and deference from the United States? Not
the democratizers. In an Asia where "face" is so
important, these things matter.
Finally, as for power relationships, among the crucial ones are
Japan-US and Japan-Korea. If these are firm, I am confident that
Asia will be relatively peaceful. If, on the other hand, we do what
Administrations have repeatedly done in the past: if we treat China
as a sort of campaign stop, or wave her into the community of
nations without checking her domestic credentials -- if we go long
at the moment when we should be hedging or shorting-if we turn a
blind eye to security challenges and neglect our established friends
with whom we share values in pursuit of new but highly problematical
relationship -- then Asia's future, and with it our own, will be
very much in question.
Arthur Waldron 14 May 1998
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