To the Editor:
Chas W. Freeman, jr. draws the wrong conclusions ("Preventing
War in the Taiwan Strait", July/August 1998). If the
United States followed his recommendations, conflict would be
Freeman fails to distinguish between peaceful and
non-peaceful approaches to changing Taiwan's status
unilaterally, either by Beijing or Taipei, and prefers a
status quo maintained through military intimidation to
promoting democracy in the region.
He fundamentally misreads Taiwan's domestic policies by
stating that Taiwanese politicians think they have "wide
latitude to ... maneuver the island towards independence"
and mischaracterizes the results of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan
by saying that they no longer "boost Taipei's confidence
that it can work out its differences with Beijing."
And he strongly implies that independence sentiments in
Taiwan -- not Beijing's inability to offer Taiwan an
attractive alternative -- are the greatest impediments to
resolution of the cross-Strait dispute.
Freeman's policy recommendations endorse a zero-sum notion
of the U.S. - China - Taiwan relationship: that improvements
in either the Washington-Beijing relationship or the
Washington-Taipei relationship must come at the expense of the
This approach would create insecurity in Taipei, reward
Beijing's military intimidation, and undermine Washington's
regional strategy for promoting democracy, peace, and
Reducing security assistance to Taiwan, particularly in the
light of China's military modernization, is most worrisome. It
would be misread in every capital in the region, making a
Chinese attack more likely.
The United States should not inject itself directly into the
dispute. Rather, it should focus exclusively on process and
not pressure either side towards any one outcome, including
the unlikely option of Taiwan independence.
The administration may not actively support independence,
but neither should it reject or oppose it. The United States
should limit itself to creating an atmosphere conducive to
The administration is right to engage China. It should now
build on the Clinton-Jiang summit and improve relations with
Taiwan as well. Not to do so, whether by calculation
(Freeman's approach) or neglect, will dangerously destabilize
this unique triangular relationship.
Parallel engagement of Taiwan should involve the Clinton
Administration's offering Taiwan security assurances not only
through continued arms sales but through high-level dialogue
to encourage Taiwan to proceed with a cross-strait dialogue.
Washington should support greater international
participation for Taiwan, help integrate it into the
international economic system, and support its bid for
membership in the World Trade Organization.
Taiwan's democracy should be allowed to mature. America
needs to engage both countries because the prosperity and
security of all three are closely linked. One insecure
participant can disrupt progress, and today Taipei is not
feeling very secure.
Randall G. Schriver
Senior Country Director for China, including Taiwan
Office of the Secretary of Defense