Siding with the Dictators
Thursday, July 2, 1998
The outlines of a deal are beginning to emerge. China gives
President Clinton air time for his speech. Mr. Clinton says
what China wants to hear on Taiwan. Then, in classic Clinton
fashion, the White House tries to have things both ways,
denying that U.S. policy has changed when in fact it has, and
not for the better.
Past administrations recognized the Beijing government as
the legitimate government of China and "acknowledged"
China's position with regard to Taiwan. But "acknowledge"
did not mean "accept." The ultimate fate of Taiwan
was something for Taiwan and China to work out, peacefully.
Beyond that, the United States deliberately left its policy
shrouded in ambiguity.
But recently officials of the Clinton administration have
explicitly adopted a "three no's" formula much more
pleasing to the Communist Chinese: no support for one
Taiwan-one China; no support for Taiwan independence; no
support for Taiwan membership in international organizations
such as the United Nations.
Now Mr. Clinton has given that policy a presidential stamp
of approval -- and on Chinese soil, to boot. Why does it
matter? Because Taiwan's 21 million people have forged a
prosperous democracy over the past decades.
There is no justification for the United States to oppose
their right eventually to determine their own future. It would
be fine for U.S. officials to reiterate that such a
determination must take place peacefully and to encourage
TaiwanChina dialogue. It would be fine for U.S. officials to
warn Taiwan not to expect U.S. support for a unilateral
declaration of independence.
What's not fine is for the United States at this time to
rule out independence or any other option the Taiwanese people
eventually might choose. When China threatened Taiwan
militarily in 1996, Mr. Clinton responded with admirable
But now he is trading away the human rights of Taiwan's 21
million people and sending an unfortunate signal to other
democracies that might hope to rely on U.S. moral support. As
a practical matter, he's also significantly weakening Taiwan's
bargaining power if and when Taiwan and China begin
China's main card always has been the threat of force;
Taiwan's has been its campaign to establish sovereignty
through membership in world organizations and other means.
By explicitly and needlessly slamming the door on that
campaign, Mr. Clinton has sided with the dictators against the
democrats. To pretend this is no change only heightens the