Siding with the Dictators

In response to Mr. Clinton's "Three No" statement, made during his visit to Shanghai on 30 June 1998, the Washington Post published the following excellent editorial, rebutting Mr. Clinton:

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 resolve.

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 negotiations.

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 offense.

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