New York Times


Taiwan and the 'Status Quo'

February 17, 2004

To the Editor:

Many, including President Bush, oppose Taiwan's proposed referendum on relations with China on the ground that it may alter "the status quo" and risk a conflict with China (news article, Feb. 12). But tensions rise largely because each side asserts its own version of the status quo.

China interprets the status quo to mean that there is only one China and that Beijing has sovereignty over Taiwan. Deploying missiles against a "renegade province" is an exercise of "sovereign right."

For Taiwan, the status quo means that Taiwan is already an independent nation that has never been ruled by the People's Republic of China. The referendum serves to express the popular will and deepen Taiwan's democracy. It has nothing to do with declaring "independence" it already possesses.

The United States seeks to perpetuate a "status quo" brokered with Beijing more than 30 years ago without Taiwan's input. True stability calls for an update that takes into account Taiwan's democratic development.


Richmond, Va., Feb. 12, 2004

The writer is an associate professor of political science, University of Richmond.