At the end of October 2002, Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited the United States, and paid a visit to President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, TX. Since Jiang was set to retire soon, the visit was more symbolic than substantial. Indeed, the press reports during and after the event indicated that the two sides had primarily reiterated known positions, and no new ground had been broken.
However, about a month after the event, it became known that Jiang had offered to remove or decrease the missiles deployed along the southeastern coastline targeting Taiwan in exchange for the U.S. reducing its arms sales to Taiwan in terms of both quality and quantity.
A top US official privately told Taiwan's de-facto ambassador in Washington that the U.S. government would not be so naive as to accept Jiang's proposal: China's missiles are offensive, while the US sales to Taiwan are defensive. Furthermore, the missiles can be re-deployed easily, and they are the source of the problem in the first place.
Below are two commentaries on the Jiang visit.
This editorial first appeared in the Taipei Times on 23 November 2002. Reprinted with permission.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin was reported to have made a startling proposition to US President George W. Bush during their recent summit in Texas if the US reduces arms sales to Taiwan then China will put a freeze on the number of missiles targeting the nation. While any Chinese gesture in that direction is welcomed, a closer examination of the situation suggests that extreme caution and skepticism are warranted.
It is highly inappropriate for Jiang to even suggest an exchange. It erroneously implies that the US and Taiwan are also culpable for the cross-strait arms race and the threat to peace. But there would be no need for the US to sell defensive arms to Taiwan without Chinese aggression. China is the one that must undo what it started by removing the missiles with no strings attached. Once that is done Taiwan will put its money to other ends.
The exchange also places Chinese missiles and arm sales to Taiwan on a comparable level when the two are completely at odds. Missiles are offensive weapons while the arms being sold to Taiwan are defensive weapons. Taiwan can purchase all the defensive arms in the world yet it will still represent no threat, but the missiles deployed by China are probably sufficient to send Taiwan to the bottom of the Strait.
Moreover, a mere freeze or even a removal of the missiles hardly seems enough. The real threat to Taiwan is China's repeated declarations that it reserves the right to use force to take over the country. What Taiwan really needs from China is a promise to renounce the use of force and to resolve cross-strait differences peacefully. Until that is done, Taiwan is not safe. Unfortunately, during the recent 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Jiang Zemin talked of using force "only" against pro-independent activists and foreign forces that intend to prevent unification.
Even if one takes Jiang's words at face value there are still many practical issues that must be resolved first. An impartial verification mechanism to check whether China is carrying out its end of the bargain would be needed. Will China agree to inspections by the UN, the US or some other third party? If Jiang is sincere he should offer specific details.
More than likely the gesture by Jiang is no more than a diplomatic and propaganda stunt. For years the US has consistently taken the offensive in raising concerns about missile threats and China has uniformly responded by claiming that it has every right to deploy missiles in its own territory free of foreign interference. This time around, Jiang probably decided to turn the tables on the US. It seems as if he has succeeded, for Bush was reportedly caught off guard by the proposition.
The proposal at least suggests that China is feeling pressured by the international condemnations against its missile deployment and was forced to tactfully shift some of the blame onto the US. China may very well have taken its first step toward civilization, since it is apparently at last beginning to care what others think.
By Li Thian-hok is a prominent member of the Taiwanese-American community. This article first appeared in the Taipei Times on 24 October 2002. Reprinted with permission.
On October 25, China's president Jiang Zemin is scheduled to be a guest at President George W. Bush's ranch at Crawford, Texas, sharing the honor with Russian president Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair who visited the ranch earlier. Although the summit meeting will allow less than two hours for official talks, Bush will no doubt ask for China's cooperation in the global war on terror and in the impending U.S. war against Iraq. Bush needs China to refrain from opposing a strong U.N. resolution for unfettered weapons inspections. Jiang, on his side, wants a resumption of Sino-U.S. military exchanges which have aided the People's Liberation Army (PLA) immensely in grasping the essence of modern warfare. Jiang's main goal, however, will be to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Taiwan and to extract from Bush a verbal or written statement opposing Taiwan independence.
Such a maneuver however will not be a fair quid pro quo. China's cooperation on the war on terror is nominal. Its abstention in the UN Security Council is not indispensable, since the U.S. is prepared to go it alone if necessary. On the other hand, Bush is doing Jiang a big favor by giving the un-elected leader of China a semblance of legitimacy. Jiang's image as a world leader in China's domestic media will also boost his ambition to remain China's dominant, de facto leader after the 16th National Chinese Communist Party Congress in November.
While Jiang may have to relinquish the post of party secretary, he wants to retain his chairmanship of the Central Military Commission for a decent transition period. Jiang also needs to elevate his protege Zeng Qinghong to the Politburo Standing Committee. In these endeavors, the appearance on the world stage with Bush will help Jiang establish the impression that his stature and experience in handling complex world affairs will be critical, at least for a few more years.
America's "One China" policy
Washington sources say Bush is not going to make any substantive concession on Taiwan. However, Bush may reiterate America's willingness to abide by its One China policy, without elaboration. The misleading impression given to the media, and indeed to foreign governments, is that the U.S. recognizes Beijing's claim that Taiwan is part of China. In fact, the U.S. government has never formally recognized the Chinese claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. America's One China policy is thus distinctly different from the PRC's "One-China" principle. So why the deliberate use of ambiguous language which degrades Taiwan's international standing?
First, American businesses are increasingly using China as a manufacturing base. Corporate America and its allies among policy makers, academia and the media have a vested interest in amicable Sino-U.S. relations. The Bush administration has to be mindful of such pressure from the main source of its campaign funds. Second, some in the U.S. Congress and policy establishment feel that in order to avoid a military conflict with China, the U.S. must not appear to impede eventual, peaceful unification of Taiwan with China. Finally, the U.S. wants to hedge its position because Washington is not sure Taiwan is firmly committed to defend and keep its democracy and sovereignty.
As the PLA improves its capabilities to coerce Taiwan, the costs of U.S. intervention on Taiwan's behalf also increase, in potential losses of both lives and materiel. In a crisis, whether the U.S. will come to Taiwan's aid and how promptly, will depend on America's assessment of Taiwan's national will and ability to fight for its survival as a democratic and sovereign nation.
In his May 23 speech in Berlin, Germany, President Bush said: "We have finite political, economic, and military resources to meet our global priorities.... The United States should be realistic about its ability to help those who are unwilling or unready to help themselves. Where and when people are ready to do their part, we will be willing to move decisively."
The erosion of U.S. support for Taiwan
Against this background, it is worrisome that Taiwan has been cutting its defense spending steadily even as the military menace from China grows year by year. A U.S. scholar pointed out recently that Taiwan used to keep 60 days of strategic oil reserves for a military contingency. Now the reserves have been reduced to 5 or 6 days' supply. His conclusion: Taiwan is not serious about national defense.
Many U.S. Sinologists are increasingly concerned that the intensive integration of Taiwan's economy with that of China may eventually compel Taiwan to surrender its sovereignty and freedom. The DPP government's policy of Active Opening is contributing significantly to China's economic development and unwittingly to the modernization of the PLA. It has also caused the hollowing out of Taiwan's economy, as evidenced by hundreds of plant shutdowns, record high unemployment and non-performing loans left behind by businesses moving to China. While Premier Yu Shyi-kun announced recently that he would discourage banks from extending loans for investment projects in China, the Ministry of Finance appears intent on liberalizing regulations on loans by Overseas Banking Units for investments in China.
Taiwan at a crossroads
After a quarter century of economic growth and prosperity, Taiwan's economy has reached a crossroads where basic structural changes are needed to sustain continued economic development. Taiwan needs to shift from manufacturing to service industries, raise the level of its manufacturing base to higher value-added products, and to invest in research and development for new knowledge-based industries. To prevent a further exodus of businesses to China, the government needs to improve the investment environment to retain domestic industries and entice foreign (other than Chinese) investments. The proper solutions will take time and hard work. But such efforts are indispensable for Taiwan's survival as a sovereign nation. Economic integration with China may bring about short term advantage in the form of a trade surplus but will ultimately be suicidal.
With the accession of both Taiwan and China to the WTO, there is pressure to implement the three direct links. Such links could further damage Taiwan's weak economy, witness the experience of Hong Kong, and also impair Taiwan's national security. The DPP government must resist demands by KMT and PFP politicians to rapidly adopt the three links, even without proper national security safeguards.
Taiwan needs to show resolve with deeds
Last year's September 11 attacks on America have altered the global geopolitical strategic calculations. The U.S. is set on a war against Iraq. While a quick military victory is widely anticipated, the long-term consequences on the stability of the Middle East and beyond are difficult to predict. The world may be on the verge of a more volatile, dangerous period. If the global economy is significantly harmed as a result of the war, Bush's reelection prospects may be diminished.
The Bush administration has by its words and actions extended goodwill and friendship to Taiwan. In her speech at the Senate Caucus Room on September 25, Taiwan's first lady Madame Wu Shu-chen responded: "Taiwan is a true friend of America. We stand with America now and we will stand with America forever!" The first lady's U.S. visit has helped in improving U.S.-Taiwan relations, and the right rhetoric is important in diplomacy. But deeds will determine Taiwan's fate.
Taiwan's accelerating economic and cultural integration with the People's Republic will soon reach a point of no return, after which the preservation of Taiwan's sovereignty and democracy will no longer be feasible. Instead of expending so much energy on improving relations with China, the DPP government needs to focus on the development of Taiwan's own economy and on bolstering national defense. Realistically, normalization of Taiwan-PRC relations is not possible until China renounces the use of force, dismantles the 400 missiles targeted at Taiwan, and ceases its annual military exercises in preparation for a multi-pronged surprise attack on Taiwan.
Top priority needs to be given to building up the national will to defend Taiwan's freedom. The people of Taiwan can still have a democratic future, but only if they can expeditiously develop a national consensus that human rights and dignity take precedence over monetary gain and that staying on the right side of history is worth fighting for. This is also the way to solidify the favorable U.S.-Taiwan ties so the bond of friendship, shared values and common interests can even survive a regime change in Washington.
By Nat Bellocchi, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan. This article first appeared in the Taipei Times on 30 October 2002. Reprinted with permission.
US President George W. Bush recently signed into law the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003. Like so many authorization bills, it carried with it some "pork barrel" items. Pork added to legislation usually is thought of as some member of Congress getting funds for his or her constituency to build a sewage project, or maybe a public park named after someone famous. Foreign relations also have constituencies in the US and though the objectives are quite different, the process is similar.
Taiwan got a share of it this time. It came in several sections of this legislation. In addition to some "Sense of the Congress" items, which sound good but are often ignored, it contained a much stronger statement to the Executive Branch: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, for purposes of the transfer or possible transfer of defense articles or defense services under the Arms Control Act, the Foreign Assistance Act, or any other provision of law, Taiwan shall be treated as though it were designated a major non-NATO ally."
In dealing with domestic politics, there is wiggle room in this for the executive branch through flexible interpretation, but simply ignoring the section carries with it some political risk. If section 1206 formally becomes policy, for example, it would demonstrate a stronger relationship between the US and Taiwan, and it could put Taiwan higher on the priority list for licenses to buy arms. Both of these results, however, can be accomplished in other ways.
For Taiwan, the struggle between Congress and the executive branch over authority on foreign policy started in earnest with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in 1979. In that case, Congress won big. The act became a unique law that to this day determines our legal relationship with the people of Taiwan. Like the recently passed law that includes section 1206, however, the TRA also had wiggle room, and this has been displayed over the years most often on security issues. The first and most important example of this flexibility has been the interpretations of the Aug. 17, 1982, communiqué between the US and China that resulted eventually in the US being able to continue arms sales to Taiwan.
Not without difficulty, however. There are strong forces in the China-expert community that have always sought a strict interpretation of the communiqué to avoid problems with Beijing. This view succeeded in blocking the sale of new fighter aircraft throughout the 1980s, but failed to prevent the technology transfer necessary for Taiwan to build its own new fighter the IDF.
During the years before the IDF was built, Taiwan's air force was in dire need of replacements. Eventually, for a variety of reasons, an interpretation of the US' commitments prevailed that permitted the sale of F-16s.
The 1996 missile crisis in the Taiwan Strait changed our interpretation of what we can do or should not do with regard to arms sales. In the past administration, some changes began, but the priority was on the political expansion of our relationship with China, with security a secondary consideration.
Despite this attitude, there were efforts, particularly in the Department of Defense, that began the movement to modernize the military relationship with Taiwan. This was an effort to meet the need, almost non-existent during the missile crisis, to communicate and coordinate with each other, and to permit the US military to better meet the requirements of the TRA for maintaining adequate resources in the area in the event the US decided to help Taiwan defend itself.
With the present administration, the TRA requirements are taken much more seriously. This includes the necessity of providing modern equipment, the training, coordination and the communications for Taiwan's self-defense.
The US could not meet its responsibilities of modernizing the military relationship without permitting the sale of missiles, submarines, communications equipment, radar and high-tech equipment that is the basis of modern military defense. And with the equipment and the means of using them, coordination and communications between the two militaries is in the interest of both countries.
There are now some China experts in the US who see one element of this new military relationship as provocative to Beijing, and push the idea that it crosses the "red line" beyond which China would strongly react. This element of the security relationship has been given the tongue-twisting name of "interoperability." We in the US have often overreacted to what we think Beijing considers provocative, however, and I believe this could be one such instance.
Interoperability could come in all sizes, and in all degrees of visibility. Cooperation, coordination and communications don't come in clearly defined doses; they can be custom built to suit the circumstances.
Calling interoperability the equivalent of a defense treaty, as some do, is an exaggeration that could do harm in maintaining both Taiwan's ability to defend itself and our flexibility in choosing options for defending our own interests in the region.
So from the Congressional standpoint, there is a good reason for introducing section 1206 in the recently enacted legislation. Bush, in signing the act into law, chose his words very carefully. He put up the necessary challenge against congressional encroachment in foreign policy, but left open the issue of whether it is a reiteration of present policy or policy to come.
He made clear (doubtless urged by Beijing's displeasure) "that US policy remains unchanged." That is becoming a ritual requirement even though the US' "one China" and the "one China" used by Beijing are not the same.
But more importantly, Bush added, "To the extent that this section could be read to purport to change US policy, it impermissibly interferes with the president's constitutional authority." That left it quite open whether what section 1206 said in any way differed from present US policy.
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