During the summer of 1995, China's unruly behavior on a wide range of issues -- from the Spratley's, missile and nuclear technology exports to respectively Pakistan and Iran, and Taiwan President Lee's visit to the US -- caused a downturn in US-China relations. As we explained in the previous issue ofTaiwan Communiqué (no. 67, pp. 8-10), the deeper underlying reason for China's bullying is the power struggle going on in Beijing in anticipation of the passing of Deng Xiao-ping.
From the end of August through mid-October, President Clinton and the US State Department performed some deft maneuvering, and succeeded in deflating the Chinese hot-air bubble to some extent. Some examples:
Mrs. Hillary Clinton did attend the UN Women's Conference in Beijing, and the parallel NGO-conference in Huairou, but rightly used the occasion to criticize China for its violations of human rights in general, and women's rights in particular.
Mr. Clinton did meet with the Dalai Lama during the Tibetan leader's visit to Washington, but defused the Chinese criticism by terming the meeting "unofficial."
Mr. Clinton did agree to meet Mr. Jiang Zemin, but rejected Chinese demands that Mr. Jiang would be received in Washington with a full head-of-state welcome, and a 21-gun salute and a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
However, at the same time several "old" sore points in US-China relations resurfaced: reports from Washington and Beijing indicated that Chinese piracy of software, recorded music, movies, and books continued rampantly. This in spite of the 26 February 1995 Agreement between the US and China, in which China agreed to clamp down on pirate manufacturers, and to start abiding by international copyright agreements.
Another old issue which resurfaced was Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown's trip to China in 1994. Mr. Brown's trip was controversial because Mr. Brown's kowtowing to Beijing (see our report "Mr. Brown goes to Beijing", Taiwan Communiqué no. 62, p. 7-8). At that time, Mr. Brown claimed that his visit had resulted in US$ 6 billion worth of contracts for US companies. According to a recent report in the Washington Post ("Brown's China deals stall", 13 October 1995) at this time -- more than a year later -- less than 20% of the projects have gotten off the ground.
However, the main issue at present is that the Clinton Administration until
now has failed to bring any clarity to its Taiwan policy. On various occasions
Secretary of State Christopher and Assistant Secretary Winston Lord are
reiterating that the US has "not changed its position", and that it is
not changing its longstanding "One-China" policy. If this would only
mean that the US recognizes Beijing -- and not the Kuomintang authorities in
Taipei -- as the government of China, then few would question this position.
However, the position of the Clinton Administration becomes nebulous where it
concerns the status of Taiwan. The US rightly rejected Chinese demands that a "Fourth
Communiqué" be issued, in which the US would express agreement with
the Chinese claims to sovereignty over Taiwan.
A "Fourth Communiqué" shark approaches from behind,
while Taiwan sailor is trying to fend off attack by Chinese giant octopus.
Taiwan Communiqué comment: If the US should issue any "Communiqué" on the status of Taiwan, it should consult with the leaders of a democratically-elected government of Taiwan. In this "Taiwan Communiqué" (no link intended with the name of our publication) the U.S. and Taiwan should reaffirm clearly that:
In the face of the upcoming meeting between President Clinton and Mr. Jiang Zemin, the Taiwanese-American community expressed its deep concerns, in particular that the improvement of the relations between the US and China would not be at the expense of the people of Taiwan or the future of the island. Below is the text of a letter written jointly by several major Taiwanese American organizations:
President William J. Clinton The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500
September 26th, 1995
Dear Mr. President:
We understand that you are preparing to meet China's President Jiang Zemin on the occasion of the upcoming 50th Anniversary meeting of the UN in New York. While we agree with you that the relations between the United States and China can be improved, we feel strongly that this should not be done at the expense of the 21 million people of Taiwan or their future as a free, democratic and independent member of the world community.
The international position of Taiwan hangs in limbo, firstly because of the short-sighted policies of the Kuomintang authorities themselves, who for far too long claimed to be the legitimate rulers of all of China. The native Taiwanese (85% of the population of the island) had nothing to do with the Chinese Civil War on the mainland, but from the 1940s on became unwilling victims when the Kuomintang moved to the island and established its repressive regime.
However, over the past decade a political transformation has occurred on the island, which makes it a different country altogether. We Taiwanese have our own identity, language and culture, and our families and friends on the island worked hard to achieve a democratic political system. This transition has now become a political miracle, which outshines the island's economic miracle. At present, Taiwan thus fulfills all requirements of a nation-state: a defined territory, a population greater than that of 3/4 of the members of the UN, and a government which exercises effective control. It is a de facto independent nation, and deserves to be recognized as such.
The other reason why Taiwan's international position hangs in limbo is the "creative ambiguity" of the formulation chosen by the United States and other nations in 1971/72. In the now well-known Shanghai Communiqué, the United States stated that it acknowledged -- and thus simply took note of -- the Chinese position ("..that there is but one China, and that Taiwan is part of China"). Does the wording of the Shanghai Communiqué mean that the US "recognized" or "accepted" the Chinese position ? We hope your answer -- like ours -- is unequivocally NO.
Mr. Clinton, we urge you strongly to hold the American principles of freedom, democracy, and self-determination high. We request you specifically 1) to express clearly that it is the right of the Taiwanese people to determine their own future, free from coercion by China; 2) to make it clear that you support Taiwan's right to be a full member of the international family of nations, and 3) to reaffirm that -- as stated in the Taiwan Relations Act -- any threat to the safety and security of Taiwan is of grave concern to the US. If such expressions are forthcoming on the occasion of your upcoming meeting with Mr. Jiang, then the Taiwanese-American community will continue its support for you, like it did before. We look forward to hear from you. Sincerely yours,
(signed) Taiwanese Association of America, Formosan Association for Human Rights, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Center for Taiwan International Relations, and North American Taiwanese Medical Association.
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