Taiwan Communiqué No. 69, January 1996

Why Taiwan says "no" to China

Chinese threats and intimidations continue

In the previous two issues, we reported on the Chinese missile crisis of July / August 1995 (Taiwan Communiqué no. 67 pp. 1-7 and no. 68, pp. 9-12). We presented a number of articles and commentaries which concluded that the exercises constituted a major threat to safety and security in the East Asia region.

Since mid-September, the Chinese authorities have conducted further military maneuvers, with the clear intention to threaten and intimidate the people of Taiwan, and influence the legislative elections. On 26 November, just one week before the 2nd December Taiwan elections, another exercise was held in the coastal area of Fukien Province, opposite Taiwan. Chinese television showed amphibious landings in an area renamed "Nanjing War Zone" for the occasion.

In a separate but related development, the International Herald Tribune reported that at an early-December ASEAN summit meeting in Bangkok, China was objecting to provisions in a new Southeast Asia Nuclear Treaty, which would ban nuclear weapons from the region ("Chinese threat could undercut Southeast Asia Nuclear Treaty", IHT, 9-10 December 1995).

The Treaty is considered an important step to help build mutual trust between Asian and Pacific States. China reportedly does not want the Treaty to cover the Spratley Islands and other disputed areas in the South China Sea, which belong to other nations, but to which China in 1995 laid claims. China's move severely undercuts the Treaty.

Jiang Zemin to big bomb: "We nominate you to participate in Taiwan's elections."

In mid-December 1995, it also became known in Washington that during an early-November visit to China by Joseph Nye Jr., the departing DOD Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, Chinese military officials sounded Mr. Nye out on what the US response would be to a military crisis in the Taiwan Straits.

Mr. Nye pointed out that the United States is committed to "..peaceful resolutions and the avoidance of the use of force." When the question came up what the US would do, he responded "nobody knows", and then proceeded to give the example of the Korean War, where the US in 1950 first stated that Korea was "outside the defense perimeter", and subsequently stepped in to defend South Korea when China joined the North Korean invasion of the South.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: Mr. Nye's comment represent a clear and subtle signal to the Chinese -- who have a strong sense of history -- to keep their hands off Taiwan.

However, overall the United States has sent mixed signals, which have encouraged the hardliners in Beijing to continue to believe they can continue their confrontational actions against Taiwan without significant repercussions from the American side. In particular the kowtowing to Beijing by Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger are giving the Chinese the impression that they can continue to bully their neighbors, and do as they please in regard to human rights violations (see below).

In this context, we also call attention to the excellent article by Mr. Rosenthal in the New York Times ("The blockades of Taiwan", 1 December 1995, published as "Western Submission to China's blockade puts Taiwan in danger", International Herald Tribune, 2-3 December 1995). Mr. Rosenthal strongly criticized the United States and Western Europe governments for slighting this new and open Taiwan, and for their studious silence in response to China's threats against the island. We propose a statue for Mr. Rosenthal in Taiwan.

Chinese insecurity and power struggles

In the middle of December, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Paris-based International Herald Tribune published several articles and editorials, in which they focused on the developments in and around China ("China Circles the Wagons", New York Times, 15 December 1995, "China and democracy", Washington Post, 11 December 1995, and "Stop Appeasing China", International Herald Tribune, 19 December 1995).

The main conclusion was that the actions of the Chinese leaders such as the threats and intimidations against Taiwan, the imposition of Beijing's choice for the reincarnated Panchen Lama, the sentencing of Wei Jingsheng all betray a deep sense of insecurity on the part of the Chinese leaders and an impending power struggle (see also article by Arthur Waldron on "Deterring China" in Commentary Magazine, October 1995).

The New York Times also reported that the influence of military commanders is increasing, and that some of them are pressing for confrontation with the United States and military action against Taiwan.

The newspaper reported that the conventional wisdom in Western capitals that Chinese President Jiang Zemin has consolidated his power atop the Communist Party is severely flawed. It quoted veteran China-watcher Michael Oksenberg as saying that the Chinese leaders are "...presiding over rapidly eroding institutions. They can bluff and bluster, but the party has ceased to be an instrument of revolutionary rule....it is now only propped up by people who have the guns."

What will the United States do ?

While Clinton Administration officials are continuing to defend their "constructive engagement" policy, the recent events have increased the pressure in Washington for a more clear and forceful stance against China. In particular, influential voices have suggested that the United States re-establish the linkage between trade and human rights.

On 18 December 1995, the New York Times stated in an editorial ("China's Challenge to Washington", published as "Stop Appeasing China" in the International Herald Tribune on 19 December 1995) that the present policy of delinking trade and human rights in the hope that China booming economy would ultimately advance political freedom is not working out. The editorial stated that the past 19 months "...have been marked by a serious deterioration in China's responsiveness on human rights and other issues."

The Times emphasizes that this deterioration is not only due to the fact that the new generation of leaders is maneuvering to succeed Deng Xiaoping, but also because President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Li Peng "...seem committed advocates of repression."

The Times suggests that the United States be "less indulgent" in order to encourage more responsible behavior by China. It suggests a sharper response to Wei Jingsheng's sentencing and a drive to condemn China before the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March 1996. It also urges the US to oppose non-humanitarian World Bank Loans to China, and consideration of human rights issues in judging China application to join the World Trade Organization.

Finally, the New York Times makes the case for "..the .obvious step of restoring a link between trade and human rights. In this critically important diplomatic game, the US may no longer be able to deny itself the leverage that link could bring."

The Wei Jingsheng case: no human rights

The sentencing of Chinese pro-democracy activist Wei Jingsheng on 13 December 1995 to fourteen years imprisonment provides yet another glaring reason to the Taiwanese for not wanting to "unify" with China.

Mr. Wei is one of the few courageous people in China who dared to speak up for democracy and human rights. He became well-known in the late 1970s, when he proposed that a fifth item -- democracy -- be added to Deng Xiaoping's "Four Modernizations". He was charged with treason and imprisoned for fifteen years.

After his release in September 1993, he spoke out again, and is now paying for it with his freedom: he was jailed again in April 1994, and kept incarcerated without charges until now. In 1995 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Price.

His sentencing sent shock waves through Hong Kong, where increasing numbers of people distrust the intentions of Beijing after the 1997 take-over by China, and are preparing to leave the colony ("Hong Kong Seems Ripe for Exodus, Wei Trial further weakens trust in Beijing's rule", International Herald Tribune, 19 December 1995).

{short description of image} Mr. Wei Jinhgsheng

In the United States the severe sentence for Mr. Wei was seen as yet another example that the "constructive engagement" policy of Mr. Clinton was ineffective. In an excellent article in the Washington Post, columnist Jim Hoagland criticized the "episodic and inconsistent attention" given by the White House and State Department to the case of Wei and other Chinese campaigners for democracy ("How we Failed Wei Jingsheng", 17 December 1995, published as "Mixed messages from America encourage Chinese Rights abuses" in the International Herald Tribune, 17 December 1995).

Mr. Hoagland argues that the Clinton Administration first gave rhetorical support, and then showed that there would be no significant consequences if Beijing continued its persecution of dissidents. Mr. Hoagland in particular criticized Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's policy of "avidly pursuing business contracts" at the expense of human rights principles. He concluded: "In China, the Administration has constructed a failed policy around its embarrassment, and arguably made things worse for a courageous man who will one day have statues erected for him across free China."

Taiwan's Choice: freedom and democracy ... free from China

In view of the developments sketched briefly in the preceding sections, it is clear that the people on Taiwan do not have any desire whatsoever to "unify" with China.

In order to resolve the situation, it is essential that the international community help make it clear to the Chinese leaders that their present confrontational approach will only deepen the conflict and create instability in East Asia.

The best solution is for China to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, end hostilities towards the island, and move towards peaceful coexistence.

In order to achieve this, the international community should abandon its reticence towards Taiwan, and accept a free, democratic, and independent Taiwan as a full and equal partner in their midst. This would be fully in accordance with the principles on which the United Nations is based. Failing to do this would be giving in to whims of a bully hardly a shining principle to impart to our children and grandchildren.

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