In the beginning of November 1997, President Lee Teng-hui moved significantly closer to the "Taiwan is independent" position, traditionally taken by the democratic opposition. On Friday, 7 November 1997, in separate interviews with two major international newspapers, president Lee declared that Taiwan is "an independent, sovereign nation."
The first interview was given to Washington Post reporter Keith B. Richburg, and published by the Post in a frontpage article on Saturday, 8 November 1997 under the title: ·Leader asserts Taiwan is independent, sovereign.
The second interview was given to Jonathan Mirsky of the London Times, and published in the Times on Monday, 10 November 1997, in an article titled: ·President declares Taiwan free of Beijing.
The interviews generated considerable interest both internationally and in Taiwan itself: it is the first time that President Lee has expressed himself so openly in favor of independence. The move also received support in the U.S. Congress: Representative Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wrote in a "dear Colleague" letter dated 12 November 1997:
·I commend to your attention the attached article by Keith Richburg in this past Saturdayµs Washington Post, entitled "Leader Asserts Taiwan is Independent, Sovereign". In the story, Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui states in no uncertain terms that his government and his people view their island nation as an independent entity.
The people of Taiwan have worked long and hard to establish a thriving democracy. The world should respect their views on the issue of self-determination, and if that wish is international recognition of Taiwan's status as separate from China, then the United States, as the leader of the free world should support this position.
At the end of October 1997, another interesting discussion took place surrounding the Taiwan / China issue: it was prompted by an article in the Washington Post by Steven Mufson, titled ·China eases stance on Taiwanº, dated 23 October 1997.
The title of the article was deceptive and at odds with the facts. While the military exercises in March 1996 received most headlines in the US because of the presence of US warships, the Chinese in July 1997 held even larger exercises off the Northern coast of Taiwan (see "China Navy Concludes War Games", Associated Press, 21 July 1997). The Post article conveniently overlooked this fact.
The article furthermore implied that Taiwan blossomed into a vibrant democracy due to the "One China" policy. The two are totally unrelated. Taiwan evolved into a democracy because of the hard work of the Taiwanese democratic opposition. This evolution actually took place in spite of the anachronistic "One China" policy.
The article also stated that Taiwan "...lost China's seat in the UN". This statement failed to distinguish between the repressive Kuomintang regime and the Taiwanese people. The KMT lost its "Republic of China" seat because it clung to the ·One Chinaº policy. The UN has not discussed yet how and when the people of Taiwan will be represented. This is to be resolved on the basis of the self-determination principle of the Charter of the UN.
Fourthly, President Lee Teng-hui in 1995 didn't "...almost destroy US-China relations". China did - helped along by the US State Department's bungling. Mr. Lee was invited to his alma mater Cornell after a 97-1 favorable vote in the US Senate.
Finally, it is incongruous to try to present the matter as the "Taiwan problem." China is the problem, because it stubbornly refuses to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor.
The Washington Post article evoked a series of letters to the editor from leading figures in the Taiwanese-Amerivcan community. Below, we reprint one of them:
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In a Backgrounder paper dated 5 November 1997, the Washington DC-based Heritage Foundation presented an overview of how China is advancing its military modernization program by obtaining sophisticated Western weaponry and advance military technology. The paper, titled "How America's friends are building China's military power", is available on the internet at http://www.heritage.org/heritage/library
The report gives an excellent summary of the various weapon systems which China has developed or is developing presently with assistance from other nations, not only Russia, but also in particular Israel, and to a lesser extent France and Great Britain.
The report emphasizes that a better US strategy than the present "laissez faire" one would be to:
According to the Stockholm-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China's weapon purchases abroad have skyrocketed since 1992. On the previous page is a graph with SIPRI statistics. Further information can be obtained from ts website in Sweden: http://www.sipri.se
Selling weapons of mass destruction to Iran
The "accord" between the United States and China on the occasion of Jiang Zemin's visit did cover nuclear technology: the US made available nuclear technology for advanced reactors to China, while China presumably agreed not to make available technology for a number of nuclear power projects in Iran.
What was fuzzed over by the Clinton Administration, was that China did not agree to stop or slow down its sales of missiles or technology for the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons to Iran. According to reports earlier in 1996 and 1997 by both the CIA and the US Office of Naval Intelligence, China was "a major conduit" for chemical and biological weapon technology to Iran. According to a 28 October 1997 article in the Washington Times, the reports termed Chinaµs supply to Iran "a steady flow of materials and technologies to one of the most active [weapons of mass destruction] programs in the world" (Nuclear Sales to China too chancy, foes insist, Washington Times, 28 October 1997).
Taiwan Communiqué comment: Firmer pledges from China on non-proliferation are needed before the US goes ahead with any sale of nuclear technology to China. Time and again during the past years, the Chinese made token pledges, and afterwards the US and others nations found out that these were broken or disregarded by the Chinese.
Secondly, the pledges only cover nuclear technology. China is also exporting other lethal weapons, including cruise missiles and chemical weapons to Iran. It is essential that those type of exports be stopped immediately. The United States has -- and should use -- the leverage to prevent the proliferation of these dangerous weapons to a region which is known for its instability.
We urge Congress to reject the nuclear technology accord, and insist that there are firmer guarantees that China stops the export of all weapons of mass destruction, and that it ends its military threats against Taiwan.
At the end of October 1997, the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute issued a report on U.S. trade with China, and concluded that the mounting trade deficit ($39.5 billion in 1996) had cost the United States more than 600,000 jobs in 1996, almost double the figure for 1989.
The report also gave a breakdown by sector, indicating that in apparel some 146,000 jobs were lost, 66,000 in toys, 60,000 in footwear, 58,000 in textiles, and 29,000 in consumer electronics.
However, the report also stated that current-year Department of Commerce statistics showed that Chinese exports were moving "up the product ladder": While exports to the United States in apparel, toys, and footwear continued to grow rapidly, there was also a significant increase in high-end products, such as computer equipment and consumer electronic devices. The report suggested that the job-losses among higher-wage workers would increase significantly.
Copies of the report are available at the Economic Policy Institute (tel. 202-775-8810) or at its Internet website http://www.epinet.org/#latest
It is also becoming increasingly clear that trading with China quickly leads to forced transfer of technology. In a recent article in the Washington Post, reporter Paul Blustein described how Chinese officials are pressuring over-eager Western businessmen to transfer essential technology (China plays rough: Invest and transfer technology, or no market access, The Washington Post, 25 October 1997).
The article describes how foreign firms seeking access to the Chinese market find themselves subjected to extraordinary demands by Chinese state planners to hand over valuable technology and job-generating investments, especially in sectors that Beijing views as strategically important, such as autos, aerospace, and electronics.
The article quotes an unidentified Clinton Administration official as saying:
"It troubles me a lot. ... when it's a matter of government policy, where the government of the country involved is saying that to sell here, you have to locate here, and give us technology - then I'm concerned. It's blackmail."
The article also states that the US Semiconductor Industry Association has been raising an alarm about Chinese practices of extracting concessions from American chipmakers as part of a strategy of eventual displacement of the foreign firms with domestic manufacturers.
The article gives another example of the Dupont company, which started a joint venture with a Chinese company in the early 1990s to produce a rice herbicide called Londax. A couple of years later, Dupont found out that some 30 Chinese factories were cranking out herbicides, based on the Dupont proprietary process for Londax, which had been copied illegally.
The Chinese also continue to play politics with major purchases such as aircraft and establishment of automobile factories, and have refined their skills in playing out US and European interests against eachother.
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