Taiwan Communiqué No. 80, April 1998

"Nay" to Mr. Nye

On March 8th 1998, the Washington Post published an article by Joseph Nye, titled "A Taiwan deal." The article prompted a wave of letters criticizing Mr. Nye's views as uninformed, short-sighted, and outright dangerous. One was our own letter to the editor, which was published under the title "Taiwan's coming independence" in the Washington Post on 19 March 1998. Below, we reprint two other commentaries.

At around the same time as the appearance of Mr. Nye's article, former national Security adviser Anthony Lake visited Taiwan, and expressed a more balanced and reassuring view. Below we summarize a number of excerpts from Mr. Lake's statements.

The view from Massachusetts

By Chioumin H. Lee. Mr. Lee is a first-generation Taiwanese-American, who came to the United States in 1968.

"Underlying Joseph Nye's arguments in his three-part package— A Taiwan Deal [The Washington Post, Sunday, March 8, 1998] is the implicit assumption that China can be trusted; and the US has the ability to make China behave the way it desires.

The Post subsequently reported that just weeks after Chinese President Chiang Zemin pledged during his US visit last October in a written assurance to halt any assistance to Iran's nuclear programs, the National Security Agency discovered that China had reneged on its words; shortly afterward, the US asked China to stop the violation.

The day following The Posts revelation, Iran announced that China has not discontinued their cooperation. This episode exposes the treacherous and perfidious nature of Chinese government. China is not a country the US can do business with.

Nye's theory of dynamic status quo is, at best, the epitome of oxymoronicism. On how to settle the Taiwan question, the US-China talks have always revolved around the principle of peaceful resolution. As clearly demonstrated in the Warsaw ambassadorial Talks, three US-China Communiques, and Taiwan Relation Act, the US has consistently upheld the peaceful resolution principle, while China has most adamantly refused to renounce the use of force.

If the US continues to subscribe without any reservation to China's mantra that there is only one China; acknowledges China's claim that Taiwan is part of China, and simultaneously, insists on China giving up the use of force, the US will pursue a set of two contradictory, mutually exclusive goals.

The current Asian economic turmoil shows that democratic, open and transparent government can best ensure an environment conducive for stability and sustained growth. Taiwan is among the few nations that remain left relatively unscathed by the turmoil. Unfortunately, Nye misconstrues the efforts of Taiwan's elected leaders to build a more democratic society and a more liberalizing market economy as introducing a new element of instability to Asia. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Due to the hegemonism and expansionism inherent in its foreign policy and its monomaniacal obsession with Taiwan, China is most inclined to create new dangers in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea. What is more, overwhelmingly beset by a host of serious domestic problems such as overpopulation, energy shortage, banking insolvency and economic mismanagement, bloated bureaucracy, rampant unemployment, and ethnic strife, China is sitting on a live volcano. It is not too far-fetched to think that these problems, if unchecked, can result in widespread social unrest and chaos, and lead to the final collapse of Chinese Communist government.

Who could anticipate the disintegration and demise of the Soviet Union in such a swift and unforeseen fashion? Nye fails to see that China, next to Indonesia, is a real source of instability in Asia today. No, Taiwan is not the culprit.

While the jury is still out regarding China's experiment on Hong Kong under the formula of one country, two systems, Nye proposes to broaden the experiment to Taiwan under the formula one country, three systems. The flaw with Nye's scheme is it prejudges the Hong Kong experiment, leaving little margin for error. If the measures, taken since China's takeover by Tung Chee-hwa, Beijing installed Governor, to restrict Hong Kong's press freedom and to manipulate its upcoming legislative elections, are an indication of China's sincerity to honor its promise, the picture is not bright.

Again, whether Hong Kong or Taiwan can keep their different political, economic and social system unchanged for decades entirely hinges on the wiles and whims of Beijing's ruling elite. And China's record in Tibet is depressingly appalling: after the liberation, China pledged to give Tibet high-degree autonomy indefinitely; then, the Peoples Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1959, killing 85 thousand Tibetans in the Lhasa Uprising.

Citing the experience of the former Yugoslavia as an example of a lofty idea like human rights often leading to great disaster, Nye gives a poor analogy. Yugoslavia was a hodgepodge of nations with distinct races, languages, cultures, and religions; and these diverse groups have never stopped fighting each other for millennia, except the period when Marshall Tito unified the Balkan region after World War II.

But, Taiwan is not Yugoslavia. China and Taiwan, geographically separated by a formidable strait, are two totally different entities. Besides, Taiwan has not always been a part of China. In most of its 400 year-old history, including the period between 1945 and now, Taiwan has been beyond the jurisdiction of Chinese state or under the de facto control of China's central governments.

Moreover, it has a popularly elected president and a representative government. Its economy and finance are the envy of Asian countries. Its people enjoy a standard of living much higher than their counterpart in China. Above all, its people have a strong sense of national identity, and want no part with a regime based on dictatorship and Marxist Leninist ideology.

Finally, Nye's espousal of a three-part package is not only amoral, but immoral, trading away cold-heartedly the rights of the 21.5 million inhabitants in Taiwan with the words of the butchers of the Tiananmen Massacre. The proposed deal with China contravenes the principles of human rights and self-determination, codified in the Charter of the United Nations, and the moral precepts which constitute the core of American foreign policy.

In this age and time, Taiwan can not be considered a piece of property at the disposal of the superpowers against the wishes and welfare of Taiwan's people. Given the special characteristics of Taiwan's history and society as well as its political and economic system, they deserve better. They should not be deprived of their inalienable right to determine their own future. The fact we live in a Machiavellian world does not mean the leaders of Western civilization should stop promoting and striving for a better tomorrow, built on human rights, compassion, justice and peace."

The view from Pennsylvania

By Jay T. Loo. Mr. Loo is a Taiwanese-American, who came to the United States in the 1950's. This letter was published in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune on 19 March 1998.

Jay T. Loo
Mr. Jay T. Loo

"The ultimate aim of Mr. Nye's three-part package appears to be Taiwan's surrender to Chinese authoritarian rule. There are several problems with this proposal: after decades of struggle against the Kuomintang, the Taiwanese have finally won civil liberties. They will not readily give up their hard-won freedoms.

Most Taiwanese believe that China's territorial claim to Taiwan doesn't have any valid historical or legal basis. They believe that they alone have the right to determine their own future, without outside military or political pressure.

Suppose Taiwan forswears independence, as Mr. Nye suggests, and is attacked by China, say in the year 2007. Can Taipei then count on U.S. help? Will the United States

now commit itself unequivocally to the defense of Taiwan? Without such guarantee, it is difficult to see any merit in Mr. Nye's proposal from the Taiwan perspective.

If Taiwan falls into Chinese hands, the sea-lanes on both sides of the island will be controlled by China. The lifelines of Japan and Korea will be threatened. The credibility of the U.S.-Japan Security treaty will be severely damaged. The forward deployment strategy in east Asia could collapse, forcing the United States to retreat to Guam and Hawaii. peace and stability in Asia could be threatened.

The real danger to peace lies in the willingness of American business interests and their allies in government and academia to sacrifice the long-term national security of the United States and the freedom of Taiwan's 21.5 million people for short-term commercial profit."

Anthony Lake: "Never at the expense of Taiwan"

Former United States National Security advisor Anthony Lake arrived in Taiwan in the beginning of March 1998 for a 5-day visit, during which he met with Taiwan political leaders.

On 5 March he gave a speech in Taipei, in which he emphasized that — while the United States would welcome talks between Taiwan and China — it was not trying to push Taiwan to the bargaining table. He also told the group of 300 Taiwan politicians and scholars that improvement in relations between the United States and Beijing "...will never be at the expense of Taiwan. Never. Period".

Mr. Lake added Washington would not mediate or even exert pressure to start talks, as this risked raising suspicions of "western meddling" and did not ensure the best outcome. "An agreement reached by the People's Republic of China and Taiwan themselves, freely and on the basis of their own calculations of their own interests, is far more likely to endure than one that results from outside pressure," he said.

Lake said there was no subtle campaign by Washington to use former administration officials to pressure Taiwan into talks with Beijing. There have been several visits to the region recently by former high-ranking Washington officials. "A lot of speculation about track-two diplomacy is unwarranted," he said.

Lake said Washington's bottom line was that any deal be achieved peacefully, though it always felt that democracy offered the best solution anywhere on earth.

Lake praised Taiwan's vibrant democracy for undermining those who felt so-called "Asian values" were inconsistent with democracy and said it offered lessons for Asian neighbors where, he argued, a lack of democracy had led to financial chaos. "Democracy, with its emphasis on transparency and rule of law, is the enemy of crony capitalism," he said.

Lake, who served as President Bill Clinton's national security advisor between 1993 and January 1997, was instrumental in mediating when in 1995 and 1996 Beijing launched six rounds of war games and missiles firings against Taiwan in the run-up to the nation's first presidential election.

In response, Washington sent the biggest naval force the region had seen since the Vietnam war. "Our response, both public and private, was clear: Use of force against Taiwan, we said, would have grave consequences," Lake said. "The dispatch of the two aircraft carrier groups to the area underlined our point."

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