Mr. Clinton went to China. While few people disagree with his attempts to advance human rights, democracy, and openness in general in China, he committed two major mistakes with regard to Taiwan, damaging the right of the people in Taiwan to determine their own future, and selling out Taiwan's future in exchange for airtime in Beijing.
In his speech at Beijing University, he said that U.S. policy is "no obstacle to peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan." We would like to remind him that it has always been U.S. policy to be in favor of a peaceful resolution of the tension across the Taiwan Straits. The word "reunification" does not appear in the Taiwan Relations Act or in any other U.S. policy document.
However, it was the second blunder, in Shanghai, which was the most damaging one. There, in a June 30th meeting with academics, he became the first American President to publicly pronounce the so-called "three noes" (no US support for "One Taiwan, One China", for an independent Taiwan, and for Taiwan membership in the UN).
While the U.S. had up until now not expressed open support for either Taiwan independence or Taiwan membership in international organizations, it had also not expressed "no support" either. Mr. Clinton's pronouncements thus constitute a significant deviation from existing U.S. policy, and a slap in the face of the democratic movement in Taiwan, which has worked so hard for self-determination, independence, and acceptance of Taiwan in the international community.
However, upon Mr. Clinton's return to Washington, the Administration added further to the confusion it had created by stating that there had been "no change" in U.S. policy towards Taiwan.
On the following pages we present some reactions. First, an open letter to Mr. Clinton, secondly an overview of reactions in the press, and thirdly a summary and analysis of the Congressional reactions.
An open letter to Mr. Clinton
The press generally applauded the visit as a whole, and particularly Mr. Clinton's statements on human rights and the importance he attaches to democracy. However, the reactions to the "three no" statements on Taiwan were extremely critical.
The Washington Post published an excellent editorial only two days after the statements. In the editorial, titled "Siding with the dictators" (Washington Post, 2 July 1998) the Post said that Mr. Clinton's statement were "..what China wants to hear", and that it did constitute a change of policy, "...and not for the better."
Taiwanese rally in DC on 18 June 1998
The Post stated that it is inappropriate for Mr. Clinton at this time to rule out independence or any other option the Taiwanese people eventually might choose. It added that Mr. Clinton was "...trading away the human rights of Taiwan's 21 million people and sending an unfortunate signal to other democracies that might hope to rely on U.S. moral support."
The Post emphasized that Mr. Clinton was also significantly weakening Taiwan's bargaining power if and when Taiwan and China begin negotiations. It concluded: "By explicitly slamming the door on (Taiwan's campaign to enter international organizations), Mr. Clinton has sided with the dictators against the democrats. To pretend this is no change only heightens the offense."
On the same day (2 July 1998) the Wall Street Journal also published an excellent editorial, titled "Bill's kowtow". It stated that Mr. Clinton's kowtow "...is likely to set off a cycle of reactions and counterreactions that will ultimately damage rather than improve Sino-American relations."
The Journal emphasized that while Mr. Clinton got only some symbolic airtime of Chinese TV, Jiang Zeming was "...carving the next slice of salami towards the Chinese goal of getting the U.S. to coerce Taiwan to join China, or alternatively to stand aside while China invades."
The Journal concluded it editorial as follows: "Taiwan is now plainly a democratic nation, and has every right to determine its own future. In the end, the U.S. will not resist this principle, whatever Mr. Clinton said in Shanghai this week. The danger in Mr. Clinton's words is that the Chinese leaders who heard them will not only be disappointed but turn truculent."
A few days later, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Professor Parris Chang, a prominent DPP-member of the Legislative Yuan in Taiwan himself ("Clinton sold out Taiwan's future", WSJ, 7 July 1998). Professor Chang wrote that in China, Mr. Clinton did speak out in support of human rights and civil liberties, but then severely undermined his own message by expressing "no support" for the right of Taiwan to determine its own future.
Professor Chang stated that Mr. Clinton's "three no" statement "...gives China's dictators the opportunity to beat Mr. Clinton over the head with his very own words anytime Beijing feels Washington is straying too far from its abstruse "One China" policy." He also said that "any negotiations ... now will be fatally compromised, because Taiwan can no longer negotiate from a position of strength..."
He added that "...Mr. Clinton's concession to Beijing may make a military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait more likely, because the Chinese will interpret his remark as a sign of weakness that they can exploit." He gave the example of Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's visit to Cornell in 1995: the subsequent missile crisis was primarily caused by the fact that the State Department had maintained during the previous year that Mr. Lee would not be allowed to visit, and was then overruled after near-unanimous resolutions in Congress. The crisis deepened in early 1996, because the U.S. offered only mild protests against the first round of missile provocations in July / August 1995.
Professor Chang concluded that "It is bad enough that Mr. Clinton talks about Taiwan with just about everyone except the Taiwanese. But to think that he has a right to speak for the island's future is incredible.... Alas, for Mr. Clinton the lure of the China market is so strong he is even prepared to sell out an old ally and a friend of democracy."
The next good article appeared in the Los Angeles Times ("Clinton first to OK "three no's", LATimes, 8 July 1998). Long-time Taiwan watcher Jim Mann gave an excellent analysis of how Mr. Clinton's words represent an major departure from U.S. policy, and strongly criticized the attempts by the State Department and "White House spinmeisters" to pretend that it represented "no change" in policy.
Mr. Mann emphasized that Taiwan has changed in that it has become a functioning democracy, and is no longer ruled by the repressive regime of Chiang Kai-shek, who claimed sovereignty over China.
Mr. Mann also quoted Professor Harry Harding of George Washington University, who states that "there is legitimate concern in Taiwan that the United States is prejudging the outcome" of future talks between Beijing and Taipei."
Another good analysis came from longtime Asia correspondent Richard Halloran in an article titled "U.S. policy shift on Taiwan gives Beijing an edge" in the Washington Times, 17 July 1998. Mr. Halloran writes that the Clinton statements has "...not only given the diplomatic edge to Beijing, but has caused consternation in Congress and comes as China is planning new tactics intended to intimidate Taiwan."
In the remainder of the article, Mr. Halloran describes how Chinese officials were jumping with joy about Mr. Clinton's statements, and were trumpeting them in the government-controlled press. He also described Chinese obsession with Taiwan, and the ongoing efforts by the Chinese military to develop "capabilities sufficient to intimidate Taipei into accepting a political solution on Chinese terms."
According to a recent National Defense University study, these capabilities include subversion, sabotage and disruption of Taiwan's banking, commercial and stock market electronic systems, seeking to destroy public confidence in Taiwan's government. Mr. Halloran quotes an expert at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii as saying: "this would be an electronic version of the old people's warfare, they never gotten rid of it."
Last, but not least, there was any excellent article by former U.S. ambassador Harvey Feldman, titled "In Clinton's China Shuffle, Taiwan loses" in the Washington Post of 19 July 1998.
Ambassador Feldman writes that Mr. Clinton's remarks represent "a major and potentially quite dangerous change (emphasis added -- Ed.) in official American policy, which for 26 years has held open the right of self-determination for the people of Taiwan by carefully avoiding any American statement as to whether the island was, or should be, nothing more than a province of China."
He goes through an analysis of the well-known "acknowledge" phrasing of the Shanghai Communiqué, of 1972, but states that the "One China" concept "...was not the position of the ethnic Taiwanese, who made up about 90 percent of the island's population and were living there before Chiang and his Nationalist troops arrived after the defeat by the communists. But their view did not matter because Taiwan was then an authoritarian state." (emphasis added -- Ed.).
Ambassador Feldman goes on to state that "With just under 22 million people a total of three times the population of Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia combined, and greater than the population of two-thirds of U.N. member nations Taiwan meets the three criteria for statehood specified in international law: defined territory, defined population and the ability to enter into and keep international agreements."
Ambassador Feldman then presents the argument that just because in 1979 the United States switched recognition from the Kuomintang regime to the regime in Beijing, this did not suddenly change Taiwan from a state into a non-state. He adds: "In a world in which the United Nations includes countries whose population is about the same as that of four or five square blocks of downtown Taipei, to deny that Taiwan is a state is laughable."
China: "With this American 'three no' sledgehammer in place, the negotiations can begin."
He writes that be recognizing Beijing's version of the "One China policy" and by asserting the "three no's", Mr. Clinton essentially offers Taiwan a dark choice between continued status as an international pariah or amalgamation in one form or another with Communist China.
He says that for three decades, Washington turned a blind eye to the repressive character of Chiang Kai-shek's regime because the U.S. valued the island in what was called in those years, the struggle against Sino-Soviet aggression. "The absence of freedoms of press, speech and assembly called forth no protests on (America's) part; nor did the existence of hundreds of political prisoners."
He then describes how Taiwan transformed itself into a democracy, with a multi-party parliament and a popularly-elected head of state. "It boasts a free market that yields a per-capita income of about US$13,000 more than at least three members of the European Union. This is the state that Bill Clinton says is not a state."
Ambassador Feldman concludes: "In the end, Taiwan's future is not a matter for Clinton, the American government or Beijing. It is a matter solely for the government and people of Taiwan to decide."
In a strong rebuke to President Clinton, on 7 July 1998, U.S. Senators Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) and Trent Lott (R-MS) introduced Resolution 107 in the Senate, reaffirming U.S. commitment to Taiwan. The Resolution reiterated that the future of Taiwan should be determined by peaceful means.
The resolution also reaffirmed the commitment to provide Taiwan the defensive means necessary to defend itself against China, and restated that the U.S. considers "...any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific and of grave concern to the U.S."
On 10 July 1998, the Senate passed the Resolution by a vote of 92-0. However, a phrase "with the consent of the people of Taiwan" in the original draft was deleted from the second "Resolved" clause, which affirmed the Senate's expectation that the future of Taiwan is to be "...determined by peaceful means."
Taiwan Communiqué comment: we find it objectionable that the Department of State would show a total disregard for the principle of self-determination, and would oppose the inclusion of the words "with the consent of the people of Taiwan" in this Resolution. Isn't democracy and self-determination all about consent of the people in the decisionmaking on their future?
It is also disheartening that the Democratic leadership in the Senate is letting itself be used to defend the indefensible statements by Mr. Clinton in regard to Taiwan. If Messrs. Tom Daschle and Joseph Biden have some sense of justice and righteousness, they should distance themselves from Mr. Clinton's remarks. There is ample evidence Mr. Clinton was wrong. It is now up to Congress to go beyond the passage of this Resolution and the Taiwan Relations Act, and take active steps to right the wrongs.
On 17 July 1998, a bipartisan group of 36 members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced Resolution 301, reaffirming U.S. commitment to Taiwan. The Resolution reiterated that the future of Taiwan should be determined by peaceful means, and added clauses on the principle of Taiwanese self-determination, and the right of Taiwan to join international organizations.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, 16 July, statements were made in support of the Resolution by Congressmen Tom Delay (R-TX), Vince Snowbarger (R-KS), Peter Deutsch (D-FL), and others. On Monday, 20 July 1998, the Resolution passed the full House by an overwhelming vote of 390 to 1.
House Resolution 301 contained stronger and better language than the Senate Resolution, but it was also weakened slightly: one being deletion of the clause "in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the principle of self-determination". According reports, it was Mr. Gingrich, who apparently felt that this was a "buzz-word" and would "complicate getting support for the resolution."
Taiwan Communiqué comment: Mr. Gingrich, if "self-determination" is a "buzz-word" that should be left out if things get complicated, we wonder why one shouldn't leave out "buzz-words" like freedom, democracy and human rights. We thought that we could count on the U.S. Congress to stand up for the right of the Taiwanese to determine their own future, but apparently even there we find some weak knees.
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