Taiwan Communiqué No. 83, October 1998

China threatens Taiwan again

State Council issues White Paper

In his letter of 18 August 1998 to members of Congress (see p. 2) Mr. Clinton also wrote that in his meeting with Chinese president Jiang, he made clear the U.S. "...insistence that the differences between the PRC and Taiwan be resolved peacefully."

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Chinese dragon -- aided by "Three no" unificationist -- chasing Taiwan.

Mr. Clinton's insistence apparently didn't make too much of an impression on the Chinese: a few weeks later, on 27 July 1998, China's State Council — of which Mr. Jiang is chairman — issued a "White Paper" in which it stated that China reserves itself the right to use force against Taiwan.

The 30,000 word White Paper, which was released by the government news agency Xinhua, was as unyielding as ever regarding Taiwan, and stated that Beijing has a "...right to use all means it thinks necessary, including military means..." to attack Taiwan.

The policy review also assailed "hegemonism" — a veiled reference to the United States, and the U.S. - Japan security agreement, which is designed to safeguard security in East Asia, and was agreed to in Tokyo in April 1997 to guard against any attack that would disturb safety and security in East Asia.

The Paper was the first published defense policy review since 1995. The United States and other nations have urged China to publish more information about its intentions, and about the People's Liberation Army, in order to provide more transparency, and to dispel international suspicions about China's intentions.

While the Paper gave some details on the budgets, and on plans to downscale the PLA from 3 million to 2.5 million men, and the planned reductions of navy and airforce, international observers say that China hides a considerable part of its budget for military spending in budgets of other departments, agencies and operations.

According to the Paper, the defense budget is to grow 11.3 percent from US$ 9.79 billion in 1997 to US$ 10.9 billion in 1998, but international observers believe that the real budget is anywhere from three to ten times that figure.

In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin gave only a weak response to the new threats made in the Chinese White Paper: he lamely reiterated that the U.S. "...hopes the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will resolve their disputes or problems strictly by peaceful means."

In response to a question, he stated that the U.S. intends to continue to comply with the Taiwan Relations Act, and vaguely added that this "...requires certain steps to take place if there is a threat to the people of Taiwan. Nothing has changed from our standpoint."

To talk or not to talk ?

The continuing threats and intimidation by China also put into question whether Taiwan should proceed with upcoming talks: from 14 through 19 October 1998, a visit to China is being planned for Mr. Koo Chen-fu, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation. The visit is hosted by Mr. Wang Daohan, the chairman of China's Association for relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), and will reportedly include a meeting with China's President Jiang Zemin.

The meeting is being heralded as a "reopening" of the dialogue between Taiwan and China. Messrs. Koo and Wang last met in Singapore in 1993. The exchanges were suspended in 1995, when China aggressively launched provocative military exercises and missile firings after Taiwan president Lee's visit to his alma mater Cornell in June 1995.

During the past months, the Chinese have been pressuring Taiwan to open a "political dialogue" designed to force it into negotiations on so-called "reunification", while the Kuomintang authorities in Taiwan have stated that they want to restrict the discussions to "technical matters", such as resolution of fishing disputes, protection of the investment of Taiwanese businessmen in China, and repatriation of hijackers.

In preparation for the meeting, Mr. Wang has floated some fuzzy-sounding suggestions, such as "shared sovereignty", and according to a pro-China American academic would even "...consider a new flag and would change the national anthem if that would help persuade Taiwan to become part of a single China."

Taiwan Communiqué comment: The reported suggestions are totally preposterous. Nobody in his right mind can believe that China will change its name, flag or anthem. They are just a smokescreen, designed to confuse the outside world in an attempt to make China's position sound reasonable.

If China renounces the use of force, then "technical discussions" could be held on a range of practical issues, which would function as a confidence-building exercise, and would show whether China would keep its words on those issues. However, any "political discussions" will have to wait until the people of Taiwan have been able to express their views on the future of the island in a fully open and democratic process.

In the present situation, there are still two major reasons why the real views of the Taiwanese have not been fully heard yet:

1. the after-effects of Kuomintang's long history of repression, which still prevents many Taiwanese from expressing themselves on political issues, and

2. China's campaign of threats and intimidation, which is equivalent to a gun pointed at the head of the Taiwanese.

If China is serious in its resolve to end its dispute with Taiwan, it should thus first renounce the use of force, and then acknowledge that the present Taiwan is totally different from the old so-called "Republic of China" of the Chinese Nationalists, with which it fought its Civil War four decades ago. The next step would be to come to an accommodation with this new Taiwan, accept it as a friendly neighbor, and establish diplomatic relations with this neighbor.

DOD rebukes private Chas Freeman

In its September / October 1998 issue, Foreign Affairs Magazine published a strong rebuttal by the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense to an earlier article by former Clinton Administration official Chas Freeman, now a private citizen, who had written that the U.S. should reduce weapon sales to Taiwan in order to pressure Taiwan into negotiations with Beijing.

To the Editor: Chas W. Freeman, jr. draws the wrong conclusions ("Preventing War in the Taiwan Strait", July/August 1998). If the United States followed his recommendations, conflict would be more likely.

Freeman fails to distinguish between peaceful and non-peaceful approaches to changing Taiwan's status unilaterally, either by Beijing or Taipei, and prefers a status quo maintained through military intimidation to promoting democracy in the region.

He fundamentally misreads Taiwan's domestic policies by stating that Taiwanese politicians think they have "wide latitude to ... maneuver the island towards independence" and mischaracterizes the results of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan by saying that they no longer "boost Taipei's confidence that it can work out its differences with Beijing." And he strongly implies that independence sentiments in Taiwan — not Beijing's inability to offer Taiwan an attractive alternative — are the greatest impediments to resolution of the cross-Strait dispute.

Freeman's policy recommendations endorse a zero-sum notion of the U.S. - China - Taiwan relationship: that improvements in either the Washington-Beijing relationship or the Washington-Taipei relationship must come at the expense of the other. This approach would create insecurity in Taipei, reward Beijing's military intimidation, and undermine Washington's regional strategy for promoting democracy, peace, and stability.

Reducing security assistance to Taiwan, particularly in the light of China's military modernization, is most worrisome. It would be misread in every capital in the region, making a Chinese attack more likely.

The United States should not inject itself directly into the dispute. Rather, it should focus exclusively on process and not pressure either side towards any one outcome, including the unlikely option of Taiwan independence.

The administration may not actively support independence, but neither should it reject or oppose it. The United States should limit itself to creating an atmosphere conducive to peaceful resolution.

The administration is right to engage China. It should now build on the Clinton-Jiang summit and improve relations with Taiwan as well. Not to do so, whether by calculation (Freeman's approach) or neglect, will dangerously destabilize this unique triangular relationship.

Parallel engagement of Taiwan should involve the Clinton Administration's offering Taiwan security assurances not only through continued arms sales but through high-level dialogue to encourage Taiwan to proceed with a cross-strait dialogue.

Washington should support greater international participation for Taiwan, help integrate it into the international economic system, and support its bid for membership in the World Trade Organization.

Taiwan's democracy should be allowed to mature. America needs to engage both countries because the prosperity and security of all three are closely linked. One insecure participant can disrupt progress, and today Taipei is not feeling very secure.

Randall G. Schriver, Senior Country Director for China, including Taiwan

Office of the Secretary of Defense

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