Taiwan Communiqué No. 85, March 1999

Clinton's China policy invites disaster

The Wall Street Journal of 26 January 1999 carried an insightful article, titled: "Clinton's China Policy invites Disaster", by professor Arthur Waldron, who teaches international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and serves as director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC.

Professor Waldron started his analysis by showing how the Clinton administration's "engagement" policy toward China has only emboldened the People's Liberation Army in its efforts to crack down on the dissenters of the Chinese democratic movement.

Mr. Waldron criticizes the Clinton administration for lavishly wooing the Chinese generals — "many with hands still bloody from the Tiananmen massacre" — and for even receiving them at the White House. In fact, a few eeks after Mr. Waldron's essay, on 12 February 1999, the Washington Post published an article on this issue, including a picture of Mr. Clinton meeting with General Zhang Wannian, otherwise known as "The Butcher of Tienanmen."

Professor Waldron also indicates that the still-to-be-released Cox report found, among other things, that China had obtained by espionage the technology for the most advanced U.S. nuclear warhead, the W88, which is used in the Trident system.

Mr. Waldron continues that the U.S. could have strengthened the hand of reformers in China by making clear that the revival of authoritarianism would lead to trouble in the China-U.S. relationship. Instead the administration did just the opposite — it shunned the reformers and embraced the oppressors. He states that U.S. policy has smoothed the road for an ultranationalist dictatorship in China — even as U.S. security failures have ensured that the dictatorship will have state-of-the-art weapons.

Further down in his article, Professor Waldron states that the only important exception to the general policy of appeasement comes from the Defense Department, which, although keen on engaging the PLA, has hedged against trouble in China by recognizing, far more clearly than the White House, the crucial importance of America's democratic Asian allies and working to strengthen them.

Mr. Waldron argues that the U.S. will need a new Asia policy, certainly in the face of the instability to be expected in China due to the current political infighting and social unrest. He states that such a policy should begin with the understanding that democratization in China, remote as it may seem, is not just morally desirable; it is a fundamental American national security interest. A democratic China would be a better country, and a better international citizen, than is the current dictatorship.

He states that the U.S. must no longer shun democratic voices from China — or from Hong Kong or Taiwan — and suggests some presidential praise for Taiwan's recent elections.

Professor Waldron suggests that, given that America has inadvertently boosted China's menacing ballistic missile program with some of the best technology available, that the U.S. should restore some balance — with Theater Missile Defense cooperation with the U.S.'s Asian allies.

He mocks the "squeals of protest from the usual political China specialists", but states that if Washington want a peaceful future in Asia, it is going to have to make some down payments now in the form, most likely, of higher tension over the short term.

Professor Waldron says that the Chinese communist government faces difficult, perhaps terminal, domestic problems, and that in order to divert attention from these problems, it may well in the months ahead turn up the flame under a foreign crisis, hoping to rally its people, and expecting the U.S. to acquiesce.

Professor Waldron suggests that the U.S. and its allies should stand firm when the challenge comes, and that only then Beijing may realize that, difficult as it is, reform is the only way forward. But if the West bends under threat, it will open the road to more dictatorship, and Beijing will take that road. The stakes are the highest. For firmness the U.S. will pay a big rhetorical price now in denunciation and saber rattling from China — but will probably end up with a more open China and a much safer Asia.

Taiwan, Macedonia and East Timor

At the end of January 1999, there were two announcements that may affect Taiwan's international relations positively.

Macedonia The first one was the announcement that on 27 January 1999, Taiwan and Macedonia established diplomatic ties. We congratulate the government and people of Macedonia for their courage. It is lightyears beyond what the United States and Western Europe have managed to come up with until now.

Most people in Taiwan probably never heard of Macedonia before: it is a small nation — part of former Yugoslavia — which gained its independence in 1992 against great odds. It is now recognized by most countries in the world, including the United States. It has a formal embassy in Washington, where it is represented by a female ambassador and three other diplomats.

The Foreign Ministry in Taipei, Mr. Jason Hu, did show some fast footwork in bringing the diplomatic ties about. They jumped at the opportunity, when in November 1998 a new government came to power in Macedonia's capital Skopje, made up of a non-communist coalition led by Mr. Vasil Tupurkovski.

A funny situation arose, when Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov — who is part of the defeated former communist party in Macedonia but who retained his post — announced that he didn't know about the relations with Taiwan, and expressed his strong opposition against it.

On 12 February 1999, the Macedonian parliament confirmed the diplomatic ties with Taiwan by a vote of 65 to seven, with two abstentions, after a speech to the parliament by foreign minister Aleksandar Dimitrov. He explained that the relations with Taiwan would lead to long-term cooperation in agriculture, industrial development, and investment in Macedonia as a regional distribution and production center for Taiwanese companies.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: If Taiwan can maintain the relations with Macedonia, this would be a nice "foot-in-the-door" in Europe. But, it has to work hard to build up relations with other nations too, like the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland), the Baltic States, and the members of the European Union. This can only be done if Taiwan presents itself as a new, democratic and independent Taiwan, and drops the old and outdated "Republic of China" title.

The second announcement, was the one made by Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, who stated that he didn't exclude granting independence to East Timor, the former Portuguese colony, which was occupied by Indonesia in 1975, followed by more than 20 years of brutal military repression.

Indeed, Taiwan should strongly support the granting of full independence to East Timor, and help rebuild that nation. If Taiwan does that, then chances are good that it can establish diplomatic ties with this new nation. The independence movement in Taiwan already has good ties with Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, who will certainly be a major leader in future independent East Timor.

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