For the past few months, the Taiwanese-American community has worked hard to generate support in Congress for the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act. If passed by both the House and Senate, this bill would authorize the sale of a wide array of defensive weapons to Taiwan.
Of equal importance is, that the bill states that the United States has never "...adopted a formal position as to the ultimate status of Taiwan other than to state that status must be decided by peaceful means. Any determination of the ultimate status of Taiwan must have the express consent of the people on Taiwan."
The bill (S.693 in the Senate, and H.R. 1838 in the House) deserves the strongest support from the Taiwanese-American community as well as from all other Americans.
It was thus gratifying to learn that the Committee on International Relations in the U.S. House of Representatives is starting moves to mark-up the bill, increasing the chance that it will move to the floor for a vote in the near future.
However, now comes word that the Clinton administration has mobilized the business community and its own officials to try to block or dilute this bill (Washington Post, October 3rd 1999). The ostensible reason is "... that the administration fears could complicate its relationship with China."
Taiwan Communiqué comment: We have news for Mr. Clinton: if his administration fails to support this bill, this will complicate relations with us Taiwanese-Americans. We are voting citizens in this country, and our (traditionally strong) support for your Democratic Party will disappear altogether.
As for American companies lobbying against this bill: we suggest that this be stopped immediately. You are damaging Taiwan's interests as a free and democratic nation. We remind you that Taiwan purchases more products from the US than China does. And last, but not least: The PRC is an undemocratic, totalitarian state, in which political stability and your chances to do profitable business will be highly questionable for a long time to come.
On 4 October 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed HR-1794 in support of World Health Organization membership for Taiwan.
The bill was introduced in mid-May by Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH). It urges Taiwan's membership in the World Health Organization (WHO) and requires Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to report to the Congress, not later than 1 January 2000, on the efforts of the Secretary to fulfill the commitment made in the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review to more actively support Taiwan's participation in international organizations, in particular the World Health Organization (WHO).
During the debate on the bill, Rep. Sherrod Brown also referred to the delays in aid to Taiwan during the recent earthquake, and said:
"We know why they were forced to wait for help, even though they themselves, the Taiwanese as a people, have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to victims of wars and famines and disaster all over the world. That is because even in Taiwan's darkest hour, the United Nations first had to receive permission from the People's Republic of China before they could help Taiwan.
That is the reality of the One China policy. No matter how dire the situation, the human rights and the Taiwanese people take a back seat to Cold War geopolitics that frankly no longer serve any useful purpose. Unless we start doing something about it, unless we start to stick up for what is right, unless we start helping Taiwan instead of hindering it, then we will wind up letting China's dictators think they can continue to deny their people and the Taiwanese people their fundamental human rights."
In his conclusion, Mr. Brown called attention to the right of self-determination for the people of Taiwan: "Passing this bill would send a clear message that the American people fully support the people of Taiwan's right to determine their own future, as is laid down in article I of the UN Charter, and gives hope to the millions of Taiwanese who live under the shadow of a hostile, belligerent neighbor."
As is usual with Taiwan-related initiatives in Congress, the bill received wide bi-partisan support from both Democrats and Republicans. The Senate version of the bill will be introduced shortly.
On Saturday, 11 September 1999, Messrs. Clinton and Jiang Zemin met in Auckland, New Zealand, prior to the start of the APEC meeting. According to press reports, American and Chinese officials emerged from the two leaders' hour-long meeting "brimming with confident assessments of the encounter."
While such positive purring would in general be welcomed, the next sentence in the report is reason for caution. It reads "Chinese officials appeared particularly pleased that Clinton had been openly critical of President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan for his statements that described the island as a separate state." (New York Times, "Clinton and Jiang heal rift and set a new trade course", September 12 1999).
To add insult to injury, President Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger is quoted as saying that President Clinton had told Mr. Jiang that President Lee "had made things more difficult for both China and the United States."
Berger reportedly added, that Clinton had also warned China that "there would be grave consequences" if Beijing resorts to military force against Taiwan.
While the latter message is slightly reassuring, the overall result of the meeting is still that Mr. Clinton seems to want to improve his relations with China at the expense of Taiwan.
Uncle Sam to PRC: "I am stitching his (Pres. Lee's) mouth shut until you're satisfied"
Mr. Clinton even failed to extract from Mr. Jiang a promise to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. Just prior to the Auckland summit, China had held provocative military exercises on the coast just opposite Taiwan, and even practiced mock invasions. Perhaps Mr. Clinton should have mentioned that these exercises "...make things more difficult for both the United States and China."
Mr. Lee Teng-hui's statements that Taiwan and China should treat each other as equals and have nation-to-nation relations are plainly common sense. It would thus be helpful it Mr. Clinton would recognize that reality, and stop hiding behind the anachronistic "One China" fiction.
As we reported in our previous issue ("Taiwan applying to the UN, again", Taiwan Communiqué no. 87, pp. 22-23), twelve of Taiwan's allies in Central America and Africa submitted a request to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, proposing that the issue of Taiwan's membership would be put on the agenda.
Taiwan -- ready to join the UN -- is shot in the back by the US, while China crows: "This is what strategic partnerships are for."
As has become customary during the past few years, the issue was debated at a session of the General Assembly steering committee which decides on agenda items -- and then rejected, as China's supporters there generally outnumber Taiwan's supporters. In these debates, Western nations, and particularly the United States, have in the past not voiced their position.
However, this year the Clinton Administration edged yet another notch closer to Beijing, and told the U.N. panel that it did not support putting UN membership for Taiwan on the General Assembly agenda " so as to reiterate its commitment to a one-China policy."
Taiwan Communiqué comment: By taking such a position, Mr. Clinton and his Administration are regrettably _ again siding with a repressive dictatorship in Beijing against a free and democratic nation, Taiwan. Mr. Clinton should realize that he is losing any credibility with the democratic people of Taiwan, and any support from the Taiwanese-American community.
Americans themselves should find the lack of support for Taiwan's membership in the UN incomprehensible, and incompatible with the basic principles of democracy and human rights for which the United States stands. It is sad to see that Mr. Clinton and his Administration seem to have forgotten about those principles.
The Washington Post, in its September 25th issue, carried an important ad, placed by Taiwan's County Magistrate of Taoyuan County, Ms. Annette Lu Hsiu-lien.
Below is the text of the message:
The 11 October 1999 issue of the National Review published an extensive analysis by Mr. Ross H. Munro of China's intentions regarding Taiwan and the American response to the issue.
Mr. Munro became well-known in 1997 when he co-authored -- with Richard Bernstein -- The Coming Conflict with China. Mr. Munro is director of Asian studies at the Center for Security Studies in Washington, DC.
In his present analysis, Mr. Munro writes that the often overheated, nationalistic and emotional rhetoric from Beijing's spokesmen and leaders regarding the Taiwan issue are in reality quite rational and calculated: they are aimed primarily at the American audience, and are designed to hide China's real intentions.
The real motive is that, in the eyes of the PRC leaders, Taiwan is first and foremost a strategic target that must soon be subjugated if China is to realize its goal of becoming Asia's dominant and unchallenged power.
Mr. Munro faults the Clinton Administration for progressively distancing itself from Taipei, and thereby ...only encouraging Beijing to take an increasingly shrill and aggressive stance on the Taiwan issue.
He argues that during the 1980s, China maintained a relatively low-key stance on Taiwan, in part due to the Reagan Administration's quiet but firm insistence after 1982 that it wouldn't make any further concessions on the Taiwan issue. China was thus forced to aim for a long-term policy of trying to woo Taiwan by offering business and investment opportunities in the coastal regions of China.
He also presents evidence that -- while China's leaders insist that all Chinese support unification -- the Chinese general public has long been apathetic about the issue, and that it is of minor concern to the large majority of the people in China. He quotes one opinion poll, which shows that only 36 percent of those questioned want Washington to end support for Taiwan.
Mr. Munro writes that the democratisation in Taiwan and its resulting gradual drift away from China is certainly a significant factor in China's saber rattling, but that another factor played perhaps an even more important role: a momentous shift in Chinese Grand Strategy in the first half of the 1990s. Mr. Munro argues that this shift was partly the result of the collapse of the Soviet Empire: this"lucky strategic windfall" opened the way for China to set out to become the dominant and undisputed power in East Asia.
This "opening" coïncided with the high economic growth rates and the coming to the forefront of a new generation of political and military leaders. They saw the opportunity, but also noted that Taiwan was "in the way."
Thus, by the end of 1993, beginning of 1994, the PLA started to plan and implement exercises designed to prepare for an invasion of Taiwan. At the end of 1994, the Chinese military establishment reportedly held a closed-door "Invade Taiwan" pep-rally, designed to spread the word and map out further strategy.
It is significant that all this preceeded the now well-known visit of President Lee Teng-hui to Cornell, which was then taken by the Chinese as a major excuse to start military exercises and missile firings.
Mr. Munro then goes on to criticize the Clinton Administration for failing to see the real reasons of China's words and actions. He terms the present policy "recklessly naïve" and suggests that the U.S. should make it unambiguously clear to China that any further threats and military actions by China will result in American military intervention in support of Taiwan.
He states that the United States has a moral commitment to Taiwan that overshadows any strategic interest: Taiwan is a democracy, indeed a democracy as full-fledged as the United States. Its people overwhelmingly oppose putting their fate in the hands of Beijing, and they are ready to fight to prevent that from happening. If the United States fails to come to Taiwan's aid, it would forever diminish itself.
Mr. Munro concludes by saying that if the United States were to abandon an old and democratic friend to Chinese aggression, U.S. credibility in Asia would collapse.
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