During the Republican and Democratic conventions at the end of July and in mid-August 2000 respectively, the two parties drafted their platforms for the upcoming presidential election campaigns. Taiwanese-Americans and the people in Taiwan are closely watching what these platforms contain about US policy towards Taiwan.
While these platforms are not the final word on the policies that will eventually evolve, they are an indication and a declaration of intent on how the two parties will deal with relations with Taiwan and with the cross-Strait issue.
Below we present a first analysis of the two platforms, and an analysis of which party would offer Taiwan the best hope for a normalization of relations with Taiwan.
The Democratic platform leaves much to be desired. It contains only one paragraph regarding Taiwan:
A Gore Administration will fulfill its responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act. A Gore Administration will also remain committed to a "One China" policy. We support a resolution of cross-Straits issues that is both peaceful and consistent with the wishes of the people of Taiwan.
The opening sentence in the above paragraph raises the interesting question whether Mr. Gore considers the policy of the past eight years as being in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. Many in Washington -- including many Democrats in Congress -- are of the opinion that the Clinton-Gore Administration has undercut the Taiwan Relations Act, and thus failed to fulfill its responsibilities.
There is also the question whether the TRA -- which was drafted in 1979 -- is an adequate framework for the present situation. As we have indicated in earlier articles -- see Taiwan Communiqué no. 86, p. 10 -- the TRA falls far short, as it does not provide a framework to deal with a fully democratic Taiwan, it falls short in helping Taiwan's membership in international organizations, and falls short in the area of safety and security.
The major weakness in the platform paragraph is of course the phrase that the Gore Administration " will remain committed to the `One China' policy", without defining how this policy differs from the policy espoused by the Communist regime in Beijing. As outlined elsewhere in this Communiqué, the "One China" concept is increasingly viewed as outdated and defunct.
The only sentence which goes somewhat in the right direction is the support of the resolution of cross-Strait issues as " both peaceful and consistent with the wishes of the people of Taiwan."
From an American party that espouses democracy _ and even uses the term in its name _ one would expect a stronger expression of support for Taiwan as a free and democratic member of the international community. Mr. Gore himself has displayed little interest in the issue, and his key advisers on international relations, Messrs. Leon Fuerth and Richard Holbrooke (presently US ambassador to the UN), seem more intent on continuing the "engagement" policy with China at the expense of Taiwan.
The only point of hope for Taiwan in a possible Democratic Administration is vice-Presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, who -- as senator from Connecticut -- has taken a lead role in speaking out for democracy in Taiwan and for US defense of Taiwan against any attack by China.
In contrast, the Republican platform is much more forceful on the cross-Strait issue, and on the defense of Taiwan. The text of the platform:
A Republican president will honor our promises to the people of Taiwan, a longstanding friend of the United States and a genuine democracy. Only months ago the people of Taiwan chose a new president in free and fair elections. Taiwan deserves America's strong support, including the timely sale of defensive arms to enhance Taiwan's security.
In recognition of its growing importance in the global economy, we support Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization, as well as its participation in the World Health Organization and other multilateral institutions.
America has acknowledged the view that there is one China. Our policy is based on the principle that there must be no use of force by China against Taiwan. We deny the right of Beijing to impose its rule on the free Taiwanese people. All issues regarding Taiwan's future must be resolved peacefully and must be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China violates these principles and attacks Taiwan, then the United States will respond appropriately in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. America will help Taiwan defend itself.
On the next pages, you find an analysis of the platform by Mike J. Fonte of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
Interestingly, just after the Republican convention, several press reports gave an insight of how the Republican platform on China and Taiwan came about. Both the Washington Post and Washington Times carried articles reporting that an earlier version had been distinctly more pro-China. It had been drafted by Mr. Robert Blackwill, a lecturer at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, where he runs an exchange program for Chinese PLA officers.
The US$ 7 million program is reportedly funded by a Hong Kong businesswoman named Nina Kung. The Washington Times article reported that the PLA colonels attending the program are hand-picked by General Xiong Guangkai, China's military intelligence chief, who suggested in early 1996 that China would use nuclear weapons against Los Angeles if the US dared to defend Taiwan from Chinese attack ("Secret GOP struggle", by Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough in the Washington Times, 11 August 2000).
The final platform document was re-drafted by several congressional staffers and former Congressman Robert L. Livingston (R-LA), a member of the platform committee, who felt that the earlier language didn't represent American values, and was not in line with recent statement of candidate George W. Bush on the issue.
By Michael J. Fonte, senior policy analyst for the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
Taiwan should be more pleased with the Republican Party platform than with that of the Democrats. The many changes that were made from the original Republican draft reflect a strong commitment to democratic Taiwan and its future.
"A Republican president will honor our promises to the people of Taiwan, a longstanding friend of the United States, and a genuine democracy. Only months ago the people of Taiwan chose a new president in free and fair elections. Taiwan deserves America's strong support, including the timely sale of defensive arms to enhance Taiwan's security," reads the platform.
This coded reference to the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act was not in the original draft and reflects the endorsement of the TSEA that can be found on George W. Bush's Web site. The first draft endorsed a "one China" policy, and the Bush Web site still notes that the Republican candidate supports such a policy. The final version states, however, that "America has acknowledged the view that there is `one China.'"
The platform echoes President Clinton's "assent of the people of Taiwan" phrase: "We deny the right of Beijing to impose its rule on the free Taiwanese people. All issues regarding Taiwan's future must be resolved peacefully and must be agreeable to the people of Taiwan," it reads.
Finally, the platform warns, "If China violates these principles and attacks Taiwan, then the United States will respond appropriately in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. America will help Taiwan defend itself."
The Democratic Party platform is less detailed in its statements about Taiwan. It notes that the US "must continue to engage China while at the same time insisting on adherence to international standards on human rights, freedom, the persecution of religion, the suppression of Tibet, and bellicose threats directed at Taiwan." A Gore Administration, the platform avows, "will fulfill its responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act," and will also "remain committed to a `one China' policy. Like its Republican counterpart it echoes Clinton's "assent of the people," phrase: "We support a resolution of cross-Straits issues that is both peaceful and consistent with the wishes of the people of Taiwan."
Taiwan should be more pleased with the Republican platform, then, but wary. When Henry Kissinger read the platform, he probably just shook his head knowingly. After all, his proteges are prominent in the team of foreign policy advisors surrounding George W. Bush, men like Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleberger, and should be able to keep Bush junior on the right Kissingerian China track.
Besides, as is amply documented in The Kissinger Transcripts, edited by William Burr, Kissinger knows just how important platform statements are. He had to put out some fires with the Chinese over the 1976 Republican platform which virtually embraced a two Chinas policy.
In a mid-August 1976 conversation, Chinese Ambassador Huang Zhen confronted Kissinger on the platform's statements, saying,"I would like to say something about this [Taiwan]. Recently people in the United States have made many official and non-official comments about Sino-US relations." Kissinger replied, "Which have been official? I don't consider the Republican Party platform official."
Later in the conversation, Huang said, "I hope we can proceed on the basis of the Shanghai communiqué as Vice Premier Zhang pointed out to Senator Scott." Kissinger responded, "It is our firm purpose to do so. We will act on this basis, and not on the basis of what is written in this or that platform."
Most political commentators would agree with Kissinger's views on the importance of platform language for either party. A more serious question is whether either Gore or Bush will take a step back from the accepted version of the US "one China" policy. A look at the historical record doesn't leave one very optimistic that there will be any change in what has been a distinct China tilt in US policy through Democratic and Republican Administrations alike since 1972.
In Kissinger's grand geopolitical scheme, Taiwan was expendable. During Kissinger's first trip to Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Chou En-lai pressed forcefully on the Taiwan issue. According to John Holdridge, a Kissinger aide, only after Kissinger said, "What I had written for him on no two Chinas; no one China, one Taiwan; no independent Taiwan," did Chou respond, "Good, these talks may proceed."
When Nixon himself visited, he explicitly agreed with Chou on the Taiwan issue. His notes for his opening presentation to Chou show this clearly. "Taiwan: I reiterate what our policy is: 1. Status is determined one China, Taiwan is part of China 2. Won't support Taiwan independence."
The previous US position on Taiwan was that its status was "undetermined," left purposely so by the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. The Shanghai Communiqué of 1972 was more circumspect than the private Nixon-Chou agreements, stating that the US "acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position."
Secretary of State William Rogers, who had been cut out of the China loop by Kissinger, noted that many native Taiwanese did not agree with Chiang Kai-shek's position about Taiwan being part of China. He suggested the language be changed from "all Chinese" to "Chinese." Kissinger tried to get the Chinese to accept the word change, but got nowhere.
Nixon's approach to China has dominated the thinking of all subsequent Administrations on China. Consider the current presidential campaign. Asked in March 2000 what he would do if Taiwan were to declare independence, George W. Bush responded, "I would hope Taiwan would also hear the call that the `one China' policy is important for the peaceful resolution of the dispute between China and Taiwan. Taiwan must be reminded by our country that the `one China' policy has allowed Taiwan to develop into a market-oriented economy and to a flourishing democracy. It has worked, and the role of the US is to use our prestige in the world to make sure that the `one China' policy remains intact."
On 4 April 2000, Al Gore stated, "We also have concerns over tensions building between China and Taiwan. We need to maintain our commitment to the `one China' policy, but urge China and Taiwan to intensify their dialogue and to resolve their problems by peaceful means. The administration is honoring its obligation to make defensive weapons available to Taiwan."
For Taiwan, the democracy card is the key to unlocking this `one China' box. US policy has been based, as William Rogers so clearly noted, on the flawed premise that all people in Taiwan accept the `one China' framework. It wasn't true in 1972. It is less true today. Platform statements come and go. Neither Nixon's private assurances to China nor the time-framed Communiques are binding policy statements for tomorrow's US government, no matter what Chinese leaders think.
Taiwanese democracy is here to stay and must be factored into a new US policy formula. As Chen Shui-bian asked so clearly on Aug. 18, "If we make it [reunification] the only option, will this still be a democracy?"
The above article first appeared in the Taipei Times on 30 August 2000. Reprinted with permission.
The present "One China" policy dates from the 1970s. The problem with this "One China" concept is that it grew out of a time when two Chinese regimes claimed to be the legitimate representative of "One China". In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States and the rest of the West recognized the "One China" of the Kuomintang on Taiwan, and thereby isolated the PRC - wrongly so.
That part of that equation was resolved in the 1970s when the international community recognized the government in Beijing as the sole representative of China. However, the international community swung to the other extreme, and is now - equally wrongly isolating Taiwan.
The situation now is fundamentally different from the early 1970s: Taiwan has in the meantime evolved from Chiang Kai-shek's undemocratic dictatorship to a fully-grown democracy, as exemplified by the peaceful transfer of power to the Chen Shui-bian administration led by the DPP. It does not claim to represent China anymore.
The US should reward Taiwan for moving towards a fully-democratic system by normalizing relations with the island-nation. The present "unofficial" ties are an aberration from the conflict-situation of the past decades.
Just as it was correct to rectify the wrong in the early 1970s by pulling China into the international community, it is right at this time, as we enter the 21st century, to rectify the wrong imposed upon the people of Taiwan, by accepting Taiwan as a full and equal member in the international community.
This new situation a democratic government which was not part of the Chinese Civil War (which has been the root cause of the tension in the Taiwan Strait) should lead to a rethinking of the "One China" policy.
The United States should emphasize both the peaceful process and an eventual outcome in line with the basic principles for which the US stands: human rights, democracy and freedom. Thus endorsement of the principle of self-determination by the people of Taiwan.
The US -- and other Western nations -- should thus revise their policy towards Taiwan along the following lines. The first point is part of present policy. The formulation of the second point aims to get around the "One China" dilemma. The third and fourth points are the application of "consent of the people in Taiwan" to a) the resolution of the Cross-Strait conflict, and b) the future status of Taiwan.
1. The US insists that the Cross-Strait differences should be resolved peacefully, through dialogue. It rejects and opposes the use of force or the threat of force. In accordance with the TRA, the US provides Taiwan with the necessary means to defend itself, and maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.
2. The US recognizes the government in Beijing as the government of China, and expresses the expectation that it will move in the direction of democracy and a full-market economy.
3. Since Taiwan is a democracy, any arrangements between the two sides must have the expressed consent of the people of Taiwan.
4. The future status of Taiwan should be decided by the people of the island themselves, through a democratic process, and without outside interference.
5. The US should take the lead in accepting Taiwan as a full and equal member in the international community by supporting its membership in international organizations such as the UN, WHO and WTO.
Back to: Table of Contents
Copyright © 2000 Taiwan Communiqué