By Li Thian-hok
On May 24 Vermont Senator James Jeffords quit the Grand Old Party (GOP), claiming alienation from President Bush's conservative policies. Jeffords announced he would become an independent but vote with the Democratic caucus on procedural matters. As a result, effective June 5, the chairmanships of all 20 Senate committees passed to Democratic Senators who will now control the flow of legislation in committees and on the Senate floor. The Democrats will also have the power to conduct investigations and Senate hearings.
More shifts of party allegiance are possible. Another moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is uncomfortable with a GOP increasingly dominated by Southern conservatives. Despite Senator John McCain's denial, rumors persist that he may bolt the GOP and run as a third party Presidential candidate in 2004. On the other hand, two Democratic Senators (Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Zell Miller of Georgia) have been mentioned as possible party switchers. Then there is Republican Senator Strom Thurmond who at age 98 is in frail health. His resignation would further erode the GOP's strength in the Senate.
What remains unchanged are the same 100 Senators with the same ideological make-ups. With the close 50-49-1 split, neither party can advance its agenda without the cooperation of the other. It takes just 41 Senators to block legislation offered by the other side. The Democrats will find it difficult to override President Bush's veto.
How will the tectonic change in the Senate impact U.S. policy towards Taiwan? Senator Carl Levin of Michigan has taken over the Armed Services Committee. Senator Levin is highly skeptical about the merits of anti-ballistic missile defense. President Bush's plan to advance national missile defense (NMD) as well as theater missile defense (TMD) is expected to be slowed if not completely stalled. The long range effect on Taiwan's security are two-fold. In the absence of NMD, the U.S. may be more reluctant to actively assist in the defense of Taiwan. The U.S. has to weigh China's threat to use nuclear weapons against its homeland. Taiwan may also be denied an opportunity to go under the protective umbrella of TMD in a timely manner.
In the short term, the largest negative impact will come from the shift of leadership in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Former Chairman Senator Jesse Helms is an ardent supporter of Taiwan's security. We cannot expect the same level of zeal from the new chairman, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who is against the passage of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA) by the Senate and who has reservations about President Bush's vow to do whatever it takes to help defend Taiwan. On the other hand, the urgency for the enactment of TSEA has been lessened by the robust package of arms sales to Taiwan announced by President Bush on April 24 and the improved cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan militaries.
Senator Biden is considering running for the White House. He may use the pulpit as chairman of the FRC to stake out an active policy of engagement with China, stressing the need to accommodate China's rise.
On the positive side, Democratic control of the Senate will force the Bush administration to move to the political center to advance its legislative program. With the country so evenly divided between the right and the left, such a move may actually strengthen the Bush administration and enhance President Bush's prospects for winning a second term. The Bush administration has a better grasp of geopolitical strategy and is attentive to the shifting strategic balance in Asia. Thus a more successful Bush presidency would tend to bolster Taiwan's security as well.
Foreign policy is also controlled by and large by the executive branch of government. Although the Senate can "advise and consent," its ability to influence policy is limited, especially when faced by the experienced and competent Bush foreign policy team.
Whether Taiwan can preserve the status quo, namely its status as a de facto independent nation, in the face of growing military, economic and political pressures from China depends primarily on the resolve of the Taipei government and the people of Taiwan to defend their hard-won freedom. Given the strong support of the Bush administration, Taiwan has a window of opportunity to keep its democracy but only if the government takes timely actions to prepare for potential Chinese military aggression and to build up the people's morale to defend the homeland.
For Taiwanese Americans concerned about Taiwan's future, the restructuring of the U.S. Senate means that they must redouble their efforts to convince all U.S. Senators, especially Democratic Senators in the Foreign Relations Committee, that the security of Taiwan is not only critical to peace and stability of East Asia but will also ultimately impinge on the security of America's homeland.
On 17 May 2001, the House unanimously passed HCR135 which had been introduced on May 15, welcoming Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian to the United States. When it went to the floor, the resolution enjoyed the co-sponsorship of 42 Representatives. It requests that President Chen "communicate to the people of Taiwan the support of the U.S. Congress and of the American people," and recognizing the visit as a "significant step towards broadening and deepening the friendship and cooperation between the United States and Taiwan."
Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO), the main mover behind the resolution, stated: "This resolution is about standing beside Taiwan at a critical juncture. It is about showing support for this important Asian democracy and its free-market system. Simply put, a democratic and independent Taiwan bolsters the cause of freedom around the world and provides stability to other countries in the region fighting their own systems of democracy." Rep. Schaffer concluded: "This resolution is about acknowledging our friends. Taiwan is an important friend."
Following the passage, FAPA President Wen-yen Chen stated: "This resolution having passed is a world of difference from the way President Chen's visit last August took place. Hopefully, before not too long, President Chen will be able to visit Washington DC and address both Houses of Congress in a joint session, just like other democratically elected presidents of friendly foreign nations do. He can then directly thank Members of Congress for their support and enable them to hear firsthand from President Chen about issues important to Taiwan."
By David Kuan-Wei Chen. David just completed his education at the International School in The Hague, and will be starting college at the London School of Oriental and African Studies this Fall.
To think that the International Olympic Committee can actually contemplate holding the 2008 Games in a country ruled by a regime that infamous for its violations of international conduct!
The Olympic game is about celebrating the strength of human achievement in the field of athletics, about fair and transparent competition. This is probably the only event that brings the world together and where we forget our differences, and (temporarily) set aside political and cultural conflicts.
But no! Beijing insists on dragging politics into the games. Taiwan is forced to participate under the ridiculous name "Chinese Taipei" and can't even use its own flag, while the national anthem (OK, maybe not a "national" anthem, but still...) is not even allowed to be played when Taiwan wins medals! Now China is suggesting to "co-host" the Games with Taiwan, a country that is not even officially recognized!
How can Beijing compare with great cities like Paris and Toronto? Or even Osaka, deemed one of the most hospitable cities in Asia? Beijing only has a few sketchy plans, some dodgy artists' impression of the venue to show! At least other cities have the necessary infrastructure and something concrete and solid to impress the IOC!
Remember back in the 1936 where the Olympic Games were held? Nazi Germany. The world saw the "pride and joy" of the Third Reich, while all the discriminating policies and signs against minorities were nicely and temporarily removed. The world flooded into Germany, seeing the illusive might and power of a repressive and authoritarian regime and gawked at the glitter and glamour of staged state parades and propaganda. What the government did not want to show, the world did not see. This was the height of appeasement and kowtowing to the whims of a dictatorship.
Is history about to boomerang with astounding accuracy?
Will the IOC once again endorse a repressive regime that cracks down on individual, religious and political freedoms and rights of man/woman? This is after all the same government that has not renounced the use of force to invade and continues to threaten its democratic and peaceful neighbors. This is the very government which treasures face value and keeps up appearances and abusively foregoes the principles of the international community to maintain its dignity and sovereignty. What the Beijing government does not want to show, the world will undoubtedly not see.
Whatever decision is made at Lausanne, it will be a test of the ability and willingness of the new world order to live up to the expectations of universal values of freedom and justices it preaches.
Liberal International, the international organization of Liberal parties, will award this year's Freedom Price to Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian. The organization announced that it had unanimously decided to select the Taiwanese president from a list of ten candidates because of his special contribution to human rights and political freedom.
Mr. Chen was nominated by the Dutch liberal party, VVD, supported by the British Liberal Democrats, in recognition of his contribution to the Taiwanese struggle for freedom and democracy, and his personal dedication to human rights and democracy on the island. Liberal International mentioned in particular Mr. Chen's role as a defense lawyer in the 1980 Kaohsiung Incident trial, and his role in the mid-1980s as an advocate of press freedom and political freedom on the island.
Previous recipients of the Freedom Price include Corazon Aquino of the Philippines (1987), Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan (1989), Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic (1990), and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Birma (1995).
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