Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Saturday, April 27, 2002
Where Lie the Mistakes of Bush's Policy Toward Taiwan
Highlights: After the "September 11" incident, Washington did not cease its arms sale to Taiwan and its promotion of US-Taiwan military relationship. This relationship is developing in the direction toward openness, high level and mechanism.
*After the "September 11" incident, Washington did not cease its arms sale to Taiwan and its promotion of US-Taiwan military relationship. This relationship is developing in the direction toward openness, high level and mechanism.
The US Asia-Pacific strategy is built on the basis of a wrong judgment of the regional situation. Although security concern over the Asia-Pacific region perhaps will never disappear, for most of regional members, however, economic development remains the most priority and most important point of attention.
*US right-wing forces again attempt to redefine the Taiwan issue as the geographical and political antagonistic focus of China and the United States, thereby renewing the Americanization of the issue. This has not only shaken the most important cornerstone of bilateral relations since 1972, but has made the Taiwan issue more complicated, it has all the more made the United States shoulder an extremely heavy load.
Since President George W. Bush assumed office in the White House, the Taiwan issue has again become a touchstone for examining US policy toward China. The Clinton administration, especially during its second term of tenure, advocated that the best method for keeping in contact with a rising China was to conduct constructive contacts, so as to make China merge into the international community and turn it into a cooperative partner in regional and international affairs, and the peaceful solution of the Taiwan issue would help the United States to achieve the above-mentioned strategic goal. President Clinton not only expressed in 1997, during President Jiang Zemin's visit to the United States, his hope for an early solution to the Taiwan question, but also in 1998, during his trip to China, openly expounded US "three-no" commitments (not supporting Taiwan independence and "two-China" or "one China or one Taiwan", nor supporting Taiwan's participation in the international organizations of sovereign states). The Clinton administration also assumed a positive posture toward the resumption of dialogs between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. Proceeding from the thinking of American realism, the Bush administration fears that the rise of China's strength would change the balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific region and challenge American interests, therefore it advocates "containing China's strength and its ambition as expressed in security while activating China's domestic transformation through economic exchange". Taiwan is regarded as a useful card for America to realize this goal.
Rediscovering Taiwan's Strategic Value
Approaching questions from a historical angle, the American understanding of the strategic importance of Taiwan changes with the change in the US Asia-Pacific regional strategy. In the 1950s-1960s, one of the main tasks of US Asia-Pacific regional strategy was to contain China, therefore Taiwan was regarded as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" of the United States in the Far East. During the 70s, as China and the United States were moving toward conciliation, the focus of the US Asia-Pacific regional strategy was readjusted into one of making use of the "China factor" to restrain Soviet expansion in Asia. Given this situation, the strategic importance of Taiwan for the United States sharply declined, Washington severed its diplomatic ties with Taipei and promised to pursue the "one China" policy. But along with the conclusion of the Cold War, the international pattern experienced a major change and, with the rise of China, US right-wing forces rediscovered the strategic value of Taiwan. In their eyes, this value is manifest mainly in the following two aspects:
First, as the sole global superpower and a country holding a dominant position in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States is devoted to maintaining the existing Asia-Pacific security order, while the separate state between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits is an important component part of the present Asia-Pacific pattern. China's effort to reunify Taiwan with the mainland is seen as a challenge to the status quo, the United States therefore wants to show its intransigent stand on this "crucial" issue in order to hold back China.
Second, from a long-term of view, the most important security challenge facing the United States in the Asia-Pacific region will be the change in the balance of forces resulted from the rise of China's strength. But as long as the two sides of the Taiwan Straits remain in a separate state, a considerable portion of China's strength and the growth of its resources will be assimilated and absorbed by the Taiwan issue, this will effectively prevent China from possessing the ability to carry out geographical and political competition with the United States in the region.
The above-mentioned viewpoints are fully reflected in the "Four-Year Defense Evaluation Report" published by the Pentagon last September.
If China were the main military competitor with the United States as noted in the report, Taiwan should be seen as part of the US "sphere of influence", then what does it imply in the US Asia-Pacific security policy?
First, Washington will adjust the military deployment of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, so as make full preparation for launching a large-scale military competition with China. According to Commander-in-Chief Admiral Dennis Cutler Blair who is going to be relieved of his office, in July 2002, the US forces will deploy in Guam three additional "Los Angeles-grade" nuclear-powered submarines capable of launching cruise missiles and store in there interceptor missiles that can assist Taiwan in "self-defense".
Second, the United States will "help Taiwan in self-defense" through providing the latter with advanced weapon systems and intensifying the US-Taiwan defense relations. Since the Bush administration took office, Washington has become more unscrupulous in the aspects of arms sale to Taiwan and US-Taiwan military ties, and become more inclined to regarding Taiwan as a de facto security ally. Even after the "September 11" attacks, Washington did not cease its arms sale to Taiwan and stop advancing US-Taiwan military relations. Taiwan's "defense minister" Tang Yiau-min's America visit this March and his meeting with senior officials of the Bush administration broke through the restriction on US-Taiwan military ties since the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations. This fact shows that US-Taiwan military relationship is developing in the direction toward openness, high level and mechanism. Vice-defense minister Paul Wolfowitz, a hawker in the Bush administration, vowed to Taiwan that the United States would try its utmost to help Taiwan in resisting "attacks" from the mainland.
Third, the United States will further intensify security cooperation between regional allies, in the hope of forming a more effective strategic network to cope with the rising China.
It should be noted that what the "Four-year Defense Evaluation" report reflects are mainly the opinions of the Pentagon which does not necessarily fully represent the policy of the entire Bush administration. However, this does not at all mean that the importance of this report can be overlooked. In fact, what this report reflects are precisely three striking tendencies of the Bush administration's Asia-Pacific policy.
First is its pro-Taiwan tendency. In order to emphasize the current administration's pro-Taiwan stand, Bush has opened two precedents in one year. In April 2001, Bush openly declared that the United States would adopt all necessary means to help Taiwan's "self-defense", This is the first time the US president made known his stand since the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations. In February 2002, during his visit to Beijing, Bush openly stressed that the United States would continue to support the "Taiwan Relations Act". This is the first time the US leader openly made such a statement during his China visit since 1979.
Second, Strengthening military and political support to Taiwan through selling large quantities of sophisticated weapons and developing close military relations, as well as raising Taiwan's "international visibility". The events from the arms sales worth US$4 billion to Taiwan in April 2001, to the "courteous reception" granted to Chen Shui-bian in transit to the United States, and to its support for Taiwan joining the "World Health Organization" (WHO), as well as Tang Yiau-min's trip to the United States, all these events, without exception, are a reflection of this tendency.
Third, keeping a close watch over China which is undergoing rapid development and trying to develop close defense and diplomatic ties with China's potential antagonistic countries in Asia. Over the past year and more, the unusual warmth of US-Indian relationship is obviously inseparable from the China factor.
Viewed from the angle of East Asia and non-America, there exist many mistakes in Bush administration's Asia-Pacific security strategy and its policy toward Taiwan.
First, The US Asia-Pacific strategy is built on the basis of misjudgment of the regional situation. Although security concern in the Asia-Pacific region will never disappear, for the majority of regional members, economic development remains the most priority and most important point of concern. Although some East Asian countries have from time to time expressed their worries about the ever-stronger China, their worries, however, are expressed mostly in respect to economy and not to security. In comparison, Washington seems to be more concerned about security, this is mainly because the United States intends to maintain its leading position in the Asia-Pacific region, whereas the rise of China poses a challenge to its effort to realize this goal.
Second, the Bush administration's stand on its Taiwan policy is contrary to the general trend of the development of cross-Strait relations and its ignoring the changing agent on the Taiwan issue. Before 1979, the Chinese mainland insisted on "liberating Taiwan" by force and finally realizing national reunification, the Taiwan issue was manifest mainly cross-Strait military confrontation. After 1979, the mainland set forth the "peaceful reunification, and one country, two systems" policy, calling for solution of differences between the two sides through political negotiation, the Taiwan question has largely become a political issue between Beijing and Taipei. When Lee Teng-hui was in power and after Chen Shui-bian took office, they both refuse to accept the "one China" principle, thus diminishing the possibility for political peace talks between the two sides of the Straits, but the ever-closer interactions in the economic field between the two sides have formed a new motive force and, from the long-term point of view, a constructive framework has been established for the proper solution of the Taiwan issue. However, current US practice of continuously arming Taiwan can only aggravate cross-Strait military confrontation and thus bring the situation onto the track of vicious development, this has puzzled, disappointed and resented globe-wide Chinese who hope for peaceful realization of China's national reunification.
Americanizing the Taiwan issue is another mistaken view of those who advocate implementation of a policy of partial containment of China on the issue of Taiwan. All through the time from the entry of US Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Straits in 1950 to Nixon's China visit in 1972, the Taiwan issue had all along been a symbol of China-American confrontation and the crux of bilateral relations. After Nixon's historic China trip in 1972, the United States tried to define the Taiwan issue as a question between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits and not as between China and the United States. The United States reiterated its concern for solving the Taiwan issue peacefully by the Chinese themselves. The above-said stand had not only promoted the development of China-US relations, but had played a positive role in stabilizing the situation in the Taiwan Straits and improving cross-Strait relations. However, under the new historical conditions, the US right-wing forces again attempt to redefine the Taiwan issue as the focus of China-US geographical and political antagonism, and thus renewed the Americanization of this question. This has not only shaken the most important cornerstone of the bilateral relationship established since1972, but has made the Taiwan issue more complicated, it has all the more made the United States shoulder an extremely heavy load in East Asia.
People may ask: Is it that the Bush administration is not aware of the weight of the Taiwan issue in the hearts of the Chinese, and that they don't understand the great elevation of US-Taiwan ties will harm China-US relations? The Bush administration does not think so. It tends to believe that because China's current priority concerns are economic development and social stability, therefore it is not possible to fall out with the United States for the Taiwan issue, so as to avoid endangering its exports to the United States, which are vitally important for China's economic growth. Given this, the United States will be able to take big strides forward to develop US-Taiwan relations, and in the meantime to continue doing business with China's mainland. People want to see how long will Washington's wishful thinking last.