By Kwang-Ming Koo
Tuesday, Oct 05, 2004,Page 4
In recent years, the US has found itself in the increasingly awkward position of denouncing democratic choices made by the people of Taiwan. Last December, for example President George W. Bush had to publicly discourage democratically elected president Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan from holding a referendum on the threat of massive Chinese missile buildup across the Taiwan Strait. In March 2004, Bush had to pressure the reelected president again not to replace the thoroughly outdated 1947 Nanjing constitution that Chiang Kai-shek had imposed on the Taiwanese people 50 years ago.
Even though President Bush’s demands went completely against the election pledges that Chen had made to the Taiwanese people, Washington justi.ed its position demands by saying that, since Beijing had indicated that any move by the Taiwanese to change the status quo would result in immediate military action against the country, it was in Taiwan’s best interests to keep its head low. Washington also implied that since Taiwan existed only because of US defense commitments, the US had the right to interfere in the nation’s democratic process.
Much has changed both in Taiwan and in China
The Communist dictators in Beijing, however, have never ruled Taiwan and they have never been invited to do so by its 23 million residents. The last time that democracy yielded to such absurd territorial demands by a dictator backed by military threats while ignoring the voice of the affected population was when Neville Chamberlain yielded to Adolf Hitler in the Appeasement of Munich in 1938. And we all know the horrendous consequences that followed. The US is accomodating Beijing’s position; however, in part because it is still wedded to the One China policy, which, according to the 1972 Shanghai Communique, states that “the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait believe that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China.” This wording was conceived as a way to gloss over the touchy issue of Taiwan, a long-time ally of the US, so that Washington and Beijing could work together to contain Soviet expansionism. The policy worked, and the Soviet threat is now history. But now there are over 60% people in Taiwan recognize themselves as Taiwanese not Chinese and the percentage is still increasing, Taiwanese are not included in “the Chinese people on both side” stated by 1972 Shanghai Communique.
The problem today, however, is that the continued adherence of the US to the One China policy, when so much has changed both in Taiwan and in China, is actually increasing instead of decreasing instability in the region. Furthermore, the democratization of Taiwan and the massive military threat by the Chinese have vastly altered the political landscape surrounding the Taiwan Strait.
TRA is a domestic US law
In particular, the Taiwanese people’s national consciousness and demands for national status have become very clear. Almost 90% of Taiwanese see Taiwan as a sovereign and independent country, while 84% .rmly oppose China’s “one country, two systems” formula. This is the political reality the US must fully understand. If the US continues to view the Taiwan Strait and the cross-strait relationship according to its one-China policy, unchanged after 30 years, it is running the risk of getting out of touch and violating the political reality. US adherence to a One China policy will also deepen Taiwan’s mistrust and worries about the US. Consequently, we believe it is time for the US to reconsider its One China policy.
The US bases its approach to the country on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the three Sino-US Communiques. The TRA was rati.ed and took effect in 1979. It is a domestic US law. The US constantly claims that it relies on the TRA to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait and protect Taiwan. We are exceedingly grateful for this, but we need to underscore the fact that the TRA is a domestic US law tailored to the US’ own national interests and its interests in the Western Paci.c region. We have no rights, nor do we have any obligations, with respect to this law.
Furthermore, the three communiques signed by the US and China state “there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” This recognition is far from the current political reality, nor does it tally with the actual situation. A new public opinion and national identi.cation has developed recent years. The recognition of Taiwan and China as two different countries, one on each side of the Taiwan Strait, is now the consensus of a majority of Taiwanese.
This is Taiwan’s new public opinion. If the US keeps following its outdated one China policy when dealing with the cross-strait issue, it will not only be ignoring the political reality, but it may also misjudge the cross-strait situation and further complicate the solution to the problem.
The one China policy does not have a leg to stand on
Today, only 6% of the Taiwanese population think of themselves as Chinese. Over 60% think of themselves as Taiwanese, as separate and distinct from Chinese. The remaining 30% or so acknowledge their Chinese backgrounds while identifying themselves as Taiwanese, in the same way that many Americans acknowledge their English or Irish ancestry while identifying themselves as American.
With only 6% of the population thinking of themselves as Chinese, the One China policy does not have a leg to stand on. The people on the Taiwanese side of the Strait have never agreed with the idea that “there is only one China and Taiwan is part of China.” Furthermore, with the proportion of those who identify themselves as strictly Taiwanese increasing everyday, those who want to maintain the myth of One China will have to suppress democratic voices in Taiwan with ever-increasing frequency.
Contradictions within US policy
The US has become so alarmed by this military buildup that it is now pushing the Taiwanese to buy $20 billion worth of arms from the US and buy them quickly. After all, the continued presence of free and independent Taiwan has contributed greatly to the US security interest in East Asia. But here is the contradiction: While the US is telling the Taiwanese to increase their arms purchases to deter a Communist takeover, it is also telling the same Taiwanese that they cannot have their own country, their own constitution, their own national anthem, or even a .ag of their own choosing and that they have to keep the relics of the Chiang Kai-shek era in the name of maintaining the status quo.
This is no way to stand up and .ght for freedom and democracy. This is no way to maintain peace either, especially when the Chinese side has no intention of maintaining the status quo. Furthermore, US moves to limit democratic voices in Taiwan in this context, just like the Appeasement in 1938, is highly demoralizing to the people of Taiwan, especially when the US is failing to stop the Chinese military buildup. Indeed, the US’s adherence to the One China policy reinforces the Communist dictators’ conviction that their view on Taiwan is the correct one and that they have the inalienable right to decide Taiwan’s future.
In order to withstand this enormous Chinese pressure, people in Taiwan need a worthy cause to stand up for, hence the need for the constitution of our own choosing. Indeed, providing these people with a worthy cause to stand up for is just as important as the quality of the weapons that we may be armed with.
Does the US still have its nation-buildup spirit?
The US is a modern democracy with several core values – democracy, freedom and human rights. Taiwan’s experience of the democratization process over the past 10 to 15 years has gradually established recognition of a national community. This experience has .rmly established some of this community’s core values – democracy, freedom and human rights. Taiwan and the US share the same democratic core values, a fact that binds us closer together. In order to maintain a friendly relationship with a rising China, however, the US must respect China’s existence and even the possibility that China could be a potential threat. Taiwan cannot change the fact the US must interact with China in its own national interest. However, we cannot agree when the US turns its back on its own democratic core values, for example by suppressing Taiwan’s need for self-determination and national sovereignty, or suppressing the democratic requirements through which Taiwanese use democratic means to complete a referendum or have a new constitution.
When the US constantly demands that Taiwan should engage in dialogue with China, but ignores the fact that China threatens our national government and says that dialogue is only possible if Taiwan accepts the one China policy, we do not understand US standards for democracy and equality. Nor do we understand when the US sternly says that a nation abiding by democratic core values and respecting democratic procedure – the Taiwan – is not allowed to hold a referendum or have a new constitution, change the status quo or declare independence. And where are the US’ democratic core values when they want to observe Chen’s words and actions? Does the US still have its nation-building spirit?
What you build you keep
We also think of The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, one of the US’ founding fathers, which clearly states: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
In fact, the reason for the further separation between Taiwan and China is exactly described in the US declaration: “We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.”
Taiwan is a beautiful nation. The people of Taiwan and those of the US share common values. We .rmly believe in the values that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Each word and sentence of these human values is stated in the US declaration. Has US policy departed from the founding spirit of its core democratic values?
At a time when Taiwan is gradually becoming a whole new nation, and when society is implementing universal democratic values step by step, we deeply hope that Washington can offer its utmost support for Taiwan based on the two countries’ shared democratic beliefs. Moreover, in light of Taiwan’s new mainstream opinion, and the new political reality of the cross-strait situation, we would like to appeal to Washington: Now is the time for the US to reconsider its One China policy!
“From now on, what you build you keep. “said President Bush once in Warsaw to Polish 2003. We totally agree with the words. We will build peace, and hoping that US keeps its promise to free democratic Taiwan.
Senior Advisor to The President