Commentary Magazine


Topic: Taipei

Taiwan’s Diplomacy

The Chinese philosopher Mencius once said that “small states have to be smart, not impulsive, in dealing with big states, and that big states should be tolerant, not overbearing, in dealing with small states.” So quoth leading Taiwanese politician Lien Chan, speaking yesterday at NYU in the context of President Obama’s nuclear summit.

Mr. Chan knows whereof he speaks: he not only has been at the forefront of talks between Beijing and Taipei; he is also the honorary chairman of the KMT party and was the vice president of Taiwan from 1996 to 2000.

The timing of his NYU speech was especially interesting. As the general mood, at least as expressed in the official rhetoric of international leaders, favors disarmament as the path to stability and peace, Taiwan provides a contrarian example. And Obama’s stance on disarmament will be of utmost significance to Taiwan. Obama seems to have handled his Taiwan policy with uncharacteristic boldness so far, following through on an arms sale despite China’s fit of pique. That has empowered Taiwan to approach China in a way that is “smart, not impulsive.”

Though the signing of a peace agreement between China and Taiwan still appears a distant dream, Mr. Chan sees reason for cautious optimism. Taiwan has made an effort in the past years to strengthen its economic relationship with the mainland, which has been viewed by some as an unprecedented thaw. Mr. Chan spoke of dramatic increases in cross-strait investment and tourism, and he noted burgeoning public support within Taiwan for progress toward such a peace agreement. A strong dialogue has been established between the two states, and differences have been temporarily shelved. Taiwan has been able to achieve such steps, he suggested, because it has been able to hold its own against the mighty mainland.

As leaders from around the world return home from the nuclear summit, Taiwan provides an important reminder. Sometimes the threat of force — maintained responsibly through a viable deterrent — is the best guarantor of peace and progress. The elimination of nuclear arms is a lofty, worthy dream, but disarmament is in no way a certain path to peace. In fact, arms have given Taiwan the clout to pursue peace through negotiation. That’s a lesson big states and small states might bear in mind.

The Chinese philosopher Mencius once said that “small states have to be smart, not impulsive, in dealing with big states, and that big states should be tolerant, not overbearing, in dealing with small states.” So quoth leading Taiwanese politician Lien Chan, speaking yesterday at NYU in the context of President Obama’s nuclear summit.

Mr. Chan knows whereof he speaks: he not only has been at the forefront of talks between Beijing and Taipei; he is also the honorary chairman of the KMT party and was the vice president of Taiwan from 1996 to 2000.

The timing of his NYU speech was especially interesting. As the general mood, at least as expressed in the official rhetoric of international leaders, favors disarmament as the path to stability and peace, Taiwan provides a contrarian example. And Obama’s stance on disarmament will be of utmost significance to Taiwan. Obama seems to have handled his Taiwan policy with uncharacteristic boldness so far, following through on an arms sale despite China’s fit of pique. That has empowered Taiwan to approach China in a way that is “smart, not impulsive.”

Though the signing of a peace agreement between China and Taiwan still appears a distant dream, Mr. Chan sees reason for cautious optimism. Taiwan has made an effort in the past years to strengthen its economic relationship with the mainland, which has been viewed by some as an unprecedented thaw. Mr. Chan spoke of dramatic increases in cross-strait investment and tourism, and he noted burgeoning public support within Taiwan for progress toward such a peace agreement. A strong dialogue has been established between the two states, and differences have been temporarily shelved. Taiwan has been able to achieve such steps, he suggested, because it has been able to hold its own against the mighty mainland.

As leaders from around the world return home from the nuclear summit, Taiwan provides an important reminder. Sometimes the threat of force — maintained responsibly through a viable deterrent — is the best guarantor of peace and progress. The elimination of nuclear arms is a lofty, worthy dream, but disarmament is in no way a certain path to peace. In fact, arms have given Taiwan the clout to pursue peace through negotiation. That’s a lesson big states and small states might bear in mind.

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Obama’s Meeting with the Dalai Lama: Welcome but Late

Barack Obama did the right thing and met with the Dalai Lama today. The White House issued a statement after the private meeting, in which the president appropriately backed the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.” While it broke no new ground, this is what we expect the leader of what we once called the “free world” to do: to use the moral and physical power of his office to stand with oppressed people like those in the captive nation of Tibet.

Predictably, the meeting has produced a great deal of huffing and puffing from the Chinese, who regard any criticism of their imperial reign in Tibet as a mortal offense. But those who fear that embracing the Dalai Lama will set in motion an international crisis are either alarmists or apologists for Beijing. Among the latter category are those who have been speaking in defense of China’s rule in Tibet and leaving out such minor nasty details as the brutal oppression of its native people and cultural genocide. An excellent example comes from Newsweek, which published a piece yesterday by their Beijing correspondent, Isaac Stone Fish, claiming China “has been good to Tibet.” Stone isn’t exactly an old China hand, as his Facebook page describes him as a recent graduate of Columbia University. But while young in years, the piece shows that he is apparently very wise in the ways of sucking up to the government of the country that he is covering.

But such distasteful flummery aside, it’s now worth asking ourselves whether the Obama administration might not be in a stronger position vis-à-vis China had it not spent its first year foolishly pursuing appeasement of Beijing. As Obama’s November trip to China proved, the Chinese (much like their friends in Iran) saw the president’s obsequious attitude as an expression of weakness and acted accordingly. Had the president started off his term by staking out the moral high ground on Tibet and making it clear that the United States wouldn’t abandon Taiwan, then minimal gestures like meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taipei wouldn’t be cause for a crisis. Nor would the speculation about the impact of monetary issues and the amount of our debt to China be used as justification for our silence on human rights. Having come in to office solely obsessed with doing everything differently than George W. Bush, Obama is learning the hard way that his foolish belief in engagement and the power of his own personality is no substitute for hardheaded policy and principles.

Barack Obama did the right thing and met with the Dalai Lama today. The White House issued a statement after the private meeting, in which the president appropriately backed the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.” While it broke no new ground, this is what we expect the leader of what we once called the “free world” to do: to use the moral and physical power of his office to stand with oppressed people like those in the captive nation of Tibet.

Predictably, the meeting has produced a great deal of huffing and puffing from the Chinese, who regard any criticism of their imperial reign in Tibet as a mortal offense. But those who fear that embracing the Dalai Lama will set in motion an international crisis are either alarmists or apologists for Beijing. Among the latter category are those who have been speaking in defense of China’s rule in Tibet and leaving out such minor nasty details as the brutal oppression of its native people and cultural genocide. An excellent example comes from Newsweek, which published a piece yesterday by their Beijing correspondent, Isaac Stone Fish, claiming China “has been good to Tibet.” Stone isn’t exactly an old China hand, as his Facebook page describes him as a recent graduate of Columbia University. But while young in years, the piece shows that he is apparently very wise in the ways of sucking up to the government of the country that he is covering.

But such distasteful flummery aside, it’s now worth asking ourselves whether the Obama administration might not be in a stronger position vis-à-vis China had it not spent its first year foolishly pursuing appeasement of Beijing. As Obama’s November trip to China proved, the Chinese (much like their friends in Iran) saw the president’s obsequious attitude as an expression of weakness and acted accordingly. Had the president started off his term by staking out the moral high ground on Tibet and making it clear that the United States wouldn’t abandon Taiwan, then minimal gestures like meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taipei wouldn’t be cause for a crisis. Nor would the speculation about the impact of monetary issues and the amount of our debt to China be used as justification for our silence on human rights. Having come in to office solely obsessed with doing everything differently than George W. Bush, Obama is learning the hard way that his foolish belief in engagement and the power of his own personality is no substitute for hardheaded policy and principles.

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A Balanced China Policy

George Gilder has been one of our most interesting and important public intellectuals since the 1970s, so his pro-China commentary today in the Wall Street Journal deserves a more serious response than, say, the mindless boosterism of the average Tom Friedman column. In fact, I agree with him that it is hardly worth wasting American diplomatic capital with China on the issues of global warming and the value of the Chinese currency.

I am surprised, however, to see Gilder — who has been an Internet visionary — so blithely suggest that the U.S. government has no stake in Google’s battle with China over Internet censorship and hacking. “Protecting information on the Internet is a responsibility of U.S. corporations and their security tools, not the State Department,” he writes. That is like saying that protecting downtown New York is the responsibility of the corporations headquartered there, not the FBI and NYPD. Cyber infrastructure is fast becoming even more important than physical infrastructure to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, it is, indeed, an issue for the State Department — and not only the State Department but also the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and other government agencies.

I am even more surprised to see Gilder — known as a relentless defender of Israel — seemingly write off another embattled democracy: Taiwan. His stance here is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he writes: “Yes, the Chinese are needlessly aggressive in missile deployments against Taiwan, but there is absolutely no prospect of a successful U.S. defense of that country.” On the other hand: “China, like the U.S., is so heavily dependent on Taiwanese manufacturing skills and so intertwined with Taiwan’s industry that China’s military threat to the island is mostly theater.” Those propositions would seem to be at odds: is China a threat to Taiwan or not? In any case, neither proposition is terribly convincing.

Conquering Taiwan would require China to oversee the biggest amphibious operation since Inchon. Stopping such a cross-Strait attack would not be terribly difficult as long as Taiwan has reasonably strong air and naval forces — and can call on assistance from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Taiwan doesn’t need the capability to march on Beijing, merely the capability to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from marching on Taipei. It would be harder to prevent China from doing tremendous damage to Taiwan via missile strikes but by no means impossible, given the advancement of ballistic-missile defenses and given our own ability to pinpoint Chinese launch sites. Moreover, giving Taiwan the means to defend itself is the surest guarantee that it won’t have to. Only if Taiwan looks vulnerable is China likely to launch a war.

The notion that such a conflict is out of the question because of the economic links between Taiwan and the mainland is about as convincing as the notion — widely held before World War I — that the major states of Europe were so economically dependent on one another and so enlightened that they would never risk a conflict. If the statesmen who ran Austria and Germany and Russia and France and Britain were, in fact, primarily interested in economic wellbeing, they would never have gone to war. But other considerations — national honor and prestige and security — trumped economics back then and could easily do so again, especially because the legitimacy of the Chinese regime is increasingly based on catering to an extreme nationalist viewpoint.

That doesn’t mean we should engage in needless and self-destructive confrontations with China over global warming and currency, but that also doesn’t mean we should mindlessly kowtow to China’s every whim. As I argued in this Weekly Standard article in 2005, we should pursue a balanced approach to China, tough on security and human-rights issues but accommodating on trade and currency policy. In other words, we should make clear to China that we are prepared to accept it as a responsible member of the international community but that we will not overlook its transgressions, like its complicity in upholding rogue regimes (Sudan, Iran, North Korea) and threatening democratic ones (South Korea, Taiwan).

George Gilder has been one of our most interesting and important public intellectuals since the 1970s, so his pro-China commentary today in the Wall Street Journal deserves a more serious response than, say, the mindless boosterism of the average Tom Friedman column. In fact, I agree with him that it is hardly worth wasting American diplomatic capital with China on the issues of global warming and the value of the Chinese currency.

I am surprised, however, to see Gilder — who has been an Internet visionary — so blithely suggest that the U.S. government has no stake in Google’s battle with China over Internet censorship and hacking. “Protecting information on the Internet is a responsibility of U.S. corporations and their security tools, not the State Department,” he writes. That is like saying that protecting downtown New York is the responsibility of the corporations headquartered there, not the FBI and NYPD. Cyber infrastructure is fast becoming even more important than physical infrastructure to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, it is, indeed, an issue for the State Department — and not only the State Department but also the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and other government agencies.

I am even more surprised to see Gilder — known as a relentless defender of Israel — seemingly write off another embattled democracy: Taiwan. His stance here is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he writes: “Yes, the Chinese are needlessly aggressive in missile deployments against Taiwan, but there is absolutely no prospect of a successful U.S. defense of that country.” On the other hand: “China, like the U.S., is so heavily dependent on Taiwanese manufacturing skills and so intertwined with Taiwan’s industry that China’s military threat to the island is mostly theater.” Those propositions would seem to be at odds: is China a threat to Taiwan or not? In any case, neither proposition is terribly convincing.

Conquering Taiwan would require China to oversee the biggest amphibious operation since Inchon. Stopping such a cross-Strait attack would not be terribly difficult as long as Taiwan has reasonably strong air and naval forces — and can call on assistance from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Taiwan doesn’t need the capability to march on Beijing, merely the capability to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from marching on Taipei. It would be harder to prevent China from doing tremendous damage to Taiwan via missile strikes but by no means impossible, given the advancement of ballistic-missile defenses and given our own ability to pinpoint Chinese launch sites. Moreover, giving Taiwan the means to defend itself is the surest guarantee that it won’t have to. Only if Taiwan looks vulnerable is China likely to launch a war.

The notion that such a conflict is out of the question because of the economic links between Taiwan and the mainland is about as convincing as the notion — widely held before World War I — that the major states of Europe were so economically dependent on one another and so enlightened that they would never risk a conflict. If the statesmen who ran Austria and Germany and Russia and France and Britain were, in fact, primarily interested in economic wellbeing, they would never have gone to war. But other considerations — national honor and prestige and security — trumped economics back then and could easily do so again, especially because the legitimacy of the Chinese regime is increasingly based on catering to an extreme nationalist viewpoint.

That doesn’t mean we should engage in needless and self-destructive confrontations with China over global warming and currency, but that also doesn’t mean we should mindlessly kowtow to China’s every whim. As I argued in this Weekly Standard article in 2005, we should pursue a balanced approach to China, tough on security and human-rights issues but accommodating on trade and currency policy. In other words, we should make clear to China that we are prepared to accept it as a responsible member of the international community but that we will not overlook its transgressions, like its complicity in upholding rogue regimes (Sudan, Iran, North Korea) and threatening democratic ones (South Korea, Taiwan).

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Chinese Ire and Obama’s Big Stand

The Obama administration deserves credit for finally ending its kowtowing to Beijing. As the New York Times notes, the administration has recently raised the ire of Chinese officials in several ways. The biggest and most recent is the announcement of a $6 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China claims is simply a breakaway province — a fiction that far too many nations, including the United States, collude in by refusing Taipei formal diplomatic relations.  China has reacted predictably, suspending military-to-military contacts with the U.S. for some unspecified period; other expressions of pique are no doubt coming. The Obama-ites knew this would happen, but they went ahead anyway. Good for them.

The president is also finally going to meet the Dalai Lama, something he refused to do before his visit to China in the fall, where he went to contemptible lengths to please his hosts. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has unveiled a doctrine of Internet freedom that rankles China, which is in the midst of a dispute with Google over Chinese censorship and hacking.

Chalk this up as another area where some of the illusions that Obama and his aides carried into office are being shed as they confront the cruel reality of the world. They had hoped that by making nice with the Chinese, they would win Beijing’s cooperation on issues like global warming and sanctions on Iran. It hasn’t worked out that way. Instead of signing up with the Obama agenda, China’s Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, went out of his way to humiliate the American president at the Copenhagen global warming summit. The latest initiatives from the Obama administration can be interpreted as payback.

It’s about time. After his first year in office, Obama gave the distinct impression that he could be pushed around with impunity. That is cheering news for America’s rivals and enemies — and dangerous news for us. Obama needs to do far more to dispel that impression of weakness, but this is at least a start. Next up: Iran?

The Obama administration deserves credit for finally ending its kowtowing to Beijing. As the New York Times notes, the administration has recently raised the ire of Chinese officials in several ways. The biggest and most recent is the announcement of a $6 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China claims is simply a breakaway province — a fiction that far too many nations, including the United States, collude in by refusing Taipei formal diplomatic relations.  China has reacted predictably, suspending military-to-military contacts with the U.S. for some unspecified period; other expressions of pique are no doubt coming. The Obama-ites knew this would happen, but they went ahead anyway. Good for them.

The president is also finally going to meet the Dalai Lama, something he refused to do before his visit to China in the fall, where he went to contemptible lengths to please his hosts. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has unveiled a doctrine of Internet freedom that rankles China, which is in the midst of a dispute with Google over Chinese censorship and hacking.

Chalk this up as another area where some of the illusions that Obama and his aides carried into office are being shed as they confront the cruel reality of the world. They had hoped that by making nice with the Chinese, they would win Beijing’s cooperation on issues like global warming and sanctions on Iran. It hasn’t worked out that way. Instead of signing up with the Obama agenda, China’s Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, went out of his way to humiliate the American president at the Copenhagen global warming summit. The latest initiatives from the Obama administration can be interpreted as payback.

It’s about time. After his first year in office, Obama gave the distinct impression that he could be pushed around with impunity. That is cheering news for America’s rivals and enemies — and dangerous news for us. Obama needs to do far more to dispel that impression of weakness, but this is at least a start. Next up: Iran?

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The World’s Largest Trope

Fareed Zakaria has stimulated an amusing discussion on the subject of whether America has lost its world supremacy because it no longer strives to build the biggest things on earth. Zakaria’s List of Giant Things Built Elsewhere

The world’s tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood…. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year….The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn’t make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world’s ten richest people are American….[O]nly ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

–so displeased the businessman-blogger Jim Manzi that he went to Wikipedia to prove Zakaria was talking out of his hat, and, I fear, he succeeded:

Iran already had the world’s largest oil refinery by 1980. Russia had already built the world’s tallest Ferris wheel in 1995, topped by Japan in 1997. Canada had already built the world’s largest mall by 1986. Malaysia had already built the world’s tallest building in 1998. I couldn’t find any data on Bollywood in 1998. Using this data for 2001 and estimating back three years, it looks like Bollywood was already larger than Hollywood in 1998 in terms of films produced and total number of tickets sold.

Fareed’s larger point is that the rest of the world is on the rise, and that we are entering a “post-American world.” Like all superficially convincing Grand Theories of Everything, this one seems inarguably true for about three minutes. Then you spend a few seconds thinking deeply about it, as Manzi did, only to come up with a dozen ways in which it is false.

Still, Fareed has hit on something very interesting in this ill-conceived list of ways in which America is now #2, but it has nothing to do with the other nations and everything to do with America. What does it mean that this country evidently cares less and less about building capitalist monuments?

It may mean nothing more than we don’t have to — that the country itself is the capitalist monument par excellence, with a GDP that is almost triple what it was 25 years ago and a per capita income of nearly $46,000. When America began its frenzy of construction, it was trying to prove something; now it needs to prove nothing.  And Americans have gotten wise to the ambiguous nature of capitalist monument-building, since inevitably such things happen only with a considerable amount of taxpayer expenditure with no hope of return except to the private developer who takes on little risk and gets most of the reward.

Nonetheless, this does suggest America has lost some of its striver’s hunger. In New York City, for example, no major project can get off the ground, not even construction at Ground Zero. But this too is a double-edged sword. Most respectable opinion in the city supported a mammoth project in downtown Brooklyn to build a Frank Gehry stadium with 16 apartment buildings around it on the grounds that the stadium would sit on a platform above a rail yard in a mostly blighted neighborhood. Some people living an entire neighborhood away began to protest wildly and irrationally.

But in the five years since it was first proposed, the Brooklyn project has made less and less sense. The neighborhood, like the borough, has improved so radically that it really does seem as though the state’s power of eminent domain is being used to remove a perfectly functional middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood for the benefit of a private contractor (in this case, a developer named Bruce Ratner). And with the credit crunch now underway, it appears the project may die on the vine anyway.

On the one hand, the inability of very liberal New Yorkers to tolerate economic development offers a small-scale portrait of some of what ails this country. On the other hand, the notion that state power shouldn’t be used in this way and that private citizens can band together to prevent it is part of what makes this country such a remarkable world-historical experiment.

Fareed Zakaria has stimulated an amusing discussion on the subject of whether America has lost its world supremacy because it no longer strives to build the biggest things on earth. Zakaria’s List of Giant Things Built Elsewhere

The world’s tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood…. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year….The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn’t make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world’s ten richest people are American….[O]nly ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

–so displeased the businessman-blogger Jim Manzi that he went to Wikipedia to prove Zakaria was talking out of his hat, and, I fear, he succeeded:

Iran already had the world’s largest oil refinery by 1980. Russia had already built the world’s tallest Ferris wheel in 1995, topped by Japan in 1997. Canada had already built the world’s largest mall by 1986. Malaysia had already built the world’s tallest building in 1998. I couldn’t find any data on Bollywood in 1998. Using this data for 2001 and estimating back three years, it looks like Bollywood was already larger than Hollywood in 1998 in terms of films produced and total number of tickets sold.

Fareed’s larger point is that the rest of the world is on the rise, and that we are entering a “post-American world.” Like all superficially convincing Grand Theories of Everything, this one seems inarguably true for about three minutes. Then you spend a few seconds thinking deeply about it, as Manzi did, only to come up with a dozen ways in which it is false.

Still, Fareed has hit on something very interesting in this ill-conceived list of ways in which America is now #2, but it has nothing to do with the other nations and everything to do with America. What does it mean that this country evidently cares less and less about building capitalist monuments?

It may mean nothing more than we don’t have to — that the country itself is the capitalist monument par excellence, with a GDP that is almost triple what it was 25 years ago and a per capita income of nearly $46,000. When America began its frenzy of construction, it was trying to prove something; now it needs to prove nothing.  And Americans have gotten wise to the ambiguous nature of capitalist monument-building, since inevitably such things happen only with a considerable amount of taxpayer expenditure with no hope of return except to the private developer who takes on little risk and gets most of the reward.

Nonetheless, this does suggest America has lost some of its striver’s hunger. In New York City, for example, no major project can get off the ground, not even construction at Ground Zero. But this too is a double-edged sword. Most respectable opinion in the city supported a mammoth project in downtown Brooklyn to build a Frank Gehry stadium with 16 apartment buildings around it on the grounds that the stadium would sit on a platform above a rail yard in a mostly blighted neighborhood. Some people living an entire neighborhood away began to protest wildly and irrationally.

But in the five years since it was first proposed, the Brooklyn project has made less and less sense. The neighborhood, like the borough, has improved so radically that it really does seem as though the state’s power of eminent domain is being used to remove a perfectly functional middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood for the benefit of a private contractor (in this case, a developer named Bruce Ratner). And with the credit crunch now underway, it appears the project may die on the vine anyway.

On the one hand, the inability of very liberal New Yorkers to tolerate economic development offers a small-scale portrait of some of what ails this country. On the other hand, the notion that state power shouldn’t be used in this way and that private citizens can band together to prevent it is part of what makes this country such a remarkable world-historical experiment.

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Kitty Hawk Confrontation?

Alarming reports in the Navy Times and the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun state that the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk battle group was confronted by Chinese warships as it transited the Taiwan Strait after being turned away from Hong Kong in November. According to the Navy Times:

The carrier strike group encountered Chinese destroyer Shenzhen and a Song-class sub in the strait on Nov. 23, causing the group to halt and ready for battle, as the Chinese vessels also stopped amid the 28-hour confrontation.

The Yomiuri account gives more detail:

The Kitty Hawk observed the Chinese submarine, and after a U.S. antisubmarine patrol aircraft confirmed the Chinese submarine was keeping pace with the U.S. carrier by reducing speed and stopping, the U.S. vessel launched an aircraft to watch for possible hostile behavior by the Chinese Navy.

The ultimate source of both accounts is the China Times, a respectable Taipei newspaper. The more detailed Chinese language version, written by three reporters, quotes one unidentified authoritative source. and another source for the story, and speculates on the origins and significance of the encounter.

What are we to make of this? If the report is true then we have a very serious problem. Rather than becoming friendly in response to American friendliness, the Chinese are (mis)-reading us as weak and trying to frighten us. But we also have an explanation for the sudden four day trip to Beijing by Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, just completed. The meeting was reportedly amicable, but shed no new light at all on the mysterious closure of Hong Kong last year.

Afterwards, the Admiral had some uncharacteristically feisty words for the Chinese. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait. It is international water. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose.” If the story is completely false, we have to ask who falsified it and for what reason. The China Times takes a pro-Beijing editorial stance. How this story would help Beijing is difficult to see.

My own reading is this: the story probably has some basis. I say this because it fits into a worrying pattern of increasingly erratic and hostile Chinese behavior towards American forces in Asia. I don’t pretend to know what the origins of this pattern are. But it represents a clear shift and a worrying one–and instead of making nice, we should be paying attention.

Alarming reports in the Navy Times and the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun state that the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk battle group was confronted by Chinese warships as it transited the Taiwan Strait after being turned away from Hong Kong in November. According to the Navy Times:

The carrier strike group encountered Chinese destroyer Shenzhen and a Song-class sub in the strait on Nov. 23, causing the group to halt and ready for battle, as the Chinese vessels also stopped amid the 28-hour confrontation.

The Yomiuri account gives more detail:

The Kitty Hawk observed the Chinese submarine, and after a U.S. antisubmarine patrol aircraft confirmed the Chinese submarine was keeping pace with the U.S. carrier by reducing speed and stopping, the U.S. vessel launched an aircraft to watch for possible hostile behavior by the Chinese Navy.

The ultimate source of both accounts is the China Times, a respectable Taipei newspaper. The more detailed Chinese language version, written by three reporters, quotes one unidentified authoritative source. and another source for the story, and speculates on the origins and significance of the encounter.

What are we to make of this? If the report is true then we have a very serious problem. Rather than becoming friendly in response to American friendliness, the Chinese are (mis)-reading us as weak and trying to frighten us. But we also have an explanation for the sudden four day trip to Beijing by Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, just completed. The meeting was reportedly amicable, but shed no new light at all on the mysterious closure of Hong Kong last year.

Afterwards, the Admiral had some uncharacteristically feisty words for the Chinese. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait. It is international water. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose.” If the story is completely false, we have to ask who falsified it and for what reason. The China Times takes a pro-Beijing editorial stance. How this story would help Beijing is difficult to see.

My own reading is this: the story probably has some basis. I say this because it fits into a worrying pattern of increasingly erratic and hostile Chinese behavior towards American forces in Asia. I don’t pretend to know what the origins of this pattern are. But it represents a clear shift and a worrying one–and instead of making nice, we should be paying attention.

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Landslides…

Today, the opposition Kuomintang swept to victory in elections for the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s parliament. Final results show that the party, popularly known by the initials KMT, will take 81 out of 113 seats. The Democratic Progressive Party of President Chen Shui-bian ended up with only 27. Chen’s goal was to capture 50 of them.

This is the first election since the number of seats in the legislature was cut in half and new voting rules went into effect. The changes clearly favored the KMT, yet the margin of its victory substantially exceeded expectations. President Chen immediately resigned as chairman of the DPP to take responsibility for the resounding defeat.

The implications of the election are immense and go well beyond who sits in the new legislature. On March 22 Taiwan holds its next presidential election, and Chen is constitutionally barred from running for a third term. The KMT, which favors building ties with China, has a popular candidate in Ma Ying-jeou, a former mayor of Taipei. Today, he is about twenty percentage points ahead of his DPP rival, Frank Hsieh, who has not been able to unify his party behind him, and today’s landslide will only further the momentum propelling Ma.

The KMT’s win is being viewed as a repudiation of Chen Shui-bian’s bid to formalize the island’s de facto independence from China and as an indication that the Taiwanese want better relations with Beijing. These assessments are undoubtedly correct, yet today’s results have more to do with the electorate’s confidence that the Kuomintang can restore prosperity and run the government more efficiently. There seems to be no increase in the tiny support—measured in single digits in the last several years—for formal unification with China. Chen may not have been able to win diplomatic recognition for Taiwan as an independent state, yet he has been able to reinforce on the island a native Taiwanese identity that precludes union with the Mainland.
Oh, almost forgot. The island’s election was not the only one today to pick representatives for Taiwan. Xinhua, Beijing’s official news agency, reported that 120 electors chose “via a secret ballot” 13 people in China to represent the island in the National People’s Congress, the rubber stamp legislature that meets once a year in the Chinese capital (Beijing claims Taiwan as one of its provinces). Of course, the 13 chosen ones were all highly qualified. “They are either Party or government officials, or scholars making remarkable contributions to science and technology, education and medicine, or representatives of the economic sector,” said Xinhua. As long as the Communist Party of China resorts to such antics, there is no danger that the 23 million people living on Taiwan will want to become part of the Mainland, even if they rejected Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party today.

Today, the opposition Kuomintang swept to victory in elections for the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s parliament. Final results show that the party, popularly known by the initials KMT, will take 81 out of 113 seats. The Democratic Progressive Party of President Chen Shui-bian ended up with only 27. Chen’s goal was to capture 50 of them.

This is the first election since the number of seats in the legislature was cut in half and new voting rules went into effect. The changes clearly favored the KMT, yet the margin of its victory substantially exceeded expectations. President Chen immediately resigned as chairman of the DPP to take responsibility for the resounding defeat.

The implications of the election are immense and go well beyond who sits in the new legislature. On March 22 Taiwan holds its next presidential election, and Chen is constitutionally barred from running for a third term. The KMT, which favors building ties with China, has a popular candidate in Ma Ying-jeou, a former mayor of Taipei. Today, he is about twenty percentage points ahead of his DPP rival, Frank Hsieh, who has not been able to unify his party behind him, and today’s landslide will only further the momentum propelling Ma.

The KMT’s win is being viewed as a repudiation of Chen Shui-bian’s bid to formalize the island’s de facto independence from China and as an indication that the Taiwanese want better relations with Beijing. These assessments are undoubtedly correct, yet today’s results have more to do with the electorate’s confidence that the Kuomintang can restore prosperity and run the government more efficiently. There seems to be no increase in the tiny support—measured in single digits in the last several years—for formal unification with China. Chen may not have been able to win diplomatic recognition for Taiwan as an independent state, yet he has been able to reinforce on the island a native Taiwanese identity that precludes union with the Mainland.
Oh, almost forgot. The island’s election was not the only one today to pick representatives for Taiwan. Xinhua, Beijing’s official news agency, reported that 120 electors chose “via a secret ballot” 13 people in China to represent the island in the National People’s Congress, the rubber stamp legislature that meets once a year in the Chinese capital (Beijing claims Taiwan as one of its provinces). Of course, the 13 chosen ones were all highly qualified. “They are either Party or government officials, or scholars making remarkable contributions to science and technology, education and medicine, or representatives of the economic sector,” said Xinhua. As long as the Communist Party of China resorts to such antics, there is no danger that the 23 million people living on Taiwan will want to become part of the Mainland, even if they rejected Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party today.

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Missile Defense, Asian-Style

Yesterday, a Japanese destroyer, equipped with the Aegis battle-management system, shot down a dummy missile over the Pacific. This is the first time that an American ally has done so, according to Japanese and U.S. officials.

The medium-range missile destroyed in the test resembles ones in the North Korean arsenal. That was no coincidence: Pyongyang’s August 1998 launch of its Taepodong missile, which arced over Japan, spurred Tokyo to cooperate with the United States in building a defensive system. “This was a monumental event in the Japan-U.S. security relationship,” a Japanese Defense Ministry official said at a news conference in Hawaii, where the target was launched.

Yes, it is monumental. A layered defense will protect the United States from North Korea. Despite a failed launch last July—a Taepodong exploded about 40 seconds into its flight—this type of missile can hit Alaska and Hawaii today. With expected improvements, within five to seven years the Taepodong will be able to reach any portion of the United States. Japanese help on missile defense may enable the Pentagon to defeat an attack from North Korea, which is unlikely to develop an arsenal much larger than the one it has now.

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Yesterday, a Japanese destroyer, equipped with the Aegis battle-management system, shot down a dummy missile over the Pacific. This is the first time that an American ally has done so, according to Japanese and U.S. officials.

The medium-range missile destroyed in the test resembles ones in the North Korean arsenal. That was no coincidence: Pyongyang’s August 1998 launch of its Taepodong missile, which arced over Japan, spurred Tokyo to cooperate with the United States in building a defensive system. “This was a monumental event in the Japan-U.S. security relationship,” a Japanese Defense Ministry official said at a news conference in Hawaii, where the target was launched.

Yes, it is monumental. A layered defense will protect the United States from North Korea. Despite a failed launch last July—a Taepodong exploded about 40 seconds into its flight—this type of missile can hit Alaska and Hawaii today. With expected improvements, within five to seven years the Taepodong will be able to reach any portion of the United States. Japanese help on missile defense may enable the Pentagon to defeat an attack from North Korea, which is unlikely to develop an arsenal much larger than the one it has now.

Russia, which possesses almost 800 missiles, can defeat any defense Japan and the United States can mount. Yet that has not stopped the Kremlin from complaining. “We are opposed to the construction of a missile defense system aimed at securing military superiority,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the eve of his trip to Japan. China, with many fewer ballistic missiles, has long voiced its opposition to joint U.S.-Japan cooperation.

The Chinese have two concerns. First, the People’s Liberation Army actually thinks about launching missiles against the American homeland. Its last public threat to incinerate the United States was made as late as July 2005. Second, Beijing worries that Washington may adapt defenses developed in Japan to protect Taiwan. This June the Taiwanese expressed their desire to join the American-Japanese system.

At present, the United States is merely upgrading Taiwan’s Patriot missiles. Yet yesterday’s successful test should persuade Washington to ask the Taiwanese to participate in the joint American-Japanese efforts. Taipei acknowledges that such an extension of missile defense would be “politically sensitive.” Yet why should we be concerned about offending autocrats who think nothing of threatening to destroy American cities?

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Postmarks for Freedom

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that China had returned all mail to Taiwan that was postmarked with the slogan “Taiwan’s Entry into the UN.”

“Taiwan authority preaching ‘Taiwan independence’ through post services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots’ freedom of communication,” said Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office. “This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan people’s exchanges with other parts of the world.”

Ms. Fan has it backwards. It was Beijing—not Taipei—that disrupted the mails by refusing to deliver 158 letters. Unfortunately, her government’s tough tactic worked because Taiwan subsequently dropped the automatic use of the postmark, which was intended to boost the island’s campaign for worldwide recognition of its independent status. Taiwan Post, the island’s postal service, says it will now only use the controversial postmark upon customer request.

So Beijing has shown that it will block Taiwan’s mail. But will it block America’s? It’s unlikely that President Bush will ask the U.S. Postal Service to use the postmark that offends Beijing. As Arthur Waldron has written in contentions, Washington wrongly has taken China’s side in opposing Taiwan’s push for UN membership.

Yet Americans don’t have to wait for their leaders to act. They can customize their own postmarks. Today, we can even design our own stamps. This controversy has motivated my wife and me to customize our stamps with this slogan: “Support Taiwan.” I think it’s high time that people in the West, and especially Americans, show the world’s large autocracies what we think of their campaigns to intimidate small democracies. We can lick despots in many ways, even by licking our stamps.

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that China had returned all mail to Taiwan that was postmarked with the slogan “Taiwan’s Entry into the UN.”

“Taiwan authority preaching ‘Taiwan independence’ through post services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots’ freedom of communication,” said Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office. “This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan people’s exchanges with other parts of the world.”

Ms. Fan has it backwards. It was Beijing—not Taipei—that disrupted the mails by refusing to deliver 158 letters. Unfortunately, her government’s tough tactic worked because Taiwan subsequently dropped the automatic use of the postmark, which was intended to boost the island’s campaign for worldwide recognition of its independent status. Taiwan Post, the island’s postal service, says it will now only use the controversial postmark upon customer request.

So Beijing has shown that it will block Taiwan’s mail. But will it block America’s? It’s unlikely that President Bush will ask the U.S. Postal Service to use the postmark that offends Beijing. As Arthur Waldron has written in contentions, Washington wrongly has taken China’s side in opposing Taiwan’s push for UN membership.

Yet Americans don’t have to wait for their leaders to act. They can customize their own postmarks. Today, we can even design our own stamps. This controversy has motivated my wife and me to customize our stamps with this slogan: “Support Taiwan.” I think it’s high time that people in the West, and especially Americans, show the world’s large autocracies what we think of their campaigns to intimidate small democracies. We can lick despots in many ways, even by licking our stamps.

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Name Game Endgame

The United States continues to position itself on the losing side in the increasingly heated Taiwan name game—which appears to be approaching a resolution that Washington and Beijing will dislike, but be at a loss to handle.

Reports by Agence France Presse indicate that the U.S.’s de facto Ambassador to Taipei, Stephen Young, has reiterated Washington’s opposition to the UN referendum to be held in March of next year. Although Washington is coy about its reasons for opposition, they rest on the long-standing assumption that whatever anyone else does, the Taiwan government will insist its island is part of China, by using the official name “Republic of China.” The referendum would call for the name “Taiwan” to be used in applying for UN membership, which suggests no connection to China. Therefore Washington is dead set against it—and, even as it encourages the island to improve its defenses, is withholding sales of necessary F-16’s in an attempt to exert pressure.

Washington has always relied on the (formerly dictatorial) party of Chiang Kai-shek, officially known as “The Chinese Kuomintang,” but now a democratic player in Taiwan politics, to hold the line on Taiwan’s Chineseness. But that party is now reconsidering its position, for the simple reason that to be pro-China in democratic Taiwan is electoral poison. Thus, the China Post, a pro-China paper, has just run an editorial suggesting that voters will ask Kuomintang candidates, “If you love Taiwan and are loyal to it, why do you have the name China in your party’s title?” Calling this an “Achilles’ heel,” the newspaper urges that presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou might do well to change that name to “Taiwan” Kuomintang before the elections (in November and March). Otherwise, they argue, the China issue could lead the party to yet another loss.

Sooner or later, we may be certain, the Kuomintang will heed that advice and remake itself as a purely Taiwanese party. When that happens, the basic plank of U.S. China policy will collapse. As was stated in the Shanghai Communique of February 28, 1972, published after Richard Nixon’s pathbreaking visit to China:

The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.

This was clever wording at a time when the dictatorship in Taipei insisted that Taiwan was part of China. But under a less repressive regime Taiwanese are expressing their true feelings, and even the party that ran the dictatorship is on track to go Taiwanese. The United States will soon find no one on the Taiwan side of the strait to “maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” Washington and Beijing will have to adjust to this new situation. But neither has any idea how.

The United States continues to position itself on the losing side in the increasingly heated Taiwan name game—which appears to be approaching a resolution that Washington and Beijing will dislike, but be at a loss to handle.

Reports by Agence France Presse indicate that the U.S.’s de facto Ambassador to Taipei, Stephen Young, has reiterated Washington’s opposition to the UN referendum to be held in March of next year. Although Washington is coy about its reasons for opposition, they rest on the long-standing assumption that whatever anyone else does, the Taiwan government will insist its island is part of China, by using the official name “Republic of China.” The referendum would call for the name “Taiwan” to be used in applying for UN membership, which suggests no connection to China. Therefore Washington is dead set against it—and, even as it encourages the island to improve its defenses, is withholding sales of necessary F-16’s in an attempt to exert pressure.

Washington has always relied on the (formerly dictatorial) party of Chiang Kai-shek, officially known as “The Chinese Kuomintang,” but now a democratic player in Taiwan politics, to hold the line on Taiwan’s Chineseness. But that party is now reconsidering its position, for the simple reason that to be pro-China in democratic Taiwan is electoral poison. Thus, the China Post, a pro-China paper, has just run an editorial suggesting that voters will ask Kuomintang candidates, “If you love Taiwan and are loyal to it, why do you have the name China in your party’s title?” Calling this an “Achilles’ heel,” the newspaper urges that presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou might do well to change that name to “Taiwan” Kuomintang before the elections (in November and March). Otherwise, they argue, the China issue could lead the party to yet another loss.

Sooner or later, we may be certain, the Kuomintang will heed that advice and remake itself as a purely Taiwanese party. When that happens, the basic plank of U.S. China policy will collapse. As was stated in the Shanghai Communique of February 28, 1972, published after Richard Nixon’s pathbreaking visit to China:

The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.

This was clever wording at a time when the dictatorship in Taipei insisted that Taiwan was part of China. But under a less repressive regime Taiwanese are expressing their true feelings, and even the party that ran the dictatorship is on track to go Taiwanese. The United States will soon find no one on the Taiwan side of the strait to “maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” Washington and Beijing will have to adjust to this new situation. But neither has any idea how.

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Taiwan’s Rejection

Taiwan’s rejection—for the fifteenth time in a row—by the agenda-setting committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations last Wednesday may well be seen, before too long, to have been a turning point. After all, who can believe that Taiwan will be turned down another fifteen times?

Chinese diplomats are nervous. They don’t want Taiwan even on the agenda, because they fear, correctly, that an open discussion might not go their way. They know that no one believes on principle that Taiwan should be excluded. Other countries are simply afraid of China.

How long can China continue to intimidate otherwise free-thinking nations? The answer is, not indefinitely.

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Taiwan’s rejection—for the fifteenth time in a row—by the agenda-setting committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations last Wednesday may well be seen, before too long, to have been a turning point. After all, who can believe that Taiwan will be turned down another fifteen times?

Chinese diplomats are nervous. They don’t want Taiwan even on the agenda, because they fear, correctly, that an open discussion might not go their way. They know that no one believes on principle that Taiwan should be excluded. Other countries are simply afraid of China.

How long can China continue to intimidate otherwise free-thinking nations? The answer is, not indefinitely.

Consider India. In an article on the op-ed page of the Times of India, Ramesh Thakur, formerly a senior vice rector of the U.N. University in Tokyo, wrote:

The biggest and longest running scandal is the way in which Taiwan has been banned from the U.N.. Taiwan is refused membership, is not granted observer status, and does not figure in the U.N.’s statistical databases.

Concluding that the exclusion of Taiwan “has little to do with the merits of the application and everything to do with the geopolitics of China as a permanent member of the Security Council,” Thakur asked:

Where does this leave all the fine talk of democracy, human rights, and self-determination in Kosovo, East Timor, and elsewhere? Taiwan is better credentialed than most of them. Its population of 23 million is almost the combined total of Australia and New Zealand, and bigger than scores of U.N. member states, including East Timor (under one million) and Kosovo (over two million).

To our shame, official jaws in Washington have been clenched tightly shut with respect to this issue, except when reiterating hoary formulas whose authors, with a handful of exceptions, are long dead.

The Bush administration portrays Taiwan’s increasingly audible demands as no more than local political posturing and manipulation, for which their elected president is to blame, and resolutely declines comment on the merits of Taiwan’s case.

Some former officials, however, are talking sense: Michael Green, for instance, Bush’s former top Asian aide, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was recently quoted as saying:

For the U.S. side, we need to recognize the issue of identity in Taiwan is not a political game, it’s not a tactical move in Taipei, it’s a very fundamental issue, not at all unique to its 23 million people…. Look at Korea, Japan, the national identity is at the top of the agenda in every country in Asia and there is no reason why Taiwan should be any different.

Thakur and Green are absolutely right. The issues and processes they describe will not disappear or cease simply because we and China wish they would. We are dealing with nationalism. Difficult as it may be, we need to think ahead.

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Leadership on Taiwan

The time has come for Washington to show some leadership regarding Taiwan’s U.N. membership as the issue gains traction in China and on the island. The Bush administration should propose a way to go forward. Here are some suggestions.

First, we should state clearly that, like the Olympic games, which China is hosting next year, the U.N. is intended to be entirely inclusive. Just as Taiwan will be sending teams to the Olympics, we in Washington think she should also be able to send a delegation to the United Nations. Second, we should indicate that the United States fundamentally supports democracy and human rights for all peoples, including the people of Taiwan. We never intended that nearly thirty years should pass (since our break with Taipei in 1979) during which those people, having made themselves democratic, should be excluded from the international community. Third, we should call on China to join the rest of the world in finding a way forward, so that Taiwan can send a delegation to New York as she will send teams to Beijing. Finally, we should stress that violence and coercion are ruled out. They are simply not options and will be resisted by the United States.

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The time has come for Washington to show some leadership regarding Taiwan’s U.N. membership as the issue gains traction in China and on the island. The Bush administration should propose a way to go forward. Here are some suggestions.

First, we should state clearly that, like the Olympic games, which China is hosting next year, the U.N. is intended to be entirely inclusive. Just as Taiwan will be sending teams to the Olympics, we in Washington think she should also be able to send a delegation to the United Nations. Second, we should indicate that the United States fundamentally supports democracy and human rights for all peoples, including the people of Taiwan. We never intended that nearly thirty years should pass (since our break with Taipei in 1979) during which those people, having made themselves democratic, should be excluded from the international community. Third, we should call on China to join the rest of the world in finding a way forward, so that Taiwan can send a delegation to New York as she will send teams to Beijing. Finally, we should stress that violence and coercion are ruled out. They are simply not options and will be resisted by the United States.

By adopting such a forward-looking position, Washington would escape the trap into which she is now falling, which is serving as China’s enforcer. Since August 27th we have been manifesting a clear double standard with respect to Taiwan, the only explanation for which is fear of China. On that day Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte warned Taiwan about carrying out a referendum—a democratic exercise. Other officials have since joined in (as my previous posts have chronicled). But when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Musharraf expelled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, an undemocratic action if ever there was one, the same Deputy Secretary had no comment and praised Pakistan as our friend.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, various demonstrations brought hundreds of thousands out in favor of votes on the U.N.—and 12,000 pro-China demonstrators out against such a vote. Steam is building up. If Washington does not start leading instead of reacting, case by case, to Chinese demands, trouble lies ahead. China will give us nothing in return for disciplining Taiwan. She will treat it as no more than our duty while taking it as a basis for more extensive future demands. At some point those demands will be more than we can accept. Our passivity will have brought us to a possibly dangerous impasse. Far better to seize the initiative now. Let Washington take the lead in challenging China and the world to find a way that will permit Taiwan once again to be represented in the United Nations.

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What’s in a Name?

Regarding Washington’s pressure on Taiwan over its application to the U.N.., it is becoming increasingly clear that new thinking is needed. Washington insists that an “official name,” as yet unspecified, and not the standard “Taiwan,” must be used when the island’s people vote. Yet our attempts to explain what clearly is a misjudged response to Chinese pressure make us look stupid at best.

Who would not be baffled by the following, from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas J. Christensen, in a speech in Annapolis on Tuesday:

In the vernacular, we all speak of “Taiwan.” The State Department does, people in Taiwan do, even Beijing does. So why worry about using the same word in this more formal political and legal context? The simple reality is that, in the world of cross-Strait relations, political symbolism matters, and disagreements over it could be the source of major tensions or even conflict.

“Conflict” over use by the Taiwanese of the name by which we and Beijing refer to them? What should the Taiwanese call themselves? Christensen doesn’t say. The answer is “The Republic of China.” One gets some idea of how taboo those words officially are from the way Christensen himself avoids using them in a speech, the chief purpose of which is to recommend the name to the Taiwanese.

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Regarding Washington’s pressure on Taiwan over its application to the U.N.., it is becoming increasingly clear that new thinking is needed. Washington insists that an “official name,” as yet unspecified, and not the standard “Taiwan,” must be used when the island’s people vote. Yet our attempts to explain what clearly is a misjudged response to Chinese pressure make us look stupid at best.

Who would not be baffled by the following, from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas J. Christensen, in a speech in Annapolis on Tuesday:

In the vernacular, we all speak of “Taiwan.” The State Department does, people in Taiwan do, even Beijing does. So why worry about using the same word in this more formal political and legal context? The simple reality is that, in the world of cross-Strait relations, political symbolism matters, and disagreements over it could be the source of major tensions or even conflict.

“Conflict” over use by the Taiwanese of the name by which we and Beijing refer to them? What should the Taiwanese call themselves? Christensen doesn’t say. The answer is “The Republic of China.” One gets some idea of how taboo those words officially are from the way Christensen himself avoids using them in a speech, the chief purpose of which is to recommend the name to the Taiwanese.

The semantics are symptoms of the deeper problem, which is our failure to face squarely the fact that our 1970’s China policy failed, in certain respects dangerously. Its premise was that Taiwan would join China when we cut relations with Taipei. But when we cut relations, Taiwan surprised us and democratized. We need to accept that fact.

Christensen does not. At one point he reminds his audience that “we do not recognize Taiwan as an independent state.” What then is it? What should we do?

First, we should acknowledge that our 1970’s policy failed. Washington, not Taipei, created the issues of the present.

Second, we should stop blaming Taipei for the failure of a policy about which the Taiwanese were never consulted, as Christensen did when he admonished its elected government for

[N]eedlessly provocative actions . . . [that] strengthen Beijing’s hand in limiting Taiwan’s space and scare away potential friends . . . . [M]ost countries in the world accept Beijing’s characterization of Taiwan, and, when energized, the PRC can call in overwhelming support to marginalize Taipei.

(That “overwhelming support” apparently includes Christensen himself, by the way.)

Third, after acknowledging the failure of the existing policies, Secretary Christensen and his colleagues should start considering how to fix them, so as to bring Taiwan back fully into the international system.

Finally, neither Secretary Christensen nor anyone else in our administration should overestimate Beijing’s power to influence the world.

If Washington stood up for Taiwan’s democratic rights, could China continue “to marginalize the island?” Almost certainly not.

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Clarity on Taiwan

Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly will ask that President Bush personally express his opposition to the upcoming referendum in Taiwan over U.N. membership. Evidently, statements of opposition from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte (on Phoenix TV in Hong Kong) and former CIA analyst (and now National Security Council member) Dennis Wilder have not satisfied the Chinese authorities. According to the World Journal of September 3, Hu will make the request when he meets President Bush at the upcoming APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting in Australia. A tempest is now brewing over a matter that Washington should have dismissed with a simple “no comment.”

Beijing is clearly worried that democracy in Taiwan will get out of hand. It has evidently been warning and threatening us—perhaps, and this is my own speculation, suggesting the Chinese government might undertake some symbolic or real military action if a “red line” is crossed. This would be most unwelcome given the current state of Iraq and Afghanistan. So Washington has made a huge effort to make absolutely certain that no trouble develops in Asia—leading to an overreaction that is proving seriously counterproductive.

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Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly will ask that President Bush personally express his opposition to the upcoming referendum in Taiwan over U.N. membership. Evidently, statements of opposition from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte (on Phoenix TV in Hong Kong) and former CIA analyst (and now National Security Council member) Dennis Wilder have not satisfied the Chinese authorities. According to the World Journal of September 3, Hu will make the request when he meets President Bush at the upcoming APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting in Australia. A tempest is now brewing over a matter that Washington should have dismissed with a simple “no comment.”

Beijing is clearly worried that democracy in Taiwan will get out of hand. It has evidently been warning and threatening us—perhaps, and this is my own speculation, suggesting the Chinese government might undertake some symbolic or real military action if a “red line” is crossed. This would be most unwelcome given the current state of Iraq and Afghanistan. So Washington has made a huge effort to make absolutely certain that no trouble develops in Asia—leading to an overreaction that is proving seriously counterproductive.

By publicly supporting the Chinese, we have put the spotlight unintentionally on our own policies, which are a welter of contradictions unlikely to withstand close scrutiny. We have never recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, even when we did recognize the Chiang Kai-shek government in Taiwan as the government of China. We expected, when we cut our relations with Chiang’s government, that Taipei’s then-autocratic rulers would cut a deal with Beijing and merge. But they did not; they went democratic, unexpectedly (not without some consternation on our part). We support independence referenda in states all around the world, and are pushing now for the independence of Kosovo from Serbia. We insist on peaceful resolution of issues between Taipei and Beijing, yet we sell weapons and share intelligence with the government of Taiwan, which we do not recognize. Our most important Asian allies, Japan in particular, have vital interests in Taiwan’s not coming under Chinese control. PRC forces there could easily cut vital shipping lanes for energy from the Middle East to Northeast Asia.

But even though we do not consider Taiwan to be part of China, we oppose the Taiwanese sharing this view or acting on it. All sorts of conflicts are latent here, but silence and circumspection have kept them reasonably quiet for nearly thirty years. Now a series of misplaced steps, designed to please China, seem set to push the whole situation towards exactly what we and they have been seeking to avoid: a clear-cut, democratic, and legal assertion of the rights of the Taiwanese to be members of the international community.

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“The Republic of China”

Reports are circulating this morning that Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has taken the unusual step of publicly warning Taipei not to hold a referendum on whether to apply to the United Nations using the name “Taiwan.” This is very unusual: the State Department usually declines comment on such matters. The story is widely reported in official Chinese media, but the most thorough report comes from Charles Snyder and Ko Shu-ling in the Taipei Times:

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said that the bid to enter the world body under the name “Taiwan” would be a move to change the “status quo”. . . . The U.S. has signaled a major intensification of its campaign against President Chen Shui-bian’s plan for a referendum seeking membership in the UN under the name “Taiwan,” warning publicly for the first time that it sees the referendum as a move toward independence.

Snyder and Ko go on to quote Negroponte:

“I would recall that in the past President Chen has made commitments to the American president, to the international community, and to the people of Taiwan not to take any kind of steps that would represent a unilateral alteration of the status quo, such as a change in the official name of Taiwan,” Negroponte said.

But what is Taiwan’s “official name”? I consulted the CIA’s World Factbook: only “Taiwan” is listed. The Factbook entry follows the usage we have insisted on for decades, referring to the island only as Taiwan. But given that we use the name Taiwan, why would we object to the Taiwanese following our example?

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Reports are circulating this morning that Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has taken the unusual step of publicly warning Taipei not to hold a referendum on whether to apply to the United Nations using the name “Taiwan.” This is very unusual: the State Department usually declines comment on such matters. The story is widely reported in official Chinese media, but the most thorough report comes from Charles Snyder and Ko Shu-ling in the Taipei Times:

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said that the bid to enter the world body under the name “Taiwan” would be a move to change the “status quo”. . . . The U.S. has signaled a major intensification of its campaign against President Chen Shui-bian’s plan for a referendum seeking membership in the UN under the name “Taiwan,” warning publicly for the first time that it sees the referendum as a move toward independence.

Snyder and Ko go on to quote Negroponte:

“I would recall that in the past President Chen has made commitments to the American president, to the international community, and to the people of Taiwan not to take any kind of steps that would represent a unilateral alteration of the status quo, such as a change in the official name of Taiwan,” Negroponte said.

But what is Taiwan’s “official name”? I consulted the CIA’s World Factbook: only “Taiwan” is listed. The Factbook entry follows the usage we have insisted on for decades, referring to the island only as Taiwan. But given that we use the name Taiwan, why would we object to the Taiwanese following our example?

The answer is that Taiwan has, in fact, another name, “The Republic of China,” which was imposed on it when the troops of Chiang Kai-shek arrived in 1945. But after we broke off independent relations with Taiwan in 1979, we expunged “Republic of China” from all official usage—even from the World Factbook (which, curiously, does list “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” for North Korea, a country we do not recognize diplomatically).

Yet the name “Republic of China” has not really vanished: Negroponte was referring to it when he spoke of an “official name.” “The Republic of China” is the last, slender thread by which one can argue that Taiwan is somehow linked to China. Washington and Beijing do not want it to perish entirely—though they themselves publicly repudiate it. (Although Negroponte insists, indirectly, that the Taiwanese continue to use it, whether they like it or not. He even opposes a democratic referendum on the question.)

Our government takes this position, very much at odds with fundamental American beliefs about people and their rights, for one reason: pressure from China. If Beijing ended its diplomatic blockade of Taiwan, the United States would not continue it alone. Now, as Taiwan considers its application to the UN, it may be time for us to end that blockade without waiting for Beijing.

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Let Taiwan In

On Friday, the Taipei government announced that it had applied for U.N. membership under its commonly used name, Taiwan. Previous attempts to gain admission under the official designation of Republic of China have failed, due to opposition from Beijing.

The Mainland was quick to denounce Taipei’s most recent move. “We resolutely oppose it,” said Liu Jianchao, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. “The Taiwan authorities’ attempt to split China will absolutely not succeed.” Beijing’s is not the only government that is peeved. I predict that the Bush administration will, as a means of expressing its irritation at President Chen Shui-bian’s attempt to assert his nation’s sovereignty, offer no support to Taiwan’s bid.

The United States has tried to keep the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. But now the democracy of 23 million people has expressed its desire to be recognized as a sovereign political entity. The issue for President Bush at this time is clear: is all his talk about freedom just rhetoric?

On Friday, the Taipei government announced that it had applied for U.N. membership under its commonly used name, Taiwan. Previous attempts to gain admission under the official designation of Republic of China have failed, due to opposition from Beijing.

The Mainland was quick to denounce Taipei’s most recent move. “We resolutely oppose it,” said Liu Jianchao, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. “The Taiwan authorities’ attempt to split China will absolutely not succeed.” Beijing’s is not the only government that is peeved. I predict that the Bush administration will, as a means of expressing its irritation at President Chen Shui-bian’s attempt to assert his nation’s sovereignty, offer no support to Taiwan’s bid.

The United States has tried to keep the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. But now the democracy of 23 million people has expressed its desire to be recognized as a sovereign political entity. The issue for President Bush at this time is clear: is all his talk about freedom just rhetoric?

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The Case of Cho-Liang Lin

Suppose the music world had a violinist with the elegance and eloquence of the legendary Arthur Grumiaux (1921–1986), yet all too few listeners seemed to care? This unlikely scenario is apparently the case for the Taiwan-born Cho-Liang Lin (b. 1960), long a New York City resident. Lin made a series of resplendent recordings of concertos by Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Igor Stravinsky, and Sergei Prokofiev, all conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen—plus Camille Saint-Saëns’s Concerto No.3 led by Michael Tilson Thomas, and a French chamber music program with pianist Paul Crossley.

Lin’s tone is sunny and life-enhancing (like that of his idol, the late French violinist Zino Francescatti) in this series of CD’s made for Sony, which has since dropped Lin and allowed many of his CD’s to languish out of print. This is surely in part because Lin refuses to dabble in “crossover” music (unlike his friend the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who remains a Sony headliner). Lin told me a few years ago with characteristic modesty: “I’d be thrilled to play jazz, blues, and bluegrass with ease, but it’s not in my blood, I’m afraid.” What is in his blood is classical music; Lin concertizes constantly and runs music festivals in Taipei and La Jolla, the latter a chamber-music extravaganza.

New Yorkers most recently heard Lin on May 22 under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the concerts of which have been exiled during Alice Tully Hall’s renovation to the garage-like acoustics—totally inappropriate for chamber music—of the Time Warner Center’s chilly Rose Theater, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Even so, alongside the accomplished violist Paul Neubauer and others in works by Ernö Dohnányi and Antonín Dvořák, Lin’s qualities of crystalline clarity and passionate involvement shone through.

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Suppose the music world had a violinist with the elegance and eloquence of the legendary Arthur Grumiaux (1921–1986), yet all too few listeners seemed to care? This unlikely scenario is apparently the case for the Taiwan-born Cho-Liang Lin (b. 1960), long a New York City resident. Lin made a series of resplendent recordings of concertos by Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Igor Stravinsky, and Sergei Prokofiev, all conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen—plus Camille Saint-Saëns’s Concerto No.3 led by Michael Tilson Thomas, and a French chamber music program with pianist Paul Crossley.

Lin’s tone is sunny and life-enhancing (like that of his idol, the late French violinist Zino Francescatti) in this series of CD’s made for Sony, which has since dropped Lin and allowed many of his CD’s to languish out of print. This is surely in part because Lin refuses to dabble in “crossover” music (unlike his friend the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who remains a Sony headliner). Lin told me a few years ago with characteristic modesty: “I’d be thrilled to play jazz, blues, and bluegrass with ease, but it’s not in my blood, I’m afraid.” What is in his blood is classical music; Lin concertizes constantly and runs music festivals in Taipei and La Jolla, the latter a chamber-music extravaganza.

New Yorkers most recently heard Lin on May 22 under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the concerts of which have been exiled during Alice Tully Hall’s renovation to the garage-like acoustics—totally inappropriate for chamber music—of the Time Warner Center’s chilly Rose Theater, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Even so, alongside the accomplished violist Paul Neubauer and others in works by Ernö Dohnányi and Antonín Dvořák, Lin’s qualities of crystalline clarity and passionate involvement shone through.

The same is true of his recordings, of late limited to new or offbeat works for smaller labels. Lin has just released a CD on Naxos featuring the violin sonata of Georg Tintner (1917–1999), a conductor best known as an interpreter of Bruckner, and who wrote music most charitably described as the obiter dicta of a masterful interpreter. Other recent recordings for Ondine include the bombastic violin concerto by the Baltimore-born composer Christopher Rouse (b. 1949) as well as the tedious Maoist folklore of Tan Dun’s Out of Peking opera. Doubtless the best of Lin’s forays into new or rare music is his CD on BIS of the music of Chen Yi (b. 1953), an extremely refined composer of quality, currently teaching at the University of Missouri–Kansas City Conservatory of Music.

Why has Lin not recorded the solo works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Schubert’s chamber works, and other standard repertory pieces which would suit him perfectly? Lin did recently release a CD on Naxos of Vivaldi’s familiar Four Seasons, but unfortunately the conductor was the fussy and fidgety Anthony Newman. It is imperative, for the sake of music-lovers in general and especially violin fans, that some record label with taste (EMI? Philips?) take Lin’s recording schedule in hand and produce the CD’s that this brilliant talent deserves. Even in our distinctly unclassical age, a classical artist of this soaring brilliance must be given his due.

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Taiwan’s Missile Gap

Last week the Bush administration publicly suggested that Taiwan should halt plans to produce long-range missiles capable of hitting targets in mainland China. “The U.S. view is that the focus should be on defensive weapons, not on offensive weapons,” said Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island. The administration instead proposes to sell Taiwan the Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile system as part of a larger $18-billion package of American arms.

But Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian is not content with purely defensive missiles: he wants a real deterrent. Washington seems to forget that China has more than 900 missiles pointed at Taiwan and is, by all accounts, increasing the size of its offensive arsenal by about 50 missiles a year. Taiwan’s Patriot PAC-2 and Tien Kung surface-to-air missiles can reach China’s Fujian province, directly across the Taiwan Strait, though they would not be accurate if used against surface targets. Taiwan’s defense ministry says it is developing surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting Chinese military bases. But it remains unclear if the U.S. will provide the Taiwanese with the sophisticated guidance systems necessary to operate them. Read More

Last week the Bush administration publicly suggested that Taiwan should halt plans to produce long-range missiles capable of hitting targets in mainland China. “The U.S. view is that the focus should be on defensive weapons, not on offensive weapons,” said Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island. The administration instead proposes to sell Taiwan the Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile system as part of a larger $18-billion package of American arms.

But Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian is not content with purely defensive missiles: he wants a real deterrent. Washington seems to forget that China has more than 900 missiles pointed at Taiwan and is, by all accounts, increasing the size of its offensive arsenal by about 50 missiles a year. Taiwan’s Patriot PAC-2 and Tien Kung surface-to-air missiles can reach China’s Fujian province, directly across the Taiwan Strait, though they would not be accurate if used against surface targets. Taiwan’s defense ministry says it is developing surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting Chinese military bases. But it remains unclear if the U.S. will provide the Taiwanese with the sophisticated guidance systems necessary to operate them.

President Bush, who in 2001 promised that he would do “whatever it took” to defend the island, has slowly scaled back this commitment in the face of Chinese pressure. Yet at the same time, as Stephen Young’s comment suggests, he also wants to deny the Taiwanese their own credible deterrent against China. This position makes no sense and can’t be sustained.

The Taiwanese will either obtain a firm defense pledge from Washington or develop the means to defend themselves. In the late 1980′s, the Reagan administration was able to stop Taipei’s last known independent attempt to develop nuclear weapons because the Taiwanese had confidence in America’s commitment to defending them.

Will Taiwan feel the same way in the future? Not if the U.S. fails to affirm that commitment. Taipei will then have little choice but to develop a deterrent independently. As President Chen said last July, after North Korea test-fired a volley of missiles: “Peace cannot be achieved with wishful thinking. We can stop a war only by being well-prepared for a war and avoid a war by gaining the capability of winning a war.”

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