Thursday, February 19, 2009

The US View On Taiwan and What Is the US Interests in This Matter?

It's always interesting and sometimes frustrating to look at what the US policy toward Taiwan is and the US policy makers' view of the situation. Because the US is democratic as well the view expressed by the influential policy makers, think tank members, experts, official etc all seem to varies quite a bit, even though the US seems to have an uniformed official policy on Taiwan. That actually another problem, because the US intentionally tries to keep the issue and their policy ambiguous. So it looks to me sometimes when the US official says something, it will shock people in Taiwan. Sometimes what they say will be interpreted wildly differently by pan-green, pan-blue and even pan-red in China. The media doesn't help much neither because each media has some inherited bias and they interpret or even translate differently what the US influential says about the Taiwan status problem and Taiwan strait tensions... I am of course biased as well. But in any case I will just attempt to be objective and look at what the recent US Official Blair says with a cool head and write out my opinions :
“Unless Taiwan does something about it, then we’re really the only other country helping them do it. That means we’re going to have to help them some more in order to maintain a balance,”
This is quite a clear statement, no ambiguity here. It's probably a derivation of basic TRA policy.
“Taiwan, as an area of tension in US-China relations, has substantially relaxed. Taiwan President Ma, inaugurated in May, has resumed dialog with Beijing and leaders on both sides of the straits are cautiously optimistic about less confrontational relations.”
Here I think is where a lot of US officials and people in Taiwan (and perhaps some people in Japan) view things completely differently. The US seems to only focus on the ease of tension, while a lot of Taiwanese, even some in the pan blue, are fearing that Ma is surrendering to China and selling out Taiwan gradually. IE, there is a lack of trust in Ma. And of course, when one side is surrendering, the tension will ease. It seems of course that Blair has more trust in Ma, that's why they are willing to re enforce Taiwan's defense. Otherwise what's the point if Ma is surrendering and selling Taiwan out. But I am wondering if their trust is misplaced and if they are over optimistic. More on this later...
“On the other hand, Taiwan has to realize that its long-term security lies in some sort of an arrangement with China. It does not lie in military defenses. So if we can keep that balance correct, then all of the incentives are toward solving the problems in political and people-to-people ways. I think there are arrangements that could be made that would give Taiwan the international space that they feel they deserve and give China the reassurance that ‘one China’ is a realistic policy,” he said.
Here is something interesting. I think Blair speaks the truth here. Althogh military defense is paramount for Taiwan, long-term security cannot be relied on military along. But the last few sentences again Blair goes back to the ambiguity's really difficult to see what exacly is he talking about:
  • International space: what does this mean? Does this mean Taiwan in UN or something weird?
  • One China: This one is indeed really confusing. If he is talking about just One China, it's already very assured, becasue no one really want to claim there are 2 Chinas. Only those minority unficationist in Taiwan think there are 2 China and therefore 2 China must "reunite," but then there won't be any use of international space for Taiwan. If he meant the full One China policy as explicily stated by China, "There is only one China, and Taiwan is part of China." then heck, if Taiwan is part of China, what international space can Taiwan have. Taiwan will always be under Chinese control. The best it can have in this condition is an illusion of international space. International space to Taiwan is not just some sort of seats in international organization, but a freedom from the constant pressure and blockade from China. If Taiwan is part of just doesn't make any sense. And overall I just don't know exactly what kind of arrangement he is really talking about. Another thing is, in my opinion, Taiwan cannot just focus on trying to reach some sort of arrangement with China. Surrendering is an arrangement as well but that's not in Taiwan's interests. There are other things Taiwan can and should do to increase its own security. Blair should emphasize more on the security of Taiwan, not arrangement with China, as the long term goal. The "arrangement with China" part is just one strategic possibility or option Taiwan should consider, but that's the mean, not the end. A lot of KMT leaders and perhaps some US politician seems to "take the mean as the end" when talking about Taiwan, and I think this kind of misunderstanding, being intentional or not, is actually dangerous to Taiwan.

“We just have to make sure that military adventures are unattractive,” one will dispute this probably. That should also be the basic principle of Taiwan's military strategy.

Overall I think the US officials view are much more optimistic than the view in Taiwan. Perhaps they should and need to be because of course they don't want to create some sort of panic. It's in their interests to have stability in Taiwan strait. Plus hey, they are not Taiwan citizen, so why would they be worrying anyway? They have some good points in their views that Taiwanese need to think about as well, but perhaps they don't just sound optimistic but are genuinely over optimistic. They also don't seem to concern that KMT leaders might betray Taiwan public, and sell out Taiwan, and perhaps even the US, for their own benefits. It's worth while to look back in history. Former US president Truman:
"They're thieves, every damn one of them," Mr. Truman said later, referring to Chinese Nationalist (KMT) leaders. "They stole $750 million out of the billions that we sent to Chiang. They stole it, and it's invested in real estate down in S?o Paolo and some right here in New York."
And perhaps even Mr. Truman didn't get the full scope of the betrayal...because even Chiang himself and his surrounding family most likely get a boat load of money for themselves from the US and Taiwan. And I wonder what would Mr. Truman says when he sees the Chiang statues, from gigantic to penny size, all over Taiwan...rivaling North Korea's Kim statues.

And the betrayal wasn't just on the money. In the book Formosa Betrayed by George H. Kerr, which is probably the only publication that has the more detail account of the incidents that leads up to the 228 massacre, and how the US policy failed and unintentionally made Taiwanese suffered the 228, hyper inflation, unfair treatment and the White Terror period that follows. That book by the way, was really an eye opener for me a few years ago. I had difficulty finishing the book because it's just too sad and tragic. But it gave me a fuller understanding about Taiwan.

I definitely see some parallel between the current situation and the situation before 228. Before 228, Taiwanese are given false promises and false fantasy about China, partly from some foolish Taiwanese, and partly from the US propaganda during WW2. Now also Taiwanese are given false promise about economy from KMT and Chinese propaganda machines and media. The government that occupied Taiwan before 228 lacks ability, expertise and are quite backward and corrupted. The current government are also characterize by many as inadequate, naive, foolish, undemocratic and backward. While before and during 228, most US officials have no idea what's going on in Taiwan because the KMT has strong lobbyists in Washington and during that time they seem to have a common enemy. Currently, it seems a lot of the US officials are once again over optimistic about the current situation, and seem to focus too much on "the ease of tensions." Of course, the same type of massacre might not occur and in my opinion probably won't. But that does not mean KMT will not once again bringing Taiwan to another calamity and perhaps even to its doom for their own profits and gain. By then, like before, the US will not be able to do anything, and probably once again just another lowly official station in Taiwan recording the tragedy and publish Formosa Betrayed 2.

My point is...of course Taiwan cannot listen to what China says because China is the one that want to annex Taiwan, but Taiwanese also cannot just listen to whatever the American says. Yes, America might be a friend but as shown before by history a lot of times they don't know the situation well neither. Like Shaheen said
"Taiwan should always think first of its own self-interest and keep that in mind."
It's obviously wiser to take what American says as suggestions and advices but Taiwanese need to assess the situation themselves as well. Of course, this time around, we have 228 as a lesson, therefore it's possible to avoid the same foolishness, naivety and mistakes. But Taiwanese has to realize and learn from the lesson, otherwise the the sacrifice of our grand and grand grand fathers' generation would be in vein.

Well, at least when I am searching for what Blair says, one newspaper actually get it closer to the fact when describing Taiwan's post WW2 history. Most other news agencies just use "split from China during civil war" which is completely false. Although from what I read, Japan actually didn't cede the island to anyone. They just surrender to allies and gave up the island. It's an improvement but still need to be more accurate:

"Japan ceded control of the island, then called Formosa, to the United States. The U.S. in turn allowed the nationalist Republic of China to set up shop on the island as a 'Cold War' government-in-exile following the 1949 Communist revolution. However, the United States has never ceded the island to anyone thus creating the current 'Taiwan question'."

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