rn: On China & Taiwan


Jan Slakov

Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000 18:34:53 -0500
From: Yves Leclerc <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: March 24: anniversary of FRY bombing, Chinese embassy bombing
coming back to haunt us, acronyms...

Jan and Richard,
No, the Chinese Embassy bombing is not coming back to haunt us. It's simply
coming home to roost. As soon as it happened a year ago, I wrote to Le Monde
Diplomatique what to me was already obvious, that this was the godsend
Beijing had been waiting for to put its quest for control of Taiwan back on
What's happening now is simply the first stage of this predictable process.
Even such a superficial student of Chinese politics and diplomacy as I must
understand that their time frame and their objectives are quite different
from ours. They have 25 centuries of political experience to draw upon, and
are well aware that they don't need to "win" or "show a profit" in the next
When their Embassy was bombed last year, they made token protests and were
very careful not to have the "wrong" done to them righted -- as we
Westerners would undoubtedly have done. They viewed it, probably correctly,
as an American IOU to be called in at the most propitious moment.
This time, when they threatened Taiwan far more stridently than they did
during the "Formosa Straits" incidents of a few years ago, did you notice
that Washington protested and blustered... but didn't send in its fleet the
way it did earlier?
Now Beijing's threats seem to have backfired. And maybe they did. But maybe,
also, the election of a Taiwanese nationalist, anti-Kuomingtang government
was what Beijing really was after. Getting rid of the Chang-Kai-Chek legacy
and facing a new team clearly more willing to negotiate some kind of
settlement is what China gains in this election. Not such a bad deal, in the
long run. Bending the wills and the minds of the Taiwanese toward gradual
integration into the mainland won't be done in a trice and won't result from
a massive invasion that would only invite comparisons to Tchang's in 1949 --
and Beijing, contrary to Washington, knows this very well.
Yves Leclerc, Montreal

Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000 07:55:03 -0500
From: Eric Fawcett <•••@••.•••>
Subject: sfp-75: Reflections on China and Taiwan

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ZNet Commentary by Philip Cunningham                         March 16

The war of words between China and Taiwan is heating up since China
toughened its position on Taiwan in a document called "When It Comes to
Uniting the Motherland, We Will Never Compromise.'' With emotions running
strong and both sides bristling with advanced armaments of war, even hot
air can be dangerous. One misstep and the China-Taiwan tug of war could
drag the US, even Japan, into a horrible conflict. Harsh words and
threatening military maneuvers including a possible blockade are enough to
sink China's chances for WTO accession, disrupt world computer supplies
and send stock markets tumbling.

China recently declared that it not only reserves the option to take
Taiwan by force, but threatened do so, using "drastic measures" if
necessary, if it deems the pace of reunification to be unacceptably slow.
While most analysts see the latest shock talk from Beijing as a clumsy bid
to influence the outcome of Taiwan's presidential election without
employing force, few are willing to count out the possibility of military
pyrotechnics should defiant talk or election results in Taiwan cause
Beijing to feel it has lost face. Furthermore, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin
needs to "liberate" Taiwan for once and for all if he is to convince his
militaristic comrades and his country that he truly is a leader of Mao
Zedong's stature.

Three years ago at this time, the Chinese military staged war games and
took a few test shots over Taiwan in a nightmarish bid to influence
democratic elections. The people of Taiwan defiantly elected Lee Teng-hui,
--Beijing's arch-nemesis anyway, though not without a shudder of fear. The
Taipei government was so anxious to calm its people that it revealed an
interesting intelligence finding: the broadside missile shots fired over
Taiwan in March 1996 were blanks. Making public this charge of the blank
shots, military impotence if you like, caused China to lose face even
further. Subsequent investigations into the leak of the dummy missile
story resulted in the indictment and execution of three mainland citizens
accused of trading military secrets for money. With Hong Kong and Macao
back in the embrace of the "motherland" all eyes now turn to Taiwan. There
are good arguments for viewing Taiwan the way Beijing does; --as a rebel
province. There are also good arguments for calling a spade a spade and
recognizing Taiwan for what it is; --a de facto independent island state.

Progressives in the US have traditionally expressed sympathy, if not total
agreement with the Beijing line on the Taiwan issue. Communist rhetoric,
especially from a safe distance, has a deeply seductive side and to be
fair, China has made great strides in bettering the life for millions of
its billions. For many years the Chinese Communists, despite their harsh
barrel-of-the-gun tactics, could be viewed appealingly by Western
progressives as the underdogs, as rustic rebels with a cause, whereas
Taiwan, partly for cultural reasons, has never appealed to the American
left. Taiwan for decades was Chiang Kai-shek's fiefdom, a mean little
dictatorship run by men in suits with a well-oiled lobby in Washington.

Both Taiwan and China were swept by turbo-change in the last two decades
of the twentieth century. The Cold War ended and the old red and white
chessboard of world politics shattered into a mosaic of a million colorful
bits. In this increasingly multipolar world, who has the clout, let alone
the right, to say what's right, what's wrong? Is Taiwan part of China?
Does self-determination trump long-standing territorial claims? Who's the
underdog now? Who represents the best hope for the future now? Which party
in the long unresolved Chinese civil war, if any, deserves support?

I will not attempt to answer these questions but will offer a guide to
navigating the complicated shoals of the Taiwan-China straits. Below is an
outline of some good reasons and not so good reasons for accepting Beijing's
line on Taiwan.

Taiwan was historically part of Qing dynasty China and the people of
Taiwan are culturally Chinese. Taiwan as we know it today is an artificial
state created by refugees from the civil war on the mainland and shored up
and solidified by American monetary and military support. This prevented
reunification immediately after Mao Zedong established the new China in
1949. Many people in Taiwan today see their land as a province of China.
Chiang Kai-shek and his KMT supporters, vainly hoping to re-take the
mainland, for half a century propagated the fiction that there was only
one China, (which had temporarily fallen under the control of communist
bandits, and would one day rightfully ruled by the KMT.) Although today's
KMT no longer talks about re-taking the mainland and is not ready to share
power or become subjugated by Beijing, the romantic notion that there is
but one China lingers.

If Taiwan province is not re-united with the mainland, this more or less
permanent division of greater China favors neighboring adversaries who can
play one side off the other. The US and Japan and perhaps even Russia are
beneficiaries of a divided China.

Might makes right. Beijing is willing use force, or threat of force, to
subjugate Taiwan as a rebel province. Communist rhetoric is mild but
hopelessly repetitive. Beijing has successfully employed a long-term
incremental strategy of wearing out its opponents and gradually increasing
Taiwan's isolation and vulnerability. Getting Clinton to publicly
enunciate Beijing's "three no policy" reaffirming the non-recognition of
Taiwan in return for trade deals and a smooth tour of China is an example
of this. Big American companies, from airplane manufacturers to software
peddlars are willing to toe Beijing's line if the stakes are high and the
money is good. Big business bullishness on China is based on amoral
calculations of profit and greed, not the man on the ground.

Secretive diplomat Henry Kissinger is a big supporter of Beijing and has
made a profitable career of ditching Taiwan in favor of China. He had so
much money riding on insider deals with Chinese elite in 1989 that he came
out with statements surprisingly supportive of the bloody Tiananmen
crackdown. Clinton's allegedly idealistic China policy, despite periodic
talk of human rights and engagement, looks disturbingly like foreign
policy open to highest bidder. Follow the money and the investigage the
bagmen: Ron Brown, John Huang, Charlie Trie, Bernard Schwartz, Webster
Hubbell, etc.

Reality. Taiwan enjoys and has enjoyed de facto independence for over half
a century. Despite romantic talk about one China by "patriots" on both
sides, Taiwan has long had its own military, money, postal service, system
of government, flag, and national education.

The international game of "the emperor's new clothes" in which the US and
Japan and more than 90% of the world's countries pretend Taiwan is wrapped
under Beijing's skirt is a tiresome charade. Tokyo even went as far as
asking Beijing "permission" to send earthquake relief to Taiwan. US
diplomats call it creative ambiguity, based on the slippery Shanghai
Communique, but it is hypocritical to clink maotai glasses to the tune of
one China, but sell arms to Taiwan anyway.

The people of Taiwan have a voice. Listen to it. With little help from the
world's democracies, the hard-working people of Taiwan cast off a
dictatorial regime and created a genuinely democratic state. The
pro-independence forces in Taiwan come from the class of the traditionally
oppressed natives of the island. The more recently arrived mainlanders,
loudly represented by the KMT, benefit to the detriment of their local
rivals from the fiction that Taiwan is part of China.

There exists a powerful Tokyo-Taipei axis that gets little international
attention other than surprise that there could be such warm cultural and
historical ties between the former colonizer and colonized. There are some
800,000 Taiwanese working and studying in Japan and massive Japanese
investment in Taiwan. President Lee Teng-hui was educated in Tokyo and
speaks better Japanese than Mandarin (he is of course fluent in his native
Taiwanese dialect and proficient in English as well).

Taiwan, despite its underdog status, has an awesome military, a vast
intelligence network, a dollar-rich political war-chest, and many
well-heeled overseas lobbyists. Bob Dole, for example, is a registered and
paid advocate for Taiwan.

US Congressional supporters of Taiwan range from ideological
anti-communists to individuals with vested interests, business or
otherwise. It's hard to find anyone in congress with an objective grasp of
the issues. Some human rights activists and allegedly "humanitarian"
anti-China groups take Taiwanese money and favor Taiwan in their
pronouncements. American organized labor is unduly obsessed with Chinese
human rights violations. One suspects that the real goal of trade
sanctions invoked in the name of human rights is protecting American jobs
and inefficient industries.

These are some of the points, presented in no particular order, that should
be kept in mind as current events unfold in a theatre of conflict that is
potentially the most dangerous spot in the world today.