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Taiwan: US-China relations

Sidney J Gluck

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.

FLASH NEWS RE: POLITICAL SHIFTS IN TAIWAN 2004 [1]

As we were coming to the end of writing this paper, on December 12 and 13, 2004, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and an Associated Press story in the Washington Post electronic service, all reported a major shift in the political lineup in Taiwan as a result of the election of legislative representatives. The coalition that includes President Chen Shui-bian's party had been widely favored to increase its influence over the legislature; but the three party opposition known as the "blue team" rallied, winning 114 of the total 225 seats, the President's coalition, the "green team," finished with 101 defeating the Pro-independence parties coalition. Lien Chan, leader of the Nationalists, the largest opposition party, hailed the victory with a statement, "that all people want stability in this country and want to continue to develop."

Parties' known to take extreme positions on the unification-independence issue finished poorly. The winning coalition opposed Chen's plan to spend 18 billion dollars on US weapons to "defend" against a Chinese attack, accusing him of recklessness that could lead to war. Public expression indicated relief from the fear that Chen was more likely to bring on war than peace. There were also indications that trade with the Mainland, having propelled a vigorous economic recovery this year, generated a more conciliatory Taiwanese stance both among business people and the public. In sum, pragmatic voters see gains from a reduction in hostility to Beijing. From this writer's point of view, it is a challenge to US foreign policy.

Following the meeting in Beijing between Hu Jintao, President of the Peoples Republic of China, and Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, on October 25 2004, President Hu observed in recent years that overall US-China relations kept advancing, bringing about tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries, promoting peace, stability and development of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. So long as the two countries proceed from a strategic and long-term point of view, following the principles set in the three US-China joint communiqués, constantly expanding convergence of the interests of both countries and appropriately handling issues of common concern, US-China relations will surely enjoy healthy and stable development. China, he noted, is ready to join hands with the US to firmly adhere to this general direction of bilateral ties, promote exchange and cooperation in various fields and exercise relentless efforts to enhance constructive development and cooperative relations.

Secretary Powell also noted that over the past four years during his tenure, US-China relations have achieved great progress on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation. Both sides have retained close contact at all levels. President Bush and the US Administration attach great importance to the development of mutually beneficial and cooperative relations and the constructive roll China plays in such major international issues as anti-terrorism and the Sudan. The US will, as always, continue to resolutely support the One China Policy and oppose any activities leading to "Taiwan independence." During a stopover in Taiwan, Secretary Powell told Chen Shu-bian, "Taiwan is not an independent country and should not act as such."

Notwithstanding these mutually constructive remarks, President Hu pointed out that the current situation across the Taiwan Straits remains complex and sensitive; the activities of separatist forces for "Taiwan independence" are the root cause of tense cross-Strait relations and "the most serious threat to peace and stability." In fact, this is probably the most globally incendiary point that might affect beneficial developments for all in the 21st century.

While it is true that three US presidential regimes have joined in communiqués recognizing the validity of the One China Principle, at the same time, the US has established independent relations with Taiwan and supplied them with armaments. In fact, Formosa [2] has, for centuries, has been a province of China with relatively independent administration as is historically the case with all provinces in China. Nevertheless the US, under pressure from Churchill, agreed to British sponsorship of Taiwanese occupancy of China's permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council from its outset until early 1971 when a majority of nations in the UN assembly moved for recognition of Beijing as the true representative of all of China. Furthermore, the US has raised questions about ambiguities in the communiqués in their mutual understanding and particularly about Taiwanese sovereignty.

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Note 1: Taiwan is known as the ROC, Republic of China (controlled by the Nationalist, or Kuomintang), whereas the term China often refers to mainland China, or the People's Republic of China (controlled by the Communist), abbreviated as the PRC.

Note 2: Formosa, ancient name of Taiwan used prior to 1945, meaning "beautiful island", or Ilha Formosa in Portugese. See Wikipedia on geography of Taiwan




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