Daily (Hong Kong) – translated and published into Chinese
Should Treat Taiwan as a Partner"
By Mark P. Lagon, August 12, 1999
P. Lagon is a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow at the Project
for the New American Century]
to President Lee Teng-hui's July 9 statement that Taiwan should
be considered a state in its dialogue with China, China began
intimidation efforts equaling and perhaps surpassing missile
tests near Kaohsiung ports in March 1996. These efforts
include PLA Air Force sorties crossing the Strait, acknowledgment
that the PRC possesses a neutron bomb, reports of plans to
seize Kinmen, Matsu, or Penghu, and military exercises aimed
at preparing the PLA for conflict with Taiwan.
the U.S. Administration's response has been to placate Beijing
and pressure Taipei to back down from speaking truths about
Taiwan's statehood. But as we have seen, the only result
has been increased belligerence on the part of Beijing.
time to revise the American policy toward Taiwan in place
since the 1970s. First, a change in the global context
merits a change in America's Taiwan policy. In a widely
acclaimed book on American policy toward China since President
Nixon, About Face, James Mann suggests that the United States
treat China neither as the threat in a potential new Cold
War, nor treat it as it did during the Cold War—as a strategic
partner to counterbalance Moscow. The latter sin is
substantial; Taiwan need not be isolated due to atavistic
rituals of an anti-Soviet grand strategy.
two changes in Taiwan itself prompt an American policy shift.
For over two decades U.S. policy has been premised upon recognizing
that China and Taiwan both believe there is "one China."
But last month, Taiwan established that it no longer accepts
that fiction. And more importantly, Taiwan has become
democratic, which is the chief reason for the Chinese Communist
leadership's agitation. A threat to the Beijing government's
legitimacy lies more in the fact that Taiwan has a democratic
government that an island two percent the size of China's
own population might go it own way. As a Chinese society
which transformed its one-party state into a veritable democracy,
Taiwan represents a model for China's future—and a deadly
challenge to the current regime. That's why China conducted
missile tests during Taiwan's legislative election in July
1995 and presidential election in March 1996.
should a refined American policy consist of? Three dimensions:
First, the United States should end its ambiguity about whether
it would come to Taiwan's defense if attacked. Such
ambiguity allowed the early 1996 Strait crisis to get out
of hand, necessitating deployment of two U.S. aircraft carriers
in the eleventh hour. More than diplomatic jargon about
"grave concerns" and "consequences" of Chinese aggression,
the U.S. must make clear that it would respond militarily.
the United States should tangibly upgrade face-to-face contacts
with—and the sale of purely defensive weapons to—Taiwan.
It is a perverse situation that the U.S. has had high-level
military-to-military contacts with China, but puts a ceiling
on such consultation with a democracy. Moreover, the
United States has not been fulfilling its obligations under
the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to provide Taiwan with the
means to defend itself. The most advanced early warning
radars and theater missile defenses should be sold to Taiwan
if Taipei wants them. These contacts and arms transfers
are precisely the recommended measures in a major piece of
legislation under consideration in the U.S. Congress, the
Taiwan Security Enhancement Act written by Senator Jesse Helms.
the United States should view Taiwan in light of a broader
"Real Partnerships Doctrine." In contrast with the Clinton
Administration's premature pursuit of a "Strategic Partnership"
with China, the United States should go back to basics and
reinforce alliances with its real partners in the region—democracies
such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the Philippines.
Democracies tend to be the most reliable allies, ones who
live up to agreements, and such a policy would send a clear
signal to China's leaders how America's partners look and
reason, even if it does not recognize Taiwan diplomatically,
the United States should treat it like a real partner, too.
For instance, it should work for Taiwan's admission as a customs
territory into the World Trade Organization—a step the Hong
Kong SAR government has apparently helped Beijing delay through
foot-dragging in bilateral talks with Taiwan. Such signs
of partnership with a democracy should be seen as foundations
for a stable, cooperative international order, rather than