The One-China Fiction?”
WASHINGTON TIMES Commentary
28, 1999 - By James Hackett
next year, Washington may face an explosive issue that could
lead to war in the Pacific. That issue is the independence
could be the March election for the next president of that
island nation. President Lee Teng-hui, the first Chinese ruler
ever to win free elections, is stepping down in March at the
end of his term. The election to succeed him is shaping up
as a real horse race; any of the three principal candidates
Kuomintang is represented by Vice President Lien Chan, a competent
but uninspiring deputy to a popular president. The opposition
Democratic Progressive Party, which wins about half the vote
in major cities, is running Chen Shui-bian, recently mayor
of Taipei. The wild card is former Gov. James Soong, a member
of the ruling KMT running as an independent. Mr. Soong is
most charismatic of the three and is leading in early polls.
in Beijing are watching the election closely. China's generals
threaten to invade if Taiwan moves toward independence, and
like the Japanese generals who bombed Pearl Harbor, their
fanaticism may be hard to restrain. Yet, the reality is that
Taiwan already is independent in every way except in the eyes
of the international community.
Fifty years after Chiang Kai-shek led his defeated army to
the island, the old guard has died off and many born on Taiwan
consider themselves more Taiwanese than Chinese. They have
established a vibrant economy based on free enterprise and
created a multiparty democracy. The desire to rejoin the mainland
is diminishing, and there is no interest in joining a communist
Clinton administration opposes independence for Taiwan and
repeats the old mantra, demanded by Beijing, that there is
but one China. The reality is that there is one China and
one Taiwan -- the former controlled by a communist dictatorship
and the latter prospering under freely elected leaders.
President Lee said Taiwan and China must do business on a
state-to-state basis; that two Chinas can and should coexist.
The communist regime in Beijing has never ruled Taiwan and
if the people of Taiwan have any say, it never will. As the
world's leading democracy, the United States should enthusiastically
support self-determination for Taiwan.
President Lee's simple statement led Beijing to spew vituperation;
rattle its neutron bomb; conduct a long-range missile test;
move troops and submarines opposite Taiwan; and even threaten
war. President Clinton supported these warlike moves by criticizing
President Lee for stating the truth.
is in an election campaign that may generate more controversial
statements. The DPP has advocated Taiwan independence and
if it wins, or if any candidate mentions independence with
the wrong nuance, the hard-liners in Beijing may initiate
military action. The danger is that Mr. Clinton's incessant
pandering could make China's leaders think they can attack
without facing the United States.
Nixon reopened contact with China in 1972 he sought its help
to end the war in Vietnam and counterbalance Soviet power.
But in seeking those laudable goals he went too far -- he
agreed to oppose independence for Taiwan, a position supported
by all subsequent U.S. presidents. Now the Vietnam War is
long over, no thanks to China, and the Soviet Union has collapsed.
The main reasons Nixon tilted toward Beijing no longer exist.
no longer helps contain a dangerous Soviet empire. Instead,
Moscow and Beijing now conspire to contain the U.S. Today,
the main threat to peace is China, modernizing its military,
seizing disputed islands in the South China Sea, crushing
dissent in Tibet, Xinjiang, and elsewhere and even threatening
was considered the last colonial empire, but now China, suppressing
Tibet and a slew of ethnic minorities, and already reneging
on its commitments to Hong Kong, has inherited that title.
Beijing may have loosened controls on its economy, but it
remains a Leninist state that tolerates no opposition, even
the peaceful assembly of the Falun Gong, whose members recently
were dispatched to Marxist re-education camps.
important to remember what China's rulers really want. The
communists are determined to complete their 70-year-old struggle
to conquer all of China. Their intransigence leaves only two
possible outcomes: Either they crush Taiwan democracy or are
forced from power themselves. For 27 years, no U.S. government
has been willing to face this reality. It is time one did.
president should follow the formula that worked against the
Soviets -- contain Chinese expansion, help Taiwan defend itself
against aggression, support democracy on Taiwan and democracy
advocates in China, and side with Taiwan when and if its people
declare their independence.
we wait for a new U.S. president to change policy toward China,
Congress can take action by passing the Taiwan Security Enhancement
Act, which would re-establish U.S.-Taiwan military relations
and authorize sale of the advanced weapons Taiwan needs to
defend itself. The Clinton White House and Republicans who
put exports to China above all else are trying frantically
to block or water down that legislation. But if it passes
largely intact, it will send a warning to Beijing that could
prevent a major crisis next year.
T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times
based in San Diego.