The Wall Street Journal
February 9, 2000
[Review & Outlook]
like a lot of fuss for a bill that may not make it through
the U.S. Senate--and which President Bill Clinton says he'll
veto if it ever does reach his desk. We're talking about
the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, which earlier this
month sailed through the House by a 341-70 vote. Predictably,
China's foreign ministry responded by expressing its "strongest
indignation" at this "gross interference in China's internal
affairs," summoning the U.S. ambassador for an official
China isn't the only one howling. Back in October David
Lampton, head of China studies for the Nixon Center, called
the bill "doubly provocative" and "the most dangerous piece
of foreign policy legislation in memory." Last week Rep.
Tom Lantos (D., Calif.) attacked it as a "nonsensical" move
destined only to introduce "yet another divisive matter"
into the U.S.-China relationship. And speaking for the American
Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, Frank Martin told Agence
France-Presse the bill was "unnecessary" and would "needlessly
this is one argument. But it is an argument that would have
more credibility if those advancing it could ever bring
themselves to concede that China may at times be guilty
of its own provocations. Trolling through our own database,
Dow Jones Interactive, we found no criticisms from Mr. Martin
when China decided to lob a few missiles off the coast of
Taiwan in 1995 and 1996. Nor could we find a peep of protest
from Mr. Lampton when Mr. Clinton unilaterally broke with
the policy of four U.S. presidents by explicitly committing
America to Beijing's interpretation of the "one China" policy.
And we're still waiting to hear what Mr. Lantos thinks about
the "divisiveness" of his own Democratic Party accepting
campaign contributions from a Chinese military intelligence
make for a certain consistency: China is never to blame.
Only Taiwan and the U.S. are "provocative" or "divisive."
better world the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act would be
unnecessary. The same could be said for the bill's spiritual
predecessor, the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act passed by a Congress
worried that the White House of Jimmy Carter was tilting
too much toward China. The genesis of this latest bill was
much the same. In fact, it is largely a Congressional reaction
to Mr. Clinton's 1998 acceptance of Beijing's "three no's"
policy: no independence, no dual recognition, no admittance
for Taiwan to any international body for which statehood
is a requirement.
to his host's demands, Mr. Clinton stripped the "one China"
policy fiction of its one asset: its ambiguity. Worse, the
change didn't occur in a vacuum. This major shift in U.S.
foreign policy toward China came despite China's deliberate
military intimidation of Taiwan during the 1995 and 1996
missile tests and amid still unanswered questions about
China's donations to the 1996 Clinton campaign. In other
words, the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act is less a provocation
than a reaction to a series of provocations by an increasingly
powerful China toward an increasingly isolated Taiwan.
no one has championed the case of trade with China, sans
restrictions, more vigorously than this newspaper. And we
support membership in the World Trade Organization for China.
And we take seriously the danger of blundering into a confrontation
simply because tempers run high. But the Taiwanese do have
the right to their own security, and America is enjoined
by law to help provide it. Certainly the leadership in Taipei
needs to understand that an American security guarantee
doesn't grant carte blanche to antagonize Beijing, a message
which even Taiwan's most ardent friends are careful to remind
them of. How much safer all in the region would be if the
friends of China could bring themselves to do the same when
it comes to provocations from the mainland side of the Taiwan