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Thread: US-Taiwan: status quo strain

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    US-Taiwan: status quo strain

    US-Taiwan: status quo strain


    In Washington, Taiwan expresses its frustration over US insistence to maintain the status quo rather than accepting the 'reality', as the island republic seeks a UN seat under the name Taiwan.

    By Peter Buxbaum in Washington, DC for ISN Security Watch (11/09/07)

    Strains in US-Taiwan relations were evident when a frustrated Taiwanese president addressed an audience in Washington last week from Taipei, by way of a video hookup.


    That relations between Taipei and Washington should be strained is in itself remarkable, since there are no official ties between the two countries.

    But the Bush administration has come down hard on Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian and his plan to hold a popular referendum on whether the Republic of China - the official name of the island republic - should apply to the UN under the name Taiwan.

    "Taiwan for a long time has been the obedient child of the United States, a student who behaves well," said Chen, speaking through a translator. "There are many policy areas in which we are in agreement, but these should not be taken for granted."

    Chen was insisting, in other words, that he would press forward with his referendum plans, despite US objections. More than that, Chen was complaining that the US had cut off meaningful communications with his government.

    "In the past, we have had good communications channels and substantive dialog with senior administration officials," said Chen. "These are lacking currently."

    Since 1979, Taiwan has occupied a shadowy space in US policy. In January of that year, the US changed its diplomatic recognition of China's government from Taipei to Beijing. The People's Republic of China had already occupied the China seat in the UN since 1971, when its predecessor, the delegation from the Republic of China, was expelled.

    In a 1979 Washington-Beijing joint communiqué, the US recognized the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China and acknowledged the Chinese position that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.

    Later in 1979, however, the US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which authorized unofficial US relations with Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US. The same legislation also authorized the sale of defensive military equipment to Taiwan.

    The current US position on Taiwan, as reflected in a statement by President George W Bush in December 2003, is to oppose any attempt by either side to unilaterally alter the status quo. The US specifically does not support Taiwan independence, but does support Taiwan's membership in international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, the APEC forum and the Asian Development Bank.
    'Reality' vs status quo

    Taiwan's bid for UN membership, under whatever name, is clearly seen as a breach of the status quo by the Bush administration. "The United States is not opposed to referenda in principle," said a State Department spokesperson. "The United States opposes any initiative that appears designed to change Taiwan's status unilaterally. This would include a referendum on whether to apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan."

    The State Department sees an application for UN membership as a possible first step towards a Taiwanese declaration of independence.

    "We believe it's important to avoid any kind of provocative steps on the part of Taiwan," said the spokesperson. "We believe that pursuing a referendum of this kind could be interpreted as a step towards a declaration of independence, and we do not believe that that would be a constructive way on the part of the Taiwan authorities to pursue their interests."

    Chen does not deny that Taiwan's UN application would change the diplomatic status quo, but he does insist that it reflects reality.

    "We wish to apply for membership in the United Nations as a new member state," he said. "Taiwan is an independent country and not part of the People's Republic of China. Sovereignty rests with its 23 million people and there is no need to for anyone to tell them that Taiwan is a country. Taiwan and the PRC are separate countries. Neither exercises jurisdiction on the other side of the Taiwan Straits."

    The fact that Taiwan would not be applying for membership under its official name should not be seen as an aggressive move, according to Gary Schmitt, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think tank based in Washington.

    "Plenty of states do not use their official names," he said. "These include China, Greece and Macedonia."

    Chen stressed Taiwan's pragmatism and reasonableness in the approach it is taking. Taiwan's abandonment of its official name, the Republic of China, with respect to its application for UN membership is a bow to political reality, he argued.

    "We understand well that the political term Republic of China was designed to deny the legality of the government of the People's Republic of China," he said. "We are not applying to rejoin the United Nations" and threaten the PRC seat, "but as a new member state. This shows that Taiwan is pragmatic and responsible in its desire to be accepted by the world community. Applying for UN membership has never been seen as a provocative act except in the case of Taiwan."
    Refocusing on East Asia

    Other experts agree with Chen's perception that the US is neglecting its relationships in East Asia. Some blame this on its preoccupation with Iraq.

    "The US needs to rebalance its portfolio and refocus on Asia," said Kurt Campbell, chief executive of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based policy advocacy group. "Most important dialogs involving Asia are going on with the US seat empty."

    Campbell believes the US owes Taiwan a debt of gratitude for its help in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts and called on Congress to play a more active roll in shaping policy in East Asia.

    Chen is also pinning some of his hopes on the Democratic Congress. "Congress should step up and play a proper role," he said. "For decades, Taiwan has been a loyal and obedient partner of the United States. Now we are left to ask what went wrong."

    Other observers reflected Chen's frustrated attitude. "There is an increasingly negative tone in the bilateral dialog," said Michael Green, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University in Washington. "The US needs to recognize that this is a fundamental issue of identity for Taiwan and not a tactical move. The issue of national identity is at the top of the agenda in every country in Asia."

    Green added that negotiating a US-Taiwan free trade agreement could help clarify the relationship between the two countries. "Taiwan has an interest in locking itself into the broader Asia trade architecture," he said.

    Taiwan could be admitted to the UN as a "functionally competent entity" rather than as a sovereign state, according to Vincent Wang, an associate professor of political science at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

    "In this era of globalization, functional competency is replacing the notion of sovereignty," he contended. "Acceptance of Taiwan's United Nations application would involve decoupling Taiwan as a governmental organization from diplomatic recognition."

    It would also take an amendment to the UN charter, Wang noted.

    Chen's appeal to the US and the world community also emphasized that the government of the People's Republic may also be working to change the status quo across the Taiwan straits.

    "The People's Republic of China has not renounced the use of force," Chen argued. "It has deployed ballistic missiles on its southeast coast aimed at Taiwan. There are currently 988 missiles and they are increasing at over 100 per year."

    Chen also claimed the People's Liberation Army had a three-stage military plan for war against Taiwan, which included establishing a combat capability by the end of this year, a large-scale military engagement by 2010, and victory by 2015.

    Chen acknowledged that Taiwan was unlikely to succeed in attaining UN membership without the support of the US. He noted that the current Bush administration was considering the sale of F-16C/D fighter aircraft to Taiwan and held out the hope that the eventual approval of that sale-perhaps at the tail end of the Bush administration-might also be accompanied by a diplomatic shift.

    More likely, however, Chen will have to pin his hopes on the next US administration for any substantial change in the US diplomatic stance with respect to Taiwan.

    ISN Security Watch - US-Taiwan: status quo strain
    There are many Mainland Chinese and Chinese origin citizens of other countries on this forum, who could comment on the pros and cons of the issue since it is a matter that would be of interest to them and they are in the best position to do so.

    From the international point of view, this is an interesting situation at best.

    One wonders what will be the outcome and what would be the ramifications, if any, of this issue internationally and in the UN!


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    ray,

    a lot of taiwanese aren't real happy with chen shui-bian about this one. trying to coincide this bit of flag-waving with the taiwanese elections, gee, i wonder why he's doing this now

    the opposition candidate ma ying-jeou is pressing for the traditional compromise solution, which is to push for UN membership under the moniker "republic of china".

    either way, taiwan doesn't have a chance in hell of getting in the UN. just so much political theater.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    Astralis,

    Why does Taiwan want to maintain a different identity?

    If Hong Kong and Macao can merge and still survive, can't Taiwan with some special mechanism such as what India has in Kashmir, where non Kashmiris cannot settle or buy land or carry out commercial activities?

    Or is it because the US requires Taiwan as a launch pad for eventualities in the future?

    If so, the US must more cogently and recognisably support Taiwan.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    I don't know that the jury has come in yet on Hong Kong. I don't suppose that we will know for sure how successful that model is for a while yet. There are quite a few issues looming in HK that might have a big effect on its future. Referring to Hong Kong as a successful model is a bit premature.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray View Post
    Why does Taiwan want to maintain a different identity?
    "When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth,the separate and equal Station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them..."-The Declaration of Independence.

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    ray,

    Why does Taiwan want to maintain a different identity?
    over 100 years of living a rather different lifestyle, different experiences, and even a slightly different form of a writing system- that tends to do it.

    If Hong Kong and Macao can merge and still survive, can't Taiwan with some special mechanism such as what India has in Kashmir, where non Kashmiris cannot settle or buy land or carry out commercial activities?
    the latest offer coming from the PRC is that taiwan is to keep everything it currently has, even the government and military if it so wishes, and that PRC officials will not be coming to taiwan. in return, taiwan acknowledges PRC sovereignty and gives up its own foreign affairs.

    that's better than what HK gets.

    however, taiwan is not HK. it's been ruling itself for as long as the modern-day PRC- not as a colony- and has been democratic for roughly the last 15 years.

    there's simply no incentive, past perhaps cultural incentive and some small economic incentive, for taiwanese to unify with the mainland. as the economies grow further intertwined, the latter will grow more dramatically. and then taiwanese may re-think the idea of unification...

    one point which many people do not realize is that out of a population of some 23 million, some 1 million taiwanese businessmen are in china! for a country that depends on conscription (although this is being re-thought), well, that's not a pretty security situation.

    Or is it because the US requires Taiwan as a launch pad for eventualities in the future?

    If so, the US must more cogently and recognisably support Taiwan.
    it may choose to do so if it feels that china is going to be an undeniable enemy. of course, such a move would instantly create a deep freeze in relations, so if that happened, US-PRC relations would probably have been in the toilet anyways. as it is, the US does no more than keep a version of containment-lite around china, all the while watching.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    for something of a populist demagogue, CSB is still quite the intelligent and wily man. but still badly mistaken about the nature of the china-taiwan relationship (IMHO).

    ----


    Transcript of the Interview With President Chen Shui-bian

    September 13, 2007 9:55 a.m.

    This translated transcript of an interview of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian by The Wall Street Journal Asia was provided by the office of the president.
    On September 12, President Chen Shui-bian was interviewed by Jason Dean (deputy bureau chief, China) and John Bussey (deputy managing editor) of The Wall Street Journal Asia. In addition to discussing Taiwan's March 2008 presidential election, the President reiterated that the Taiwanese people will not give up their determination to conduct a referendum on whether to apply for UN membership under the name "Taiwan."

    The full text of the interview is as follows:

    Office of the President
    Republic of China (Taiwan)
    September 12, 2007

    Wall Street Journal Asia: I'm wondering if we could start by asking you to characterize the status of U.S.-Taiwan relations. It seems that, periodically, the U.S., the number one ally of Taiwan, has been publicly critical of Taiwan and some of its policies. I'm wondering if we could just ask you to characterize the status of U.S.-Taiwan relations.

    President Chen: Even loving couples will quarrel from time to time. It is only normal for even best friends to disagree. Sometimes we hold reservations about each other's views and sometimes even openly criticize each other. But I think this is all constructive.
    Taiwan is the most faithful friend and ally of the U.S., while the U.S. is Taiwan's closest friend. There's no question about that. We cherish our ties and our long-established friendship with the U.S.

    Even though the U.S. has recently criticized Taiwan's plans to hold a referendum on whether Taiwan should join the UN under the name "Taiwan," and has expressed different views on these issues, we believe it has done so in a spirit of goodwill.

    The U.S. has its national interests, while Taiwan has its own. These interests may not always be the same. Sometimes they may even come into conflict or contradict one another. It would be extremely difficult to find things that are both in the U.S.'s interests and Taiwan's interests. Nevertheless, we must do our utmost and work very hard to seek common ground and find a consensus acceptable to both.

    Also, it is hard to strike a good balance between the national interest and the values that one adheres to. It is difficult enough to try to secure and maximize one's national interests while upholding core democratic values—let alone trying to do so when it involves the interests and values of two nations, which requires even greater adjustment and efforts on both sides.
    When it comes to universal values including democracy, there should be no reservations or restrictions. These values should be upheld unrestricted and without holding back. But when national interests are at stake, democratic values may be forced to take a back seat or to face a "red line." These values may even be proscribed or locked away.

    Over the past few years, Taiwan has moved from authoritarianism to democracy. In the course of strengthening our democracy, it was inevitable that, at times, we have not seen eye to eye with the U.S.
    In 2003, when we proposed the Referendum Act, and in 2004, when we pushed for our first-ever national referendum, the U.S. government expressed its reservations.

    Similarly, at the beginning of last year, when we stated our intention to mothball the National Unification Council and Guidelines for National Unification, the U.S. government expressed even stronger concern.
    But time has proven that the U.S.'s concerns about, different viewpoints regarding, opposition to, and criticism of our actions were all unwarranted. Nothing happened.

    This time, as Taiwan is pushing for a referendum on whether to seek entry into the UN under the name "Taiwan" to be held in tandem with the presidential election in March of next year, the U.S. government has also expressed opposition and grave concern. Here I'd like to assure the U.S. government that nothing is going to happen after March 22 next year.
    Even if this referendum is passed, it will only represent the strong aspiration and will of Taiwan's people to have their voice heard. So, we must still apply to the UN. Whether the UN will accept our application, whether the Security Council will pass and the General Assembly support our case is unknown. So things will return to where they started from.

    Today, the core issue is: Don't the 23 million people of Taiwan enjoy the freedom and the right to express to the world our strong aspiration and will to apply to become a full member of the UN?

    The U.S. government, in the past, has repeatedly expressed that it supports, rather than opposes, Taiwan's democracy. It is therefore our hope that our plan to hold a referendum, a democratic procedure by which Taiwan's 23 million people may express their strong will and determination to join the UN, will not be misconstrued as this is a basic form of democracy.

    If the people of Taiwan do not attach great importance to the concerns that the U.S. government has expressed or U.S. interests in this region, we would be involved in many other undertakings. For Taiwan's 23 million people, it's more than our bid to join the UN or to have a referendum on this issue.
    Some have suggested that we hold referenda in tandem with next year's presidential election on other issues, such as declaring independence, changing the national moniker, passing a draft Constitution for the Republic of Taiwan, or on the issue of unification versus independence. All of these could be done. But we have chosen not to. That's because we take U.S. concerns seriously as well as U.S. interests, as they are in line with Taiwan's interests. So we don't wish to be misunderstood.


    WSJA: I think the criticism that the President gets from the administration is—and this might be when President Bush met with Wen Jiabao, or more recently when high-level State Department officials spoke on this topic—is that these are, yes, one can justify some of these initiatives, but that they are at root unnecessarily provocative, that they are grandstanding for domestic political purposes, and that the status quo in relations with China has value. How does he respond to the notion that this is unnecessarily provocative and unproductive?

    President Chen: Of course the referendum is necessary. And it is in no way provocative, because we want to use it to defend the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard Taiwan's democracy.
    If the U.S. government can put itself in the Taiwanese government's shoes, and if President Bush can put himself in my shoes, I'm sure the U.S. government would do the same thing, and President Bush would do the same thing, or even more.

    This is not for the purpose of domestic elections. It is only by introducing these issues and putting them to a vote that we can provide an opportunity to think about and discuss these issues of great concern that are critical to this nation's future.

    Taiwan's democratization, its road from authoritarianism to democracy—including the consolidation and deepening of democracy—has become a strong movement only by virtue of embracing elections.

    In 2003, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) made every effort to block the passage of a referendum law, but in the end it had no choice but to pass the Referendum Act. But it was a "bird cage" law with excessively high thresholds for putting a referendum proposal on the ballot and passing it, a threshold unthinkable in other countries in the world that hold referenda. So why do we want to hold referenda in tandem with national elections, especially presidential elections? It's because we think the Referendum Act is a "bird cage" law with unreasonably high thresholds.

    Let me give you a good example. In 2004, when we held the first-ever national referendum alongside the presidential election, I garnered almost 6.5 million ballots and was re-elected president. Those who voted "yes" for the referendum far exceeded the number of ballots that I garnered but the referendum still failed to pass. Why was that? Because the Referendum Act sets such a high threshold for passage, requiring a "yes" vote from more than 50% of all eligible voters, whereas in a two-way presidential race, a candidate needs to garner only half of the ballots cast to be elected.
    The voter turnout in Taiwan's presidential elections can be very high. The first time I was elected, the turnout was 82%, the second time 80%. But with such a high threshold set for a referendum, we need to have more than 50% of the eligible voters voting "yes." With a turnout of 80%, you need more than 60% of the voters to cast "yes" ballots in order to pass a referendum. This is indeed a very difficult task, almost a mission impossible.
    The U.S. should understand that the Referendum Act is a "bird cage" law, and it is because of this that we have to utilize the opportunity offered by national elections, such as presidential elections, in order to make up for the shortcomings of the Referendum Act. So holding the proposed referendum in tandem with presidential elections isn't a mere tactic to win the presidential election. It's necessary to do so in order for a referendum to have a fair chance of passage.

    Whether the referendum passes or not, I think that through the process, we will create a greater domestic solidarity and also form consensuses on important issues regarding Taiwan's future, including Taiwan-China issues. This is also a very good educational process through which we can spur our people to think seriously about what kind of future they want. So the very act of carrying out the referendum—whether it passes or not—will in itself be a success.

    Through the referendum, we can also enable China to understand our people's wishes. We do not want to engage in an arms race with China, and it is impossible for Taiwan to compete with China's military might. No matter how many weapons we buy, we can't match China. We only want to defend ourselves. And our best defensive weapon is the most concrete practice, methodology, and spirit of democracy embodied in referendum. Which is why I often say that democracy is our best "theater missile defense." Referendum is the most concrete expression of democracy. In the face of China's continuing military intimidation and diplomatic suppression, and its attempts to make Taiwan part of the People's Republic of China, we have the opportunity and the right, through referendum, to voice our collective will, and to say "No!"


    WSJA: [inaudible] If I can very briefly talk … I think I understood what the President is saying…you feel that the U.S. is putting limits on Taiwan's democracy or is hoping to [inaudible] is putting Taiwan on [inaudible]. Is my understanding of what you said correct?

    President Chen: No. That's not what I meant. What I meant is that when there is a clash between interests and values, with resultant limitation on the enjoyment of these values, some will of course think that this is tantamount to locking up democracy in a bird cage. Of course, the U.S. government's support for Taiwan's democracy is beyond doubt. For America's affirmation of Taiwan's democracy, and for America's assistance and support in bringing it about, we can only express our gratitude.

    Even though Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte criticized Taiwan, President Bush did not repeat such criticism during the joint press conference he recently held with China's President Hu Jintao in Sydney. Moreover, when President Bush gave a speech at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, he reportedly twice mentioned Taiwan: first, in commending the contribution of Taiwan and other Asia-Pacific nations to the cause of democracy; and second, in stating that only with the cooperation of Taiwan and other Asia-Pacific nations is it possible to safeguard peace, security, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. For this, we are very grateful.

    This [regional peace and security] is indeed the issue. And that is why I have recently sought out U.S. perspectives on the reason for the U.S. government's strong opposition to the referendum. The referendum issue has three aspects: One is the process itself; the second is our bid to join the UN; and the third is using the name "Taiwan." We would like to know exactly which aspect it is that the United States has problems with. Which one compromises U.S. interests? Which one does not conform with democratic values?

    According to recent reports, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Christensen said that the U.S. does not oppose the referendum itself, but has reservations on using the name "Taiwan" to apply for UN membership. If the crux of the problem is that the U.S. thinks that using the name "Taiwan" would change the status quo—if the U.S. cannot support the referendum and feels impelled to oppose it because it thinks that changing our national moniker would alter the status quo—then let's focus on this issue: Can we, or can we not, use the name "Taiwan"?

    Assuming that the U.S. opposes using the name "Taiwan" because it would be tantamount to changing our official name, does that mean the U.S. would support the referendum if we proposed to use the name "Republic of China" to apply for UN membership? Recent remarks by Dennis Wilder, Senior Director at the U.S. National Security Council, indicate that neither Taiwan nor the Republic of China is a country. So using the name "Republic of China" will not win America's support, either. If the national moniker "Republic of China" cannot be used internationally, and we cannot change it, then what shall we do?

    We use "Chinese Taipei" to participate in APEC and the name "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu" to participate in the WTO. So why not use "Taiwan" to participate in the UN? If the U.S. opposes this, does that mean to say the U.S. would support our using the name "Chinese Taipei" or "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu" to join the United Nations? If the answer is still no, then the crux of the U.S. government's opposition to the referendum isn't use of the name "Taiwan," but whether or not we are allowed to join the UN.
    Out of the more than 190 member countries in the United Nations, the name used by some 70 or 80 of them to join the United Nations is different from their actual official moniker. So using the name "Taiwan" doesn't amount to changing the national moniker. Why is it that others can do this but Taiwan can't?


    WSJA: Let's set aside referendum for a bit. We have some other issues that we want to ask about. Beyond that issue, you have eight months left in your presidency. You are dealing with a rather low approval rating right now, below 20%. In most democracies, a person in your situation is considered what we call a "lame duck." But usually the person who is considered a lame duck does not like to consider themselves that way. What do you think you can get done, beyond the issue of referendum, in the next eight months before you leave office? Specifically, what do you hope to accomplish in that time? And of course, we being the Wall Street Journal, I'm particularly interested in your goals for the economy.

    President Chen: As long as a President is sitting in this office and is still in power, then he or she remains the President. This President is not a lame duck. If I were a lame duck, then the international community and the U.S. would not care so much about the referendum that we want to hold.
    In any democracy that holds regular elections, from the first day the President takes office, he or she is preparing for the end of his or her term. So I must seize the day. I cannot just sit and wait for the end to come and do nothing.

    Prior to this interview, I was meeting with the winners of the Industrial Technology Advancement Award given out by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. At this event, I talked about how Taiwan has improved itself in terms of global innovation and competitiveness as evaluated by the Economist Intelligence Unit. For 2007 to 2011, Taiwan ranked sixth globally—two spots higher than our ranking for 2002 to 2006—and second in Asia.

    Also today, I read an internal report on tax revenue from January to August. Compared with the same period last year, revenue climbed NT$80 billion [US$2.42 billion], an increase of 8.2%.

    In the second quarter, the economic growth rate reached 5.07%, pushing up the estimated annual growth rate to 4.58%, nearly 4.6%. This is higher than the 1.9% of the U.S. and 2.4% of Japan.

    We have also seen a historic high in both imports and exports. It is estimated that the trade surplus this year will hit US$25 billion. And we are experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in seven years. This was as of July, a time when new graduates are competing for jobs, and at which the unemployment rate is traditionally higher, but we marked the lowest rate in seven years. We are confident, therefore, that this year's estimated unemployment rate will sit between 3.8 and 3.9%, lower than the 4% we had expected.

    Everyone is watching the stock market lately, especially in light of next year's elections. The stock market now sits at about 9,000 points, higher than the 8,500 it was in 2000 when I assumed office. We have recovered from the darkest period and can now be more confident. It is foreseen by many institutions and foreign investors that the market will continue to climb through next year's election, or at least through the end of the year, at which point it could reach 10,000. The overall value of the stock market is now NT$22 trillion, compared with the NT$12 trillion it was in May of 2000.
    Although we have put a great deal of effort into developing the economy, we are now more concerned with striking a good balance between urban and rural development, between different industries, and between growth and preserving the environment.


    WSJA: What specifically is likely to be accomplished in the remaining eight months of your administration? Are we likely, for example—and this is on the economic front—are we likely to see additional progress in financial sector reform?

    President Chen: Of course, reform will continue. As I just mentioned, we seek to strike a good balance between urban and rural development. Apart from moving to increase investment in Taiwan, create job opportunities, and bridge the gap between urban and rural areas and the rich and poor, we are pushing the important "San Jhong" policy, which focuses on providing support for the middle and lower classes, small and medium-sized businesses, and Taiwan's central and southern regions.

    To strike a balance among industries—aside from semiconductors and display panels, the so-called trillion-dollar industries—we want to develop precision machinery, communications and electronics technology, and biotechnology. We look to develop these into the third, fourth, and fifth trillion-dollar industries.

    Apart from economic development and growth, we think it is equally important—if not more—to protect our environment because we only have one earth and one Taiwan. Balanced environmental development is no less important than economic development and its impressive statistics. Therefore, we want to dedicate ourselves to developing clean, renewable and alternative energy sources, including solar energy and biofuel.


    WSJA: [inaudible]…financial sector specifically, banking or the financial world … consolidation … what is the current state of the public goal in the financial sector? How many, you talked before about a number of, about a goal for a number of [inaudible]?

    President Chen: We are pushing many reforms, including financial reform. In 2001, one year after I assumed office, we passed six major financial reform bills, and we have been very successful in the first stages of reform, including cleaning up the credit departments of farmers' and fishermen's associations and writing off NT$1.6 trillion of bad loans, as well as reducing the non-performing loan ratio from a high of 11% to less than 2.3% for local banks. Of course, we cannot rest on our laurels, so we introduced a second stage of financial reform.

    The goals that we set for the second stage of reform have been partially met, although we are not fully satisfied with the current results. We hope to have three local banks enjoying 10% or more of market share each. In this regard, we are close to our goal. We are now working hard to have at least one of these local banks listed overseas, and I am hoping that we will attract foreign investors to run this bank. The goal of halving the number of local banks from twelve to six is achievable, but the difficulty is that Taiwan is a free market economy. So sometimes, we have a hard time persuading private financial holding companies to cooperate [with the set policies of the government]. So, there has been some delay with the schedule. As long as we can first reduce the number of local banks partially owned by the government by half, then private financial holding companies should also be able to be cut by half.

    Whether Taiwan needs so many financial holding companies is open to discussion. Many years ago, foreign investment institutions offered many suggestions and observed that the number of financial holdings in Taiwan should be reduced to between four and six. So our goal of decreasing the number of financial holdings from 14 to 7 is nearly in line with such suggestions. There are other good examples in East Asia, which Taiwan can learn from, for example, South Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They have engaged in similar efforts that can serve as reference for Taiwan.


    WSJA: Can you tell us a little bit why your party's candidate for President is so far behind and appears to continue to lose ground?

    President Chen: At present, my party's candidate is doing much better when compared with the situation I faced in the past two presidential elections. In both 2000 and 2004, I never won in any opinion polls or surveys. Even the day before voting day, I still ranked in second or even third place. In 2000, three or four months before the election, I was still third in the race. In 2004, my support rate was only half that of my opponent. Nevertheless, I won both times. I can give you another example. Towards the end of the Kaohsiung mayoral election last year, even the week before voting day, opinion polls indicated that our camp was 15% behind our opponents. In the end, we won that election.

    According to our own private opinion poll, the DPP ticket enjoys a much narrower margin than I did in the past. So, we have absolute confidence that our ticket will win in the March 22 election next year. It is "Taiwan Chang-Chang," or "long lasting prosperity" [here the President is making a play on the names of the DPP presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Frank Chang-ting Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang] versus the "one China, two people" ticket, which refers to [the KMT presidential ticket of] Ma Ying-jeou and Vincent Siew. In such a contest, the DPP has to come out on top.
    Elections in Taiwan cannot be compared to those elsewhere. The reason for this is the important role China plays here. Thanks to China, it is not just economic issues or pure competition between political parties [that determine how our elections turn out]. In the upcoming presidential election, we will not be able to avoid debating whether to follow a "pro-Taiwan" or "pro-China" line, and whether to respect a "Taiwan-centric" consciousness or a "greater China" consciousness. In the end, Taiwan will win because, in Taiwan's elections, China has never won.


    WSJA: President, what is the worst scenario in the coming legislative elections? What is the worst [inaudible] in the seats?


    President Chen: Actually, I discussed this issue and analyzed the situation with Frank Hsieh, the DPP presidential candidate, over lunch today. We hope that after we win the presidential election, we may discuss gaining a majority in the Legislature. That is why we hope next year in the January 12 legislative elections to win about 50 of the 113 seats so as to create a stable political situation that we might get things done.

    In the last election, we won 89 seats out of 225, which is about 40%. For this election, in which 113 seats are being contested, 40% would translate into 45 seats. Instead, we have set the goal 5 seats higher at 50 seats.
    This time we have a new "single district, two vote" [also known as "parallel voting"] system. Voters will cast two votes: one for a candidate and the other for a party. As I believe we will win the presidential election, I think we will do well in the legislative elections and will garner more support due to the proportional seats. We hope to win 15. And, apart from the seats for legislators representing indigenous peoples, we hope to win 35 district seats out of 73. So we are in position to win 50 seats overall. Right now, if we say that the opposition wins 63 seats, then we are 13 seats behind. If we are able to garner a further 7 seats, then we will have a majority. That is why I say we have the chance to win a majority. This is also why DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh has also said that if he wins, then he also has faith that we will be able to gain a majority in the Legislature.


    WSJA: A lot of people think that your optimism enjoys a significant chance, of course, and that the KMT takes the presidency. Even if it does not, a lot of people think that Mr. Hsieh has a different approach to cross-strait relations than yourself, in [and is] more coordinated, central, and less confrontational than you are. Are you concerned that your legacy or the one particularly on cross-strait relations will be undone whether it becomes the opposition wins or this running candidate who has a different position on cross-strait relations than you?

    President Chen: I don't think it matters. Whoever gets elected will not deviate much from this tone that I have set for cross-strait relations. Even in the case of Mr. Ma Ying-jeou, I think a lot of his policies regarding cross-strait relations are just electoral gambits and electoral rhetoric. Even if he had the chance to steer the helm of this country and affect cross-strait policy, it would not be for him to cling to his own course, as he would still be under the scrutiny of our Legislative Yuan, the opposition party, and public opinion.

    Taiwan-centric consciousness is on the rise and is already strong. It represents the opinion of the majority. We have embarked on this road—which is not just my road alone—and have come so far today, that whoever is elected next year will not be able to simply reverse the trend. This is not merely my own thinking, but a mainstream value of the majority of Taiwan's 23 million people.

    Take the example of the 2008 Olympic Torch relay. In the beginning, people held very divergent views. Some welcomed the coming of the Torch to Taiwan, but many of them came to understand China's continued suppression and the Beijing authorities' ongoing attempts to belittle Taiwan. Finally, the views of the various presidential candidates on the Torch relay have actually merged into one. Now, the view of the mainstream is that the Torch relay must pass through Taiwan with no strings attached. We will not welcome any further belittling or suppression of Taiwan by China. And I think this has become the general consensus among both the governing and opposition parties.

    Another good example is the issue of the referendum on Taiwan's entry to the UN. It is not based merely on my own view and determination to join the UN; it is based on the mainstream values of the people of Taiwan. Again, this is part of a trend and represents the will of the majority. Nobody can stand against such a tide and violate the aspirations of the majority, even though some have tried to simplify the issue, claiming I have my own personal agenda that I can push because I am President. This is entirely wrong and in just a few months, the majority opinion of the 23 million people of Taiwan will be clear for all to see.


    WSJA: Ten years from now, will Taiwan and China be closer?

    President Chen: I think change will take place in China, and China will change its attitude toward Taiwan because changes will also take place within Taiwan, especially the attitude the KMT holds toward China. Some have said that we were lucky in winning the 2000 presidential election, and they claim our success in the 2004 presidential election was due to the two bullets [that were fired at me]. But if we win in 2008, we will then have the possibility of winning a further election in 2012 and having a DPP administration for the next decade, in which case the KMT will have to face reality and change its tactics, instead of wasting its time fighting an unnecessary war and squandering Taiwan's resources. The KMT must change, and if the KMT changes, then the Communist Party of China will have to change and adjust its handling of the Taiwan issue.

    So over the next ten years, my prediction is that Taiwan will become more unified, more powerful, and only develop further. The same thing will happen on the other side of the Strait, and we will see greater peace, security, and stability in cross-strait relations.


    WSJA: You said China will change, meaning what? And the change in China will result in a closer relationship between Taiwan and China?

    President Chen: I believe that in the future, mainland tourists will be free to travel to Taiwan without the current restrictions imposed by their government, and there will be chartered flights for both cargo and tourists between the two sides of the Strait, creating a closer relationship between Taiwan and China. We will also see an ongoing consolidation and expansion of Taiwan-centric consciousness. The current divergent views on issues of national identity will become one, and Taiwan will be more unified and firm in its resolve, so that China will no longer be able to use united front tactics to divide Taiwan. Moreover, I think China's illusory hopes for the KMT's return to power will finally come to an end and die out. They may just have to face up to the fact that the DPP will continue to govern this country.


    WSJA: Given that both countries change in time, can you foresee a day it is one country, one economy, one government?

    President Chen: I think there will still be two countries.


    WSJA: There are comments and quite a while your [inaudible] criticism on China. What do you think China is doing right?

    President Chen: It is very difficult to say that they have done anything right so far.


    WSJA: The question asked is about everything, not just regarding Taiwan.
    President Chen: I think it is very difficult to find anything they have done right. From Taiwan's point of view, they have often done things wrong.
    WSJA: So large an economy? So fast the growth rate? So great its influences in the world? And it's hard to see anything?

    President Chen: Are China's rapid economic growth and expansion of power truly contributing to the world? Or do they spell the beginning of the end?


    WSJA: And what is the president's answer to that?

    President Chen: Let history decide. History will prove that I am right in this.


    WSJA: I see. Is there an individual in modern-day Chinese leadership in the mainland the President respects?

    President Chen: There have been precious few opportunities to gain information on the leading figures in the modern-day China, so on that ground, it would be hard for me to give an assessment of China's leaders. But from the point of view of Taiwan, its people, and its interests, we cannot hope for much from the Chinese government. Given the current environment in China, where ideology dominates, there is no room for the expression of individuality. Under the authoritarian dictatorship it is difficult for individuals to express themselves. It is not a question of particular people, or of who is good and who bad. It is the Communist Party of China as a whole that is the root of the problem.


    WSJA: [inaudible]…in anticipation about... [inaudible]… mainland Chinese versus Taiwan…freely and not [inaudible]…regular flights between Taiwan and China…charter flights …whatever ... [inaudible]…It seems like progress has kind of stalled on those fronts. Is it fair to say that it wouldn't be likely that we would see those two things happen ... [inaudible] [during the remaining months of your presidency]?

    President Chen: I don't think the Chinese government will be so generous as to give me credit [and facilitate such measures regarding cross-strait flights]. Take the Olympic Torch relay, for example. Originally, by the end of August, we had already struck a good deal and finished all the negotiations. But then the Chinese government created other obstacles all of a sudden. Only a regime like China's would do this. So we cannot place any hope in them [regarding cross-strait flights]. In closing, I would just like to apply one of our sayings to China: "The most you can expect is safety. Riches and long life cannot be hoped for."

    Due to quality of recording, certain portions of the interview were inaudible.
    Should discrepancies exist between the Chinese and English transcripts of the President's remarks, the Chinese version takes priority.

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    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  8. #8
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    The way Chen talks suggest that he is extremely narrow-minded. One should never guess how the future will look past a few years because it is far too unpredictable for any one man to simply say that their version of events will be right.
    Those who can't change become extinct.

  9. #9
    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    ray,

    over 100 years of living a rather different lifestyle, different experiences, and even a slightly different form of a writing system- that tends to do it.
    Also there's a good portion of the population in Taiwan who believe they are not Chinese, but Taiwanese. They have nothing in common with China. They regard the nationalists who escaped communism and arrived in Taiwan in 1949 to be "foreign occupiers" and are to be resisted. This is the Taiwan independence group and would like to see Taiwan in the UN as a form of tacit recognition by the international community of the Republic of Taiwan.

    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    the latest offer coming from the PRC is that taiwan is to keep everything it currently has, even the government and military if it so wishes, and that PRC officials will not be coming to taiwan. in return, taiwan acknowledges PRC sovereignty and gives up its own foreign affairs.

    that's better than what HK gets.

    however, taiwan is not HK. it's been ruling itself for as long as the modern-day PRC- not as a colony- and has been democratic for roughly the last 15 years.
    That looks like a pretty good offer.

    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    there's simply no incentive, past perhaps cultural incentive and some small economic incentive, for taiwanese to unify with the mainland. as the economies grow further intertwined, the latter will grow more dramatically. and then taiwanese may re-think the idea of unification...
    What incentive was there for HK to reunify with China? Or was that a legality thing as HK was a colony being returned?
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

  10. #10
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    gunnut,

    Also there's a good portion of the population in Taiwan who believe they are not Chinese, but Taiwanese. They have nothing in common with China. They regard the nationalists who escaped communism and arrived in Taiwan in 1949 to be "foreign occupiers" and are to be resisted. This is the Taiwan independence group and would like to see Taiwan in the UN as a form of tacit recognition by the international community of the Republic of Taiwan.
    undeniably true 20 years ago, even 15 years ago. the current pro-independence party (DPP/pan-green) has for its leaders people whom were arrested and even tortured by the nationalists.

    however, since the beginnings of democratization, the nationalists/pan-blue have done a good job of integrating native taiwanese (including han taiwanese) into their ranks, to the point where the mainlander faction has completely disappeared.

    That looks like a pretty good offer.
    status quo is better. in any case, after 10 years, when military parts rust away and cannot be replaced, that offer remains unchanged only at beijing's will.

    What incentive was there for HK to reunify with China? Or was that a legality thing as HK was a colony being returned?
    you got it, that was an agreed framework the british signed over. HK may be democratic in nature but was never a democracy.

    and in any case, deng xiaoping made it painfully clear that china would invade if the british tried holding out on them. so clear, that after the negotiations the iron lady herself was so shocked that she literally tripped. there's another incentive, right there...

    a different time.

    by the way, gunnut, bluesman told me you were taiwanese-born??? something like that??? is that right?
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  11. #11
    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    by the way, gunnut, bluesman told me you were taiwanese-born??? something like that??? is that right?
    That is correct. I was born in Taiwan. I speak fluent Mandarin.

    Something new you learn everyday at WAB.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

  12. #12
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    You're ethnic Chinese?

    Member of CDF?

  13. #13
    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    You're ethnic Chinese?

    Member of CDF?
    I am ethnic Chinese. Parents escaped the commies in 49. I was born and raised in Taiwan.

    CDF? As in the military of the Republic of China? No. Never served. I came to the sates before military age.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

  14. #14
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    No, China Defense Forum - an ACADEMIC, as in extremely dry, humourless, article filled forum, posssibly the largest, most certainly the most respected internet researched forum on the PLA and PRC foreign affairs matters. I'm a founder and a moderator in that forum. It's run by Americans and a Canadian (ie, me) and three of the seven admin were former NATO military and none PLA.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    No, China Defense Forum - an ACADEMIC, as in extremely dry, humourless, article filled forum, posssibly the largest, most certainly the most respected internet researched forum on the PLA and PRC foreign affairs matters. I'm a founder and a moderator in that forum. It's run by Americans and a Canadian (ie, me) and three of the seven admin were former NATO military and none PLA.
    Oh yeah, I remember now. I visit from time to time to read the articles, but never visited the forum and never registered.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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