The Strait Scoop
by Bevin Chu
Antiwar.com

February 4, 2000

Taiwan Independence Beats a Retreat

TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE DANCES TO A NEW TUNE

DPP Not to Seek Independence if Bejing Does Not Use Force: Chen

Taipei, Jan. 30 (CNA) Presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said on Sunday that unless Beijing tries to invade Taiwan by force, his party will not unilaterally seek Taiwan independence or hold a plebiscite on the matter...

Chen made the remarks in response to questions about whether he accepts "one China" as part of an agenda for cross-strait dialogue.

I LAUGHED, I CRIED

When I read the above news article I didnít know whether to laugh or cry.

I wanted to laugh because former Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian, one of the two most obdurate Taiwan separatists on the island, the other being "Mr. Democracy" Lee Teng-hui, felt compelled to publicly concede that advocacy of Taiwan independence is "piao fang du yiao" or "box office poison."

I wanted to cry because the far-sighted and idealistic pro-reunification New Party, which I enthusiastically endorse and support, has been subjected to years of unfair vilification as "tai jian," or "traitors to Taiwan," for urging the KMT and DPP to adopt precisely the cross-Straits policy Chen adopted, or pretended to adopt on January 30.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

When Chen Shui-bian declared that "unless Beijing tries to invade Taiwan by force, his party will not unilaterally seek Taiwan independence or hold a plebiscite on the matter..."

Chen was inverting cause and effect, and he damned well knew it. To anyone who knows the score in cross-Straits politics, Chenís Orwellian "Ignorance is Strength" declaration, is a joke missing a laugh line.

Chenís declaration should have read "unless Chenís party (the DPP) unilaterally seeks Taiwan independence or holds a plebiscite on the matter, Beijing will not try to invade Taiwan by force," because thatís the way it really is.

THE BUSINESS OF CHINA IS BUSINESS

Letís get real. Beijing has no desire whatsoever to invade Taiwan. Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongi, the "capitalist roaders" currently in charge in Beijing , unlike comic opera buffoon Lee Teng-hui, grok the Big Picture. They know "Itís the economy, stupid!" The last thing Jiang and Zhu want is yet another pesky distraction from their Number One Priority, dismantling Chinaís SOEís (State Owned Enterprises), which continue to bleed red ink at an alarming rate and stand squarely in the way of Chinaís vaunting ambition to join the ranks of the worldís economically and technologically advanced nations.

TO ASSUAGE MISGIVINGS

Chen Shui-bianís exposure to the outside world, is limited to a brief visit to Washington, D.C., a brief visit to Tokyo, and a brief visit to Europe. Total time away from the island of Taiwan? Less than one month.

Nevertheless Chen Shui-bian, in contrast to senile buffoon Lee Teng-hui, probably understands Chinaís priorities, however dimly. If so, why did Chen issue a policy statement which he himself knows is sheer nonsense?

Two reasons. Votes and face. Winning the former, and saving the latter. By paying high-profile public lip service to sound cross-Straits policy, Chen desperately hopes to win moderate support in the ROCís upcoming March 2000 presidential election.

As the CNA report put it:

"Chen, trying to assuage misgivings about the partyís stance on independence for Taiwan, also said that the DPP is open to discussing the concept of "one China" in cross-strait talks."

Chenís motive for caving in, at least for appearanceís sake, is no secret. Not in Taiwan. The ROC public is seriously phobic about irresponsible Taiwan independence bravado. The ROC public knows a unilateral declaration of independence guarantees a shooting war with Beijing.

The bottom line? The fanatically separatist DPP has been pulled inexorably toward the center by their desire to garner votes from a public which might trust the DPP to govern at the local level, but simply does not believe the DPP is mature or responsible enough to govern at the national level.

As New Party cofounder and former legislator Wang Chien-hsuan has patiently pointed out to the DPP again and again, the nominally reformist DPP would have unseated the irredeemably corrupt KMT years ago, if only it had the wisdom to forsake the pro-independence plank in its party constitution.

The DPP is finally, belatedly, grudgingly acknowledging something which for them is a distasteful fact: Taiwan independence has no market in Taiwan. Chen has been trumpeting his "xin zhong jian lu xian" or "new centrist path" for the past year, and moving steadily toward the center. Correction, Chen has been making a public show of moving toward the center. Letís not get carried away, after all.

So much for all the sanctimonious hogwash from the Taiwan independence elite and their richly-compensated apologists in our GOP Congress, about Taiwan independence reflecting "the democratic aspirations of the Taiwan people."

ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS

Meanwhile, Lee Teng-huiís cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) alleges that Ďthe "one country, two systems" formula Beijing has put forward for reunification has no market in Taiwan. More than 70 percent of Taiwanís citizens oppose the model, the MAC said.í

This of course is patent nonsense. By the MACís own admission "... over 80 percent of the people of Taiwan are in favor of maintaining the status quo."

What is the status quo? The status quo is a state of affairs under which rival regimes governing the mainland and Taiwan regions of China both define themselves as "China." The status quo is a state of affairs under which both Beijing and Taipei claim be the sole legitimate government of all of Chinaís sovereign territory.

This status quo ante already is, for all intents and purposes, "One Country, Two Systems," although it may not be exactly what Deng Xiaoping and his successor Jiang Zemin had in mind.

The Taiwan independence elite, needless to say, dismisses these claims, embodied in both the ROC and PRCís constitutions, as "unrealistic." The counterintuitive reality is that given the peculiar historical circumstances which have brought the two sides to their current "Mexican Standoff," these "unrealistic" claims are far more politically useful, and hence politically realistic than any quixotic yearning for a cost-free, bloodless bid for Taiwan independence.

THE THREE LINKS

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) further argues that "As Beijing has not renounced the possible use of force against Taiwan... those polled worry that direct transport links between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait would adversely affect the islandís security... [and hence] do not favor the unconditional opening of direct transport links."

The MAC, like Chen Shui-bian, is being disingenuous. The political hacks infesting the MAC know full well the only reason Beijing has not renounced, and is not about to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, is that an elite minority of Taiwan separatists wields power in Taipei. Absent an unambiguous and credible threat of force from the mainland, this elite minority of Stockholm-syndromized, Japanophile, Taiwan separatists would declare independence in a heartbeat, and shortly afterwards, hand Taiwan over to Japan.

Absent the potential for this separatist elite to sell out Chinaís sovereign territory, Beijing would be perfectly content to concede the Taiwan region enormous latitude, socially, economically, even politically.

What about the so-called direct transport links? Links which if instituted would purportedly "adversely affect the islandís security?"

For those unfamiliar with the Alice-in-Wonderland aspects of Taiwanís political culture, the "Three Links" refer to proposed direct commercial air travel, maritime shipping and postal connections between the island province of Taiwan and the mainland coastal provinces. Currently ROC businessmen and tourists alike traveling to and from the mainland must make money-wasting, and even more importantly, time-wasting detours through Hongkong or foreign countries.

If youíre scratching your head wondering just how the hell direct commercial airline flights to and from Taipei and Xiamen could possibly constitute an adverse threat to the islandís security, youíre not alone.

AN INORDINATE FEAR OF COMMUNISM

A couple of years ago my father, although officially retired from the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated as a senior consultant in a strategy summit dedicated to the question of whether to establish "Three Links."

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and a host of other ministries in attendance warmly endorsed the links as an unambiguous win/win proposition.

At this point however a frowning spokesman from the ROC National Security Agency rose to his feet and solemnly intoned, "But what if a commercial airliner were to land at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, filled with PLA troops? What would we do then?"

Dead silence prevailed within the conference hall.

At that moment Three Links died, stillborn.

In case you think Iím making this up, Iím sorry to say Iím not. Such is the intellectual level of political discourse in Taiwan today.

All too many Taiwan independence fanatics are pathetically insular, in the worst sense of the word. They are "jing di wah," or "well-bottom frogs," whose conception of the sky is a round blue circle.

A MODEST PROPOSAL

My father told me afterwards he struggled unsuccessfully to think of an appropriate comeback to the utterly moronic suggestion that an invasion force might book passage on regularly scheduled commercial airliners.

I suggested he should have proposed that ROC airport officials confront the invading PLA troops with a phalanx of stern female immigration officers. You know the kind Iím referring to. Theyíre identical all over the world. Pear-shaped figures. Unmistakable hints of moustaches. Picture East German prison camp wardesses. These fearsome figures would each be issued lethal-looking rubber stamps reading, "ENTRY REFUSED." Confronted with this intimidating array of bulldykes, any PLA Company Commander worth his salt would surely choose discretion as the better part of valor and order his men back on the plane and beat a hasty retreat, all the way back to Xiamen.

My father has assured me that if another ministerial level strategy conference is convened heíll make ample use of my modest proposal.

QUE SERA, SERA

A mere six weeks remain before ROCís March 18, 2000 presidential election. The latest polls suggest that former Taiwan Provincial Governor James Soong is now back in the lead, albeit by the slimmest of margins, over second place Chen Shui-bian, and by a somewhat wider margin over Lee Teng-huiís hand-picked successor, Lien Chan.

But this is ROC politics, where "ming yi ru liu shui," or "public sentiment is like flowing water."

Under normal circumstances the upcoming ROC presidential election, involving a total population (not voting population, mind you) of merely 22 million citizens, would hardly merit such intense international scrutiny. But these are not normal circumstances.

The most important bilateral international relationship in the 21st Century is the relationship between America, the wealthiest and militarily most powerful nation in the world, and China, the fastest-growing economy and most populous nation in the world. Taiwan independence is the single biggest stumbling block in the way of a peaceful and harmonious relationship between these two global giants. Hence the ROC election has assumed an importance far out of proportion to its actual, intrinsic significance. Whether war breaks out between America and China in the coming years may well be decided at the polls in Taipei in six weeks.

Let us hope that ROC voters vote responsibly, by voting for any one of the three reform candidates: Hsu Hsing-liang, Li Ao or James Soong, and refusing to vote for either separatist fanatic Chen Shui-bian or Lee Teng-huiís puppet, Lien Chan.

We live in interesting times, and we shall see what we shall see.

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