Taiwan Independence
and Free Lunches
Bevin Chu
Special to Antiwar.com


A standing joke among “Sinologists,” or China experts, is that the Taiwan independence movement’s leaders are “ready to fight to the last American G.I.” The Taiwan independence motto could be summed up as “Give me liberty, or give them death.”

Taiwan independence has little to do with genuine independence. Taiwan ”independence” is characterized by complete and utter dependency, materially and emotionally, on whomever wields the most power. A cliche constantly invoked in Taiwan political debates says it all: “Xi gua kao da bian” (“The watermelon tilts toward the big end.”)

Materially, the Taiwan independence movement is utterly dependent on America. Every evening, reunification proponents warn militant separatists on television debates they are courting disaster, and every evening the separatists argue that America will shield them from the negative consequences of refusing to negotiate in good faith with the Chinese mainland.

So far they have been proven right. Lawrence Eagleburger, Secretary of State to former President George Bush, lamented in the wake of President Bill Clinton’s kneejerk dispatch of two carrier battle groups to the Taiwan Straits in 1996: “They (Taiwan) have played us like a fiddle.”

The Taiwan Relations Act’s raison d’etre ended with Chairman Mao’s death and his replacement by the man Mao denounced as the “Number Two Capitalist Roader,” Deng Xiaoping. Whatever purpose it may have once served, it is now merely a blank check signed by Uncle Sam and made out to the Taiwan separatist leadership, to be cashed at their convenience. The amount is yet to be determined, but sooner or later it will be inked in with the blood of American G.I.s.

The east Asian financial crisis was an textbook case of what economists refer to as “moral hazard.” International Monetary Fund guarantees amounted to an artificial incentive for wealthy investors to indulge in high-risk speculation, knowing the IMF would pull their chestnuts out of the fire if they underestimated how hot it would get.

The Taiwan Relations Act is the political and military analog of IMF bailout guarantees, amounting to an artificial incentive for “stealth separatists” like Lee Teng-hui to deliberately adopt non-starter negotiating positions and engage in reckless brinksmanship. They know the US Seventh Fleet will come steaming to their rescue if they overplay their hand and Beijing calls their bluff.

The moral hazard of IMF intervention resulted in east Asia bleeding oceans of red ink. The moral hazard of well-intentioned but wrong-headed assurances of American military intervention in the Taiwan Straits will bleed oceans of something far more precious.

American military leaders who may be required to send Americans into combat are painfully aware of the implications of Lee Teng-hui’s shenanigans. As Admiral Dennis Blair, America’s top military commander in the Pacific testified before Congress, Taiwan was crapping in the “punch bowl” of US-China relations.

ROC President Lee Teng-hui watched with delight as the US Air Force served as the air wing of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The timing of Lee’s “two nations” provocation was hardly coincidental, coming as it did on the heels of NATO’s Chinese Embassy bombing fiasco. Lee interpreted the event as his cue to stoop over the punchbowl and take yet another dump.

Fifty-eight thousand Americans ordered to Vietnam came home in bodybags. A black granite monument on the National Mall inscribed with their names serves as a solemn reminder of that tragic waste of American lives.

If our Beltway Bombardiers have failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam, as it appears they have, and pointlessly dispatch young Americans halfway around the world to intervene in a Chinese Civil War that is none of our business, how many will return in bodybags from the Taiwan Straits? After it is all over, win, lose or draw, what would they have died for?

Are American values what the Taiwan separatists hold sacred and expect American fighing men and women to die for? If that were the case, American intervention on the separatists’ behalf might be slightly less absurd. But as we shall see, American values are not what the Taiwan independence movement is all about.

Ignore the scripted, feel-good speeches high-powered American PR firms like Cassidy & Associates have carefully coached Lee Teng-hui to spoonfeed our Congress and mainstream media. Ignore especially his 1996 “Always in my Heart” class reunion speech at Cornell, where he really laid it on with a trowel.

Instead find someone fluent in Chinese or better yet, Japanese, to translate what Lee and other Taiwanese separatists have written for the consumption of separatist militants in Taiwan and neo-fascist fellow travellers in Japan. Americans may be shocked to discover the Taiwanese separatists’ bottom line objection to eventual reunification with China has little to do with professed admiration for American concepts of individualism, liberty, republican government, and everything to do with nostalgia for authoritarian Japanese colonial rule.

Lee Teng-hui’s book Taiwan’s Proposal, published shortly before his “two nations” declaration, is Lee’s manifesto for Taiwan’s future. It was ghost-written by an anonymous Japanese author from a right wing Japanese perspective. The first edition was in written in Japanese and printed in Japan. Only later was it translated into Chinese and printed in Taiwan. In it Lee praises Japanese culture as being incomparably superior to American culture. Lee boasts publicly that he is more thoroughly steeped in Japanese culture than even the average Japanese.

In case that went by too fast, let me repeat it. A manifesto by the President of the Republic of China, purporting to represent the interests of the people of Taiwan, is actually penned by a neofascist Japanese author in Japan, published in Japan, and only gets translated into Chinese afterwards?


During a 1995 interview with visiting Japanese author Ryotaro Shiba, President Lee Teng-hui ordered his cabinet and bodyguards out of his office, and speaking in Japanese to a long lost countryman, gushed that he still considered himself Japanese until a young adult, wept when he heard Japan had surrended to the Allies and was returning Taiwan to China, and that his grief upon hearing Emperor Hirohito had died was more profound than that of Japanese in Japan. The conversation was ostensibly confidential, but Shiba, being a journalist first and Lee’s confidant only in Lee’s fevered imagination, promptly published their little tete a tete verbatim the minute he got back to Japan, where Japanese neo-fascists applauded it enthusiastically.

Far from being freedom fighters, Taiwanese “independence” leaders fell over each other to collaborate with Japanese colonial administrators for personal advantage.

Lee Teng-hui’s father collaborated by serving as a deputy in the colonial Japanese police force, actively oppressing his own people. In return, his family received comfortable housing, quality rations, and educational opportunities. Lee Teng-hui himself attended the Universty of Kyoto, a singular “honor” doled out only to those deemed “politically reliable.”

Lee’s chief negotiator in cross-Straits negotiations with Beijing is crony capitalist Koo Chen-fu. An historian at Taiwan’s Academia Sineca recently exposed Koo and the Koo family business empire as WWII era profiteers engaged in the selling of Taiwanese women into sexual slavery.

Younger Taiwan independence leaders born too late to have been collaborators routinely offer elaborate rationalizations for WWII era Japanese war crimes on local talk shows.

When China was refused an apology in writing from Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi for WWII war crimes, which included years of gang rape of Taiwanese ”comfort women” and Joseph Mengele-style Unit 731 “medical experiments” performed on American POWs in Manchuria, Lee Teng-hui huffily proclaimed that “Japan has apologized enough. Any further apologizing will only harm Japan’s dignity!”

Just before Lee threw his “two nations” gauntlet at Beijing’s feet, he told Taiwan’s media he detected early storm clouds of “kamikaze” (“divine wind”) gathering over the island of Taiwan. The media was baffled by his cryptic remark, but his intention soon became clear. Time is running out for Lee, just as it ran out for Japan’s kamikaze squadrons approaching V-J Day. Lee is hoping his “two nations” proclamation will provoke war. As Dr. Alex Kao, an expert on Chinese military strategy sees it, Lee is gambling that the mainland “will launch a premature war now which, 15 years from now, Taiwan would have no chance of winning.”

Emotionally, the Taiwan “independence” elite is dependent on their former colonial master, Japan, into whose arms they will fling themselves if their divorce from China becomes a reality. Taiwan “independence” is merely a way station en route to their final destination, Tokyo. Even their proposed “Republic of Taiwan” flag is a fascimile of the Japanese Emperor’s “Chrysanthemum Flag.” Taiwan separatists would be jubilant if upon achieving “independence” they are promptly re-colonized by Japan.

Taiwan independence is a movement which if genuinely understood would evoke scant sympathy from Americans, certainly not from American POWs who survived the Bataan Death March, and the Taiwan independence leaders know it. So instead they recite the catechism they know patriotic Americans want to hear: Freedom, democracy, anti-communism.

In a sense we shouldn’t blame the Taiwan “independence” parasites, who are really no different from sundry homegrown parasites. The parasites know perfectly well they’re getting a free lunch at American taxpayers’ expense, but as long as their generous Uncle Sammy insists on picking up the tab, they’d be crazy to pass up a free meal.

A few million in strategically distributed political contributions by the immensely wealthy Taiwan Lobby, and presto, highly-trained military personnel and trillions in advanced weaponry belonging to the World’s Only Remaining Superpower are placed at their disposal. Americans who enlisted in our armed forces on the understanding their duty was to defend American territory from foreign invaders find themselves job-shopped as mercenaries to would-be founders of a would-be “Republic of Taiwan.” The Taiwan tail winds up wagging the American dog. The Taiwan mouse roars, and the proud American eagle crosses the Pacific to do the mouse’s bidding.

A pretty shrewd bargain for the Taiwan “independence” movement. But what kind of a deal is it for Americans? We owe it to ourselves to consider long and hard whether Taiwan independence is something American taxpayers want to pay for with our sweat – and American fighting men and women want to pay for with their blood.

What will happen to 22 million ordinary Taiwanese if America repeals the Taiwan Relations Act and informs the obdurate separatist Lee Teng-hui “You want independence? Lots of luck. You’re on your own.”

The answer is: Not a damned thing.

Instead the Taiwan independence movement’s Japanophile elite will be forced to listen, for a change, to the 80% majority of Taiwan people who oppose Taiwan independence and are perfectly content with defacto autonomy. If they don’t, the people will elect a more rational president, one who will drive a hard bargain and negotiate a high degree of regional autonomy under a “One Country, Two Systems” formula. Later, as the mainland liberalizes to a degree deemed satisfactory by Taiwan, the two sides will reunify peacefully along the lines of East and West Germany.

Both America and China will win. Heavily armed Taiwan will get an even better deal than Hongkong, which to the chagrin of China-haters has remained utterly unmolested since its restoration to China, despite being completely unarmed.

Only the Taiwanese separatist fanatics will lose. Without America’s credit card on the dinner table they will have to stare at the prices on the menu before ordering. Without American carte blanche, Lee Teng-hui and his Taiwan ”independence” elite will have to ask themselves whether their dream of becoming a satellite of Japan is worth risking their own miserable hides, rather than the lives of American servicemen and women.

But, as the libertarian battle cry coined by the late, great libertarian science fiction master Robert Heinlein goes, “Tanstaafl!” or “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!”

The author is an American architect of Chinese descent registered to practice in Texas. Currently living and working in Taiwan, Chu is the son of a retired high-ranking diplomat with the ROC government.

Read previous articles by Bevin Chu, American Values in Dire Straits (8/10/99) and Inside the Taiwan Political Scene (8/19/99).

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