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Friday, January 25, 2008

In the news ニュース

I guess the bar for membership in the Pacific Forum CSIS, some kind of think tank based in Hawaii, must be set pretty low. At least that's how it seems, judging by the article that appeared in the Japan Times today ("How Ma's 'three nos' policy could impact cross-strait ties"), and authored by none other than the research institute's president, Ralph Cossa. For chrissake, I graduated from college 20 years ago with a political science degree, and have done nothing professionally with it since, yet I could have come up with a better analysis than Cossa's:

"Nationalist Party 中国国民党 (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou (Ba Eikyū) 馬英九 has proclaimed a 'three nos' policy — no unification, no independence, no use of force — in outlining his planned approach to cross-strait relations should he win the March 22 Taiwan presidential election. This is a clever take-off on China's long-standing 'three nos': no Taiwan independence; no 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan'; and no Taiwan membership in organizations where statehood is required. Ma's construct is much more thoughtful and positively oriented; it appears aimed at reassuring three main audiences: the people of Taiwan, China, and the United States and international community in general."

No, Ralph, there's nothing at all "clever" about Ma's "policy". All he has done is to proclaim the status quo that has existed between China and Taiwan for several decades. It gets worse:

"Ma's first 'no'...serves several important purposes. It aims first to reassure those at home who fear that if Ma were elected, he would somehow 'hand over Taiwan's sovereignty' to China. Nothing Ma has ever said would lead one to believe this is his intention. Just as it has proven impossible for current President Chen Shui-bian (Chin Suihen) 陳水扁 to unilaterally make Taiwan officially 'independent,' absent support from the people and legislature, it would be equally impossible for Ma to officially and unilaterally turn Taiwan into a Chinese province, even if he wanted to. Nonetheless, fears and accusations persist, even among those who should know better. Hence the domestic importance of the 'no unification negotiations' pledge."

Apparently Ralph is unaware that legislative elections were recently held in Taiwan, and that the KMT won an overwhelming majority of seats. The Kuomintang (Guomindang), in fact, is only four votes short of commanding the two-thirds majority in the legislature needed to rewrite the constitution. Ralph also seems ignorant of that fact that, for 40 years, the KMT maintained martial law on Taiwan under an authoritarian regime that imprisoned, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of people, which might just explain why those "fears and accusations persist". Cossa then moves on to Ma's next pledge:

"His second pledge, 'no pursuit of de jure independence,' is aimed first and foremost at Beijing, although the message is equally welcomed in Washington and around the globe. Moves toward independence, like beauty, are clearly in the eye of the beholder, but few would argue that Chen has taken a long (and continuing) series of steps that seem aimed at stretching to the limit (if not beyond) his own 'no independence' pledge. Both China and the international community would welcome an end to what often appears to be a deliberately provocative game of chicken by the current Taiwan administration."

Here Ralph uses a fancy phrase like "de jure デ・ジュリ independence", but overlooks the fact that Taiwan has been in just such a state ever since the KMT fled to the island at the end of the Chinese Civil War 国共内戦 in 1949. There are still 23 nations at last count that recognize the Republic of China 中華民国 as an independent state, while much of the rest of the world allows the ROC to maintain unofficial embassies in their countries, and accepts ROC passports from Taiwanese visitors. Taiwan is also permitted to participate in a number of international organizations, even if it is under ridiculous monikers like "Chinese Taipei" チャイニーズタイペイ. If all this isn't "de jure", then I don't know what is. Of course, if Ma, the public face of a party that officially believes in "reunifying" Taiwan with China, also denies Taiwan's de facto nationhood, then Cossa's assertion that:

" about reunification remains premature. In truth, nothing short of a remarkable complete political transformation on the mainland will ever make reunification attractive to the people of Taiwan."

isn't so reassuring after all. A political party with an authoritarian past that would control both the presidency and the legislature is a party that might not need concern itself with what the people think is attractive. Nonetheless, Ralph thinks he recognizes "reality":

"Let's be realistic: China will never give an unconditional 'no use of force' pledge. Beijing realizes that the primary deterrent to Taiwan moving toward de jure independence is fear of the possible consequences. It is unlikely to give up this important leverage. But it is not too much to challenge Beijing, after the Taiwan presidential election, to make a conditional no-use-of-force pledge; namely, that 'as long as the Taiwan authorities do not take steps toward de jure independence, China will remain completely committed to a peaceful resolution to the cross-strait issue.' This is, in fact, consistent with China's current stance and also with the (Anti-Secession Law 反分列国家法) . It would set a positive tone for the future development of cross-strait relations, especially if accompanied by a freeze or (preferably) reduction in the number of Chinese missiles currently pointed toward Taiwan. In keeping with the 'no use of force' pledge, the new Taiwan administration might also want to give serious consideration to scrapping its own offensive missile program."

I'm obviously no foreign policy "expert" like Ralph Cossa. I don't have his B.A. in international relations from Syracuse University, his M.B.A. from Pepperdine University, and his M.S. in strategic studies from the Defense Intelligence College. But how is it I have trouble reconciling China's so-called "commitment to a peaceful resolution to the cross-strait issue" with its deployment of over 900 ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan, (even though, as Ralph writes, "No one loses much sleep worrying about a Taiwan attack on the mainland.")? In fact, Ralph doesn't say much about Chinese missiles other than there should be a freeze or reduction, but somehow seems to feel that Taiwan is upsetting the balance here with its own missile program that, in all likelihood, is still in the development/testing phase. In fact, I recall reading a year or so ago that while the Chinese had deployed over 700 missiles (numbers vary), Taiwan had all of three prototypes aimed at China! Ralph is right - no one in Beijing is losing any sleep over that threat!

Cossa closes up by reminding himself just why he is such an "expert" on international affairs:

"Let me end with a bold (although some would say unrealistic or hopelessly naive) suggestion. Chen has said that his own 'four nos' policy will end with his administration — others will say it effectively ended months, if not years ago. Regardless, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 民主進歩党 candidate (Frank) Hsieh (Sha Chōtei) 謝長廷...has a clean slate in proclaiming his own list of assurances. Why not state, in the interest of (finally) having a bipartisan cross-strait policy, that he is also willing to endorse and adopt a similar 'no reunification, no independence, no use of force' policy?"

There's a good reason why some people would say Ralph's suggestion is unrealistic and hopelessly naive. For the past eight years, the KMT has pursued an obstructionist line towards Chen, delaying legislation, freezing or drastically cutting budgets, threatening recalls and so on. "Bipartisan" isn't a word that one would associate with the KMT's performance as the political opposition. It certainly looks like Ralph hasn't been paying much attention to Taiwan's domestic political affairs. And why is it Hsieh would have to accept Ma's proposals for there to be bipartisanship? I thought politics was the art of compromise. Ralph soldiers on:

"Such a move would help depoliticize Taiwan's most important and sensitive national security issue. It would help assure Beijing and Washington that the 'new' genuinely determined to set a more cooperative course. It would also reinforce the shared DPP/KMT goal of increasing Taiwan's 'international breathing space,' a goal that realistically can only be accomplished with Beijing's acquiescence. It would limit the impact of the Taiwan/U.N. referendum — separate KMT and DPP versions will be voted on during the presidential elections — and also help limit Chen's options if he is tempted to try to institutionalize his own more controversial and divisive approach toward cross-strait relations either before the election or during the post-(legislative) election, pre-May 20 inauguration period."

I'm not sure what it is Ralph is afraid Chen might do to "institutionalize" things here. Rename more companies? Remove more statues of dictators? Insist on using Tongyong Pinyin 通用拼音? Finally, he writes:

"In short, it (meaning Ralph's "bold" suggestion) would serve Taiwan's, Beijing's and Washington's national security interests and create a long overdue 'win, win, win' scenario. "

Everybody wins, except those who wish Taiwan could be an independent, democratic state welcomed into the family of nations. Next week Ralph Cossa will come up with fresh, daring proposals to end the Arab/Israeli stalemate! In the meantime, I'm left wondering why I'm finding it difficult to break out of my career rut, while so-called "experts" like Ralph Cossa phone-in their simplistic, one-sided "analyses" on complex international issues without bothering to do much background research. I suppose if I had a cushy egghead position in Honolulu, I would take it easy as well!

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