Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hillary Drops the Big One: Taiwan = Ukraine

Back in March, I presciently speculated about (and J. Michael Cole pined for) a Taiwanese political uprising that would combine domestic mass resistance to the KMT's mainland-friendly policies with US institutional support a la Maidan and whip up a political froth that might result in the sidelining of the KMT, the acquisition of political momentum and even political power by a pro-US/pro-independence led by the KMT's independence-friendly and mainland-averse rival, the Democratic People's Party, and a gigantic black eye for the People's Republic of China.

The first salvo occurred a couple days later, with the occupation of the ROC parliament by student demonstrators, the Sunflower Movement, opposed to a cross-strait trade and service pact negotiated between the government and the PRC.  At that time, the US government stayed on the sidelines and the semi-official US presence in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan, reviled by many as an enabler of KMT-PRC rapprochement don't rock the boatism, actually criticized the occupation.

Now it looks like Hillary Clinton has put Taiwan in play as a geopolitical counter in her ongoing confrontation with the People's Republic of China, which characterized her term as Secretary of State and looks to define, for better or worse, her expected presidency.  I don't believe that Secretary Clinton is just talking up the benefits of the Trans Pacific Partnership and Taiwan's membership in a U.S.-led trade bloc.  She's referring specifically to the advisability of putting a brake on development of cross-strait integration.

Expect the DPP and the Sunflower Movement to take Clinton's statements as offering the prospect of US support, as well as encouragement to resist the KMT government's cross-strait policies and challenge its legitimacy and effectiveness in a multitude of venues beyond the conventional electoral and parliamentary fora (where the DPP is currently trapped in impotent minority status thanks to the black magic of the democratic process).  Since the current government is pretty unpopular, there is ample mischief that can be achieved in the name of "national emergency".  Ma Ying-jyeou = Yanukovich, PRC = Russia, KMT = Party of Regions etc. 

And since the opposition to the KMT is firmly rooted in the discourse of Taiwan independence, there's even a World War III vibe over Taiwan that was only fitfully present in the whole US + Maidan v. Russia confrontation.

I guess Clinton is doing Taiwan the favor of warning it to conduct its pro-US political ruckus sooner than later so that, unlike Ukraine, it doesn't find itself torn in two by the struggle.

Good luck with that!  I predict interesting times.

From the June 25 Taipei Times:

Reliance on China makes Taiwan vulnerable: Clinton

Former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said the government’s push for closer cross-strait ties could lead to Taiwan losing its economic and political independence and becoming vulnerable to over-reliance on China, according to an interview in the next edition of the Chinese-language magazine Business Weekly.

Widely expected to make a run in the 2016 US presidential election, Clinton made her position on the Taiwan-China relationship clear in the interview, which was conducted in Los Angeles on Thursday last week.

Citing Ukraine’s relations with Russia as a cautionary tale, she advised Taiwan’s leaders to be careful, or Taiwan might lose its current political independence.

“Economic independence goes with political independence,” she said. “How far can you go before you lose your economic independence? Because it will affect your political independence.”
Economic opportunities mean there are growing cross-strait connections and now Taiwan has arrived at “a turning point,” she said.

“Now you have to decide how dependent economically you become… How ... do you handle the [cross-strait] relationship, if you say this far, but no farther?” Clinton said. “That will put pressure on you from China, if they want more, but you have to make these evaluations based on what you think is in the long-term interest of Taiwan.”

It may be difficult for Taiwan to strike a good balance with China, because “it will be harder and harder, because the demands from China will grow, because [China] is growing so much,” she said.
Taiwan should proceed with caution, as decisions made now could have “unintended consequences,” she said, adding, “you have to look five years, 10 years from now on, to see if that’s where you want to end up.”

She reiterated the US’ support for Taiwan.

“We have been willing to support Taiwan in many ways, [even] against China’s objections, and we will continue to do so,” she said.

The interview is reportedly Clinton’s first one-on-one with a Taiwanese media organization, and the first time she has stated her position on cross-strait development.

18 comments:

Latin America Studios said...

Great. So US policy should be - let's really antagonise Russia and China, but at least we'll get Ukraine and Taiwan as puppets. Sounds a strategy for success, prosperity and cooperation.

"Despite being in a minority", "the black magic of the democratic process"?? So no legitimacy at all, other than to claim the system's rigged. So if the legitimate government is toppled, nobody will support the new one - unless they wheel out helicopter gunships like they are against the populace of Ukraine.

Xinxi said...

The local Western expats will cheer her on. Same for the vocal minority of Hoklo-Taiwan-activists. And the silent majority of Taiwanese will continue voting for KMT or moderate DPP candidates and hope that nobody changes the status quo.

Seriously, would formal independence bring (m)any positive benefits? China might just treat Taiwanese companies like other foreign-owned enterprises, demand correct tax payments, and make life for Taiwanese businessmen unpleasant.

By the way: The metaphor of the Ukraine is actually quite good. Activists ignoring the will of the majority of voters, certain sympathies for past fascists regimes...

Mr. Stone said...

It doesn't matter what the "silent majority" does, Xinxi.

If the US drops five or ten billion dollars on destabilization efforts, the result will be much like Ukraine, today.

The Sunflower Movement was a test run - a classic color revolution technique.

Watch how the money flows. That's the key. If NED and IRI start ramping up their budget to Taiwan, trouble will follow.

Galen said...

No one should have any illusions that Taiwan is like Ukraine. Taiwan is universilly recognized, even by the US, as formally a part of China,i.e., the "one China policy"

China's longstanding position is that it will not allow an independent Taiwan and will go to war to prevent it. So if the US decides to support Taiwan independencem, it will mean war with China.

Joyce Chiu said...

United States is the world leader, not only because of its economic might and military power, but more importantly, because of its moral authority.

It's a nation founded on the ideals of "life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness", freedom, democracy, rule of law.

China is a country with economic might, but without any moral authority. It oppresses its own people, jails dissent, and commits unspeakable acts of violence not only against humanity [taking human organs live to sell on the black market], but also against animals and the earth.

The Taiwan student-led protest, the Sunflower Movement, is to oppose selling the right to decide their own future (democracy) on account of economy.

I believe, as a US naturalized citizen of Taiwan born of mainland China parents (1949), that as human society progresses, these democratic and individual freedom ideals will prevail. The process of getting there might be messy and circuitous, but the end result will be to achieve those ideals United States holds dear.

Let's look beyond purely economic interests, and look to what the founding fathers established 250 years ago!

Xinxi said...

@Galen: No, not anymore. At least I remember reports, maybe from 1/2 year ago, that some people in the Obama administration have stated that the US had only recognized that China *thinks* that Taiwan is part of China.

Mr. Stone said...

>>>United States is the world leader, not only because of its economic might and military power, but more importantly, because of its moral authority.

Apparently you've been asleep, the last 15 years, Joyce.

For all its problems, China isn't invading other countries and committing war crimes where it murders hundreds of thousands / millions of civilians.

You can argue that the US has "moral authority," but anyone who's been paying attention to what happened since Vietnam - even Korea - knows that the US has no more moral authority than any other aggressive invader of other countries.

Mr. Stone said...

>>>United States is the world leader, not only because of its economic might and military power, but more importantly, because of its moral authority.

Apparently you've been asleep, the last 15 years, Joyce.

For all its problems, China isn't invading other countries and committing war crimes where it murders hundreds of thousands / millions of civilians.

You can argue that the US has "moral authority," but anyone who's been paying attention to what happened since Vietnam - even Korea - knows that the US has no more moral authority than any other aggressive invader of other countries.

J Chiu said...

The main difference between China (ruled by communism) and United States is this.

Mainland China is ruled by dictatorship, one party rule, squashing dissent, jailing its own people, taking organs from live people for profit ... too numerous to name, without giving its people any voice, let alone freedom of thought, of speech, of congregation ...

United States is a democracy with lofty ideals. Has it made mistakes and served only its own best interests at the expense of others? Hell, yes! Have all its policies pleased all sides? No!

But the virtue of a democratic society and government with freedom of the press is this. Whatever mistakes it makes, there is a process to correct the course, to provide checks and balances, and to lead to the path of these ideals.

Communism, on the other hand, has no hope of such a system as "a government of the people, for the people, by the people". Have we seen a global trend of more dictatorship or a trend towards people power?

Human nature is a complicated combination of "good" and "evil" - self interests vs. the common good. Democracy is not perfect, but it has a chance of working.

Dictatorship does not.

It was an eye opener when we visited the Museum of Terror in Budapest, Hungary. There is a people who was not afraid of confronting its own ugly past and honestly presented a multi-media experience to say, "No more!"

Dear Mr. Stone, perhaps you should visit it some day?

Mr. Stone said...

[Yawn]

Been there. Done that.

You're a Taiwanese, talking about how China's worse than the US.

That probably marks you as a DPP nationalist. Are you from south Taiwan, perchance?


Mr. Stone said...

I do find it entertaining how the DPP suddenly finds KMT red-baiting / 白色恐怖-era 宣傳 so attractive, these days. Could it be that's because your party has aligned itself with the McCarthy / Goldwater wing of the Republican Party in the US?

Xinxi said...

Mr. Stone: Don't colour all South Taiwanese with the same brush. Most people in the R.O.C. are happy to start a slow process of integration as long as it will take 2, 3 decades or so. Expats and radical student activists are just very good at getting air time.
The silent majority has given president Ma 2 consecutive votes and everyone should/could have known his political attitude. It is astonishing that this is ignored by the sunflower-loving press.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

@Xinxi and Galen. It has always been the US position that the status of Taiwan is undetermined. This is from the US Congressional Research Service published Jan 2014:

"The United States has its own “one China” policy (vs. the PRC’s “one China” principle) and position on Taiwan’s status. Not recognizing th
e PRC’s claim over Taiwan nor Taiwan as a sovereign state, U.S. policy has considered Taiwan’s status as unsettled. Since a declaration by President Truman on June 27, 1950, during the Korean War, the United States has supported a future determination of the island’s status in a peaceful manner. The United States did not state a stance on the sovereign status of Taiwan in the three U.S.-PRC Joint Communiqués of 1972,
1979, and 1982. The United States simply “acknowledged” the “one China” position of both sides
of the Taiwan Strait. "

Second, it is wrong to assert that most people in Taiwan are happy with a slow process of integration. Yes, voters gave Ma two terms, but it was with clear promises that there would be no political talks (and after 6 years there haven't been). The simple fact is no president would be elected on a platform of slow political integration with China and there is a good chance the DPP will win in 2016 because of people's fears that integration is now happening (widespread fears not isolated to DPP supporters). Whether economic integration will result in Taiwan losing political freedoms, well we will see. But politics is complex and anyone who reduces it to simple "logic" that is, the people of Taiwan voted for Ma, therefore they must want... is pushing an agenda.

Poornimma Rajeev said...

many support taiwan in many ways against china.PRC pushed back to control the influx of asylum seekers

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Mr. Stone said...

>>>>The simple fact is no president would be elected on a platform of slow political integration with China

It has been my personal experience, after discussions with thousands of people, here, that the vast majority of Taiwanese favor a wait-and-see approach which includes a tacit acknowledgment that a slow political integration is the default conclusion.

Everyone agrees on prolonging that process. Only very simple, stupid people here - the sorts that embrace the idea of a permanent state of war, US military bases, and effective Cubanization of Taiwan vis a vis the Mainland - support the idea of independence.

Even most of the upper-level DPP recognize that independence is primarily a rhetorical tool, and the end result will eventually be "reunification". The only question is under what terms that will be.

Putting a limit on Ma's capacity to negotiate compromises with the Mainland was not a wholesale rejection of the possibility of integration. It was an indication of the lack of trust felt for old-school KMT like Ma represents.

Xinxi said...

"It has been my personal experience, after discussions with thousands of people, here, that the vast majority of Taiwanese favor a wait-and-see approach which includes a tacit acknowledgment that a slow political integration is the default conclusion."
Yes, I have the same impression - even in the deep South of Taiwan.

TopgunLin said...

I'm afraid you use a very different word from the USA official statement. US does not recognize but merely acknowledge the claim from China.

TopgunLin said...

I'm afraid you use a very different word from the USA official statement. US does not recognize but merely acknowledge the claim from China.