FAPA 2013 Congressional Workshop in Washington DC
FAPA Statement on Taiwan’s Elections and U.S. Interests
(Washington, D.C. – September 18th 2014) – On Friday, September 12th 2014, at a conference on “Relations across the Taiwan Strait”, organized by the Brookings Institution, former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Richard Bush discussed how the United States government would approach the 2016 Taiwan presidential elections.
Mr. Bush indicated that “the US government, at some time and in some way will express itself on the implications of the 2016 elections for US interests.” He then described the dilemma that the US has a general principle of remaining neutral in elections of friendly democracies, but “… On the other hand, the US does have interests in the policies of any elected leadership…”
Mr. Bush then described a number of examples from the past, when the US expressed itself, covering the period 1996 through 2012. He in particular mentioned the December 2003 episode, when President George Bush – seated next to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao – wagged his finger as if pointing at Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian, telling him “not to change the status quo” by pushing for a referendum. In doing so, the US sided with a repressive and authoritarian China against a vibrant democracy intending to chart its own course through a democratic referendum.
Mr. Richard Bush ended his list of examples by referring to the September 2011 Financial Times episode, when – after a closed-door meeting of the US National Security Council with DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen – an NSC official called the Financial Times and expressed doubts about the China policies of Dr. Tsai. The call represented a serious violation of diplomatic protocol, and was also an unacceptable intrusion in Taiwan’s domestic politics, since it favored one side over the other. Mr. Bush’s statement that .. this is something we do, implies that he endorses the way it was done. This is totally unacceptable.
In response to Mr. Bush’s statement, the Formosan Association for Public Affairs wishes to state the following:
We have no objections to a constructive dialogue between the US and Taiwan on policy issues such as relations with China, but the way this is done is important. The US needs to realize that for the people of Taiwan, China’s threatening policies and presence are an existential threat: the Beijing authorities want to incorporate Taiwan and stifle its democracy, period.
In such a situation it would be highly desirable if the United States would strongly support policies that are truly consonant with US national interests, namely encourage and enhance Taiwan’s democracy, and create the space for people of Taiwan to decide their own future, instead of restricting and diminishing that space, as implied in the situations Mr. Bush mentioned. The latter approach runs counter to the values and principles of democracy and self-determination for which we in the United States should stand.
We therefore urge the US government to:
· Support policies that encourage and enhance Taiwan’s democracy, and thereby help create space for the people of Taiwan to decide their own future;
· Engage candidates and future leaders in a constructive two-way dialogue on important issues, and not resort to one-way dictates.
· Make it clear that the US will work closely with whatever leadership emerges from Taiwan’s free and fair elections to build on the enduring US commitment to Taiwan’s people, its prosperity, and peace.
Mark Kao, PhD, President, Formosan Association for Public Affairs