Time to reaffirm Taiwan-US ties

  • Post category:Op-Ed
Peter Chen, President of FAPA

Bad news has been coming out of China the past several weeks. Think tank reports say North Korea’s nuclear weapons materiel (Lithium-6 production equipment) and mobile ICBM launch vehicles (eight-axle Wanshan WS-51200s) were supplied by China. China’s strategy to gain sovereign control over the entire South China Sea is advancing.

At the same time, China seeks to export thousands of Chinese-made Buicks each month to the US, putting more US assembly workers out of jobs. Such news should surely dispirit US President Donald Trump’s administration as well as us.

On the other hand, Taiwan should be cause for economic and security optimism in Washington.

We welcome reports that the Trump administration is preparing a significant new defense equipment and services package for Taiwan, which will enhance Taiwan-US security cooperation and enable stronger coordination among the US’s security partners in the Western Pacific rim.

If the two nations were to establish a fair bilateral trade and investment regime, that would open the US investment market to Taiwanese financial institutions, which hold NT$24 trillion (US$785.3 billion) in excess savings. A bilateral Taiwan-US investment regime would strengthen both economies and permit Taiwan to reduce its finance and investment focus on China.

Taiwanese-Americans, like other Americans, are alarmed by China’s predatory infiltration of US technology, consumer, industrial, financial and real-estate markets and by China’s cynical manipulation of its currency and industrial policies, which have had the effect, if not the ultimate purpose, of eliminating the US as the world leader in advanced manufacturing and technology.

Taiwanese-Americans believe that a strong US is a guarantor of stability and freedom in the Western Pacific rim, and that a strong US-Taiwan partnership is essential to the US’ success as a Pacific power.

We anticipate that the summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Florida presents both opportunities and risks for the US, and ask Trump to keep the following in mind during his sessions with Xi.

First, China’s default negotiating posture is: “What is mine is mine; what is yours is negotiable.”

China’s goal is to supersede the US as the global hegemon and expand its sphere of influence at the cost of US interests and core values. Xi will exert heavy pressure to get Trump to abandon seven decades of US policy toward Taiwan and explicitly concede that “Taiwan is part of China.”

However, the core of the US’ Taiwan policy is enshrined in US law: The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and then-US president Ronald Reagan’s 1982 “six assurances.” These have been embraced by previous US administrations and both steadfastly rebuff China’s assertions of “sovereignty” over Taiwan.

These policies are not negotiable; not only from the perspective of Taiwanese, but also of US interests in the region, namely maintaining the stability of US trade, security and alliances.

Second, the Three Communiques — the 1972 Shanghai Communique between former US president Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong (毛澤東), the 1978 Normalization Communique and the 1982 Third Communique — are all predicated on China’s pledge to resolve peacefully all regional disputes, especially disputes with Taiwan.

These communiques are rendered void by China’s ratcheting threats of force in the Taiwan Strait, and the South and East China seas, which endanger freedom of navigation, commerce, and US security interests.

Third, Washington is the demanding party in bilateral US-China economic and financial negotiations, not Beijing.

In the past 30 years, China has gotten everything it has asked for, and then some, without giving up anything in return. It is time that US demands were met as repayment for decades of acquiescence and that China fulfill past promises.

Fourth, the US remains the preeminent power in the Pacific, despite China’s military and economic expansion. US partners in the Pacific remain force multipliers when confronting China’s challenges. The US’ alliances and partnerships in the Pacific, including its strong partnership with Taiwan, are essential to maintaining the leverage needed to confront Chinese misbehavior. What is needed in the Pacific is US strategic leadership.

Fifth, for decades, China’s objective has been to eclipse the US. China has no interest in “making America great again.”

On the contrary, China seeks to weaken the US and its values and interests. China’s leaders are masters at diverting attention with short-term, made-up distractions. For example, China has perpetuated the crisis with North Korea for the purpose of convincing successive Washington administrations that Beijing must be appeased if China is to cooperate.

Yet China’s “cooperation” has resulted in five North Korean nuclear detonations — two last year alone. It has also resulted in numerous North Korean missile tests, including missile trajectories that place the US in range.

Taiwanese-Americans believe that a strong US Taiwan partnership, in the context of robust US leadership in the Western Pacific, will keep America first in the Pacific. That is essential to maintaining US leadership in a world that is increasingly dominated by Chinese mercantilism and strategic intimidation.

A reaffirmation of that partnership would also send a welcome message to the US’ friends and allies around the world.

This article is first published in Taipei Times (2017/4/7)