China Times: Truth behind dedication for new AIT compound

2018/06/14 14:44:04 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
CNA file photo

CNA file photo

Ryan Hass, director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia at the U.S. National Security Council from 2013-2017, drew a conclusion from a recent seminar held by the Brookings Institution and Center for Strategic and International Studies that the U.S. will adopt a "pro-Taiwan while not going against China" policy to deal with the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The visit by Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs at the U.S. Department of State, to attend the June 12 dedication for the new compound of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) serves as a clear footnote to that policy.

The U.S. administration is "pro-Taiwan," so it sent Royce to Taiwan to attend the ceremony, making her the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to visit this country since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) assumed office in May 2016.

The U.S. is not against China, so a speculated visit by a U.S. Cabinet heavyweight to Taiwan has yet to materialize.

The coincidence of the dedication for the new AIT complex with the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave a good excuse for the U.S. not to send a heavyweight official to Taiwan. Despite such elaborate planning by the U.S., the question still exists -- can Washington really carry out its "pro-Taiwan, not against China" policy?

Although it is an undeniable fact that both the U.S. government and private sector feel much closer to Taiwan than to China due to shared values and democratic systems, most U.S. think tanks and media are sympathetic to Taiwan's situation, evident in that all U.S. senators voted in favor of the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act.

However, that does not help Taiwan to spare its efforts when facing the cruel reality in the international community. The "pro- Taiwan, not against China" policy could instead put Taiwan in an even riskier situation.

With the ascendancy of China, U.S.-Taiwan ties are put within the frame of U.S.-China relations by Washington. Although Washington is "pro-Taiwan," its precondition is "not going against China," so as not to offend Beijing.

On the other hand, Taiwan needs to act in accordance with the will of the Americans. No matter how friendly the U.S. is to Taiwan, it is impossible for Taiwan to use it as a pawn to confront China or pursue independence.

Stephen J. Yates, a long-time supporter of Taiwan who visited Taiwan after Trump's election as U.S. president, also said Taiwan need not look to the U.S. to achieve independence.

The Trump administration has termed China a "rival power," while stressing that it will continue to try to partner with China. This provides wiggle room for Tsai while refusing to accept the "1992 consensus." However, it will increase uncertainty between the U.S. and China, making it increasingly hard for Washington to maintain a policy that is "pro-Taiwan while not going against China."

For example, U.S. sales of defensive arms to Taiwan are deemed by Washington as pro-Taiwan. But in the eyes of Beijing, they are moves against China.

More importantly, according to some Chinese scholars, the increased security cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan is because while the U.S. does not want to discard Taiwan, it is unwilling to fight for Taiwan. Therefore, it encourages Taiwan to step up its defense capability to avoid the risk of getting the U.S. involved in direct confrontation with China, they said.

We must treasure the U.S.-Taiwan ties, and it is also some consolation that the U.S. is pro-Taiwan. But we must not underestimate the political message behind the low-key AIT dedication ceremony.

Taiwan must watch closely which way the wind blows between the U.S. and China in order to prevent itself from becoming a victim caught between the two powers. (Editorial abstract -- June 14, 2018)

(By Flor Wang)

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