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[P]
Referendum, from Taiwan's perspective

By taiwanjohn in Op-Ed
Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 10:15:46 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Critics say Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's planned referendum is just a cheap political stunt to boost his own re-election bid. To do this now, they say, when America is tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, is downright reckless. Can't it wait until things cool down a bit?

The proposed referendum would ask voters whether Taiwan should buy more US-made weapons, and whether Taiwan should negotiate with China to establish a "peaceful and stable framework for cross-strait interactions."

China sees the move as a step toward independence...


This referendum will set an important precedent for Taiwan, effectively guaranteeing that any future plan for "reunification" with China will be put to a vote. It offers the Taiwanese some measure of protection against having a change in the status quo of de-facto independence forced on them without their consent.

The Taiwanese people deeply resent China's constant threats and insults, and Chen Shui-bian represents a large and growing proportion who see the referendum as a way to speak out on their own behalf. They object to having their sovereignty bartered and traded throughout history by external powers—Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, then Chinese again—without ever having a say in the matter.

Taiwan has been politically separate from China for over a century, and for the last decade and a half has been ruled by native-born leaders (first Lee Teng-hui, now Chen Shui-bian) for the first time in its history. Understandably, the Taiwanese people do not want to come under the thumb of the current regime in Beijing. Their country has already been occupied by one Chinese-style, single-party dictatorship, and they are glad to be rid of it.

Timing

Chen's current term of office ends in May. If he loses the election to the KMT camp, there might not be another chance to establish this all-important precedent. Since the enabling legislation for the referendum was just passed a few months ago, Chen has only a short window of opportunity.

If it has to be done in the next few months, it might as well be the same day as the presidential ballot. Elections are not cheap; combining them saves money. Moreover, Taiwan's outdated constitution requires voters to cast their ballots in person in the township where their family residence is registered. Changing one's residence registration ("hu-kou") is enough of a bureaucratic hassle that most people avoid it. (Of course, Beijing objects to Taiwan changing its constitution too.) Voting takes only an hour or so for the average Westerner, but for millions of urban transplants in Taiwan it involves an overnight trip.

The referendum is also expected to boost turnout at the polls, a Good Thing in a democracy by any account. As higher turnout is expected to favor Chen's re-election, one can hardly blame him for arranging the schedule to his own benefit. (Even so, Chen says the referendum is even more important than his own re-election.)

Threat of war

The most important question is, will China really attack if Taiwan holds a referendum? The answer is: No.

China does not yet have the military means to take Taiwan quickly and cleanly enough to get away with it. Thanks to America, Taiwan is well armed, and the strait itself makes invasion a risky business. China's only option is to destroy Taiwan outright with the 496 missiles it has prepared for this purpose—to directly attack the civilian population. But even then, there is no guarantee of success, and no guarantee the US would not impose sanctions or otherwise get involved. In any case, a cross-strait war would be an unmitigated disaster for China, not to mention the world at large.

China's banking system is a house of cards, there are frequent riots in the hinterlands, curruption is rampant, and for every up-and-coming yuppie in a big coastal city there are hundreds of angry, frustrated peasants in rural villages. In short, China's economic bubble is teetering on the brink, and separatists in Xinjiang and Tibet would no doubt see war as an opportunity. It might also inspire the 40-million-strong Falun Gong to get involved, or the estimated 100-million who protested in solidarity with the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement.

Realpolitik

It's precisely for these reasons that Beijing hammers this issue so relentlessly. Whipping up nationalistic fervor over Taiwan has always been a reliable source of legitimacy at home, and now the same legitimacy is sought abroad as well. The "return" of Taiwan would signal the world's acceptance of the Communist regime and its brutal methods.

The referendum makes it more difficult for China to achieve this. It is no longer possible to simply cut a deal with mainland-born politicians in the KMT; now Beijing must deal directly with the Taiwanese people.

Chen has played his cards shrewdly. Announcing the referendum, but not the actual wording, just before Wen Jiabao's visit to Washington, gave China a reason to complain and threaten. And President Bush dutifully served up a kow-tow to mollify Wen, branding Chen a troublemaker.

But now that the wording of the referendum has been finalized, the Bush administration is taking a softer line. Colin Powell now calls Chen "flexible", and has reiterated that America is not opposed to referendums per se.

Taiwan might be even better armed already, if Chen's proposals were not constantly blocked in the KMT-controlled legislature. Putting the issue of arms acquisition into the referendum will give Chen the clear mandate he needs to beef up Taiwan's native defenses. That is why the US is now far less disapproving of the idea.

Chen knew that Bush could not directly support the referendum without upsetting China, so he deliberately started with an extreme and ambiguous stance. This gave China a face-saving show of American anger at Taiwan. Similarly, the finalized wording has given America a show of "flexibility" to point to as proof that Chen is now toeing the line. But ultimately, Chen has not changed his goals; he's getting exactly what he wanted all along: self-determination for the Taiwanese people.

Democracy

There has been a tectonic shift in the Taiwanese electorate, away from China and unification, and toward a growing sense of "Taiwanese" identity, and yes, independence.

Even if we assume that Chen is cynically pandering for votes, we must admit that such tactics would only be used if there is strong support for his views among the voters. In fact, such support is so strong that even the KMT is now distancing itself from it's traditional policy of eventual unification.

Last December, Wang Jin-pyng, legislative speaker and head of the KMT's southern election campaign, said in an interview that the KMT no longer opposed eventual independence, no longer accepted the 1992 Consensus (One country, different interpretations), and agreed with Chen Shui-bian's characterization of "One country on either side." Beijing's response, in a People's Daily editorial, expressed, "deep concern" over the reversal, calling it "a bid to woo votes."

That single statement fairly sums up Beijing's entire attitude toward democracy: they object to it strenuously. They fear it.

Ironically, Taiwan is a perfect demonstration of why they needn't fear democracy at all. The KMT government started out in China as a single-party dictatorship on the Leninist model, just like the Chinese Communist Party. And although it is no longer "in power" in Taiwan at the moment, the KMT is still very powerful. It's high ranking members still enjoy great wealth and influence, despite their party's tyrannical history.

If the CCP were to follow the KMT's example, and implement true democratic reforms on the mainland, support in Taiwan for eventual unification would probably strengthen. But continued threats of force, without a doubt, serve only to increase support for independence.

Dictatorship

The Taiwanese people do not object to being Chinese, in the ethnic sense, but they will not willingly give up their democratic freedoms, which is what unification entails. The "one country, two systems" idea is bankrupt in Taiwan, after the way it has played out in Hong Kong. The only acceptable form of "reunification" would be peace between equals in some sort of Chinese federation.

Living memory reaches back almost to the beginning of the Japanese colonial era in Taiwan. Thus, Taiwanese voters have experienced three distinct forms of government. And of these, the period of Chinese-style dictatorship, imposed from the mainland, which ended just seventeen years ago, was by far the worst.

(A vivid and detailed account of the early part of that period was written by America's Vice-Consul in Taiwan at the time, George H. Kerr, and published in 1965 under the title Formosa Betrayed. The book is available free, online, at www.romanization.com/books/formosabetrayed/. It gives the reader a sense of how dearly the Taiwanese people have paid for democracy, and thus how dearly they might pay to keep it.)

Westerners tend to sympathize with both Taiwanese and Chinese people, for the various ways they both suffer from China's Communist government. We admire both cultures for their friendliness, diligence, and creativity, but when it comes to their governments, only one is seen as a threat. The threat of war in the Pacific comes not from a commonplace democratic procedure, but from a totalitarian regime seeking control of a strategic piece of territory—which happens to be a friendly democracy and important trading partner.

The Taiwan Question

Westerners, by and large, don't care whether Taiwan is independent or part of China. Acceptance of the "One China" policy is merely a diplomatic gesture to gain access to China's markets. What we really want is simply that there not be a cross-strait standoff anymore, so that everyone could get down to the business of making money.

And no one wants that outcome more than the Taiwanese themselves. Fully one fifth of all China's foreign direct investment (FDI) comes from Taiwan. That's twice as much as the number-two investor, America, puts in, even though America's population is over a dozen times bigger. But Taiwan cannot seriously be expected to open up direct transport links with China unless the latter renounces its threat of attack.

Some Americans, unfamiliar with the situation, have complained that they are not willing to "send their sons and daughters off to die" defending Taiwan and its "uppity" president. Such condescension is unbecoming to my fellow Americans. No one understands what's at stake in this referendum more keenly than the Taiwanese people. After all, if there is a war, it will be fought in their homeland, not America.

Yet clearly they want this referendum anyway, otherwise it wouldn't be happening, because no politician would see it as a vote getter.

The Taiwanese are not asking the West to fight their battles for them. But a measure of understanding and moral support would, no doubt, be greatly appreciated. All it would take is a simple request that China should renounce the use of force and remove its missiles. It is, after all, American policy that the Taiwan question must be resolved peacefully. And the threat to American security is war, not the holding of a referendum.

It's time the Western Powers started demanding greater reforms in general, despite China's complaints about interference in its domestic affairs. If China wants to play in the big kids' sandbox, it must learn to play by the big kids' rules—openness, transparency, freedom, and above all peace. As the SARS epidemic showed, these things affect not just the domestic population, but also the reliability of a government in its dealings with foreign concerns.

Democracy in China would transform the entire world order. It is the only sure way to avoid a conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

What US Citizens Can Do: There is a bill in Congress this term (Spring, 2004), a resolution affirming Taiwan's right to hold a referendum. Contact your representatives and tell them to support it.

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Poll
The western/democratic powers should:
o Drop all support of Taiwan and let China have its way. 7%
o Rebuke both China and Taiwan for upsetting the status-quo. 5%
o Rebuke only Taiwan for upsetting the status-quo. 3%
o Rebuke only China for upsetting the status-quo, and demand a renunciation of the use of force in the Strait. 5%
o Rebuke no one, but praise Taiwan's referendum as a democratic advance. 5%
o Stop short of recognition, but work assertively for Taiwan's participation in international organizations, such as the UN, WHO, etc. 15%
o Recognize Taiwan as an independent country. 54%

Votes: 51
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o referendum
o referendum [2]
o Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, then Chinese again
o occupied
o dictatorsh ip
o more important than his own re-election
o invasion a risky business
o banking system is a house of cards
o riots
o curruption
o China's economic bubble
o brutal methods
o kow-tow
o wording of the referendum has been finalized
o flexible
o face-savin g
o People's Daily
o one country, two systems
o www.romani zation.com/books/formosabetrayed/
o independen t or part of China
o Also by taiwanjohn


Display: Sort:
Referendum, from Taiwan's perspective | 60 comments (47 topical, 13 editorial, 1 hidden)
+1, Important issue (2.77 / 9) (#8)
by flo on Sat Jan 31, 2004 at 03:42:06 PM EST

I'm glad that this topic is being raised here, more people should be aware of what is going on in the Taiwan Straits.

Here're a few comments that might help K5ers better understand what's going on over there. Diclaimer: I lived in Taiwan for 8 months last year (yes, I wore a facemask during the SARS episode), and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I am hardly an expert on Taiwan and cross-Strait relations.

Firstly, Taiwan is inhabited by essentially two different groups of ethnic Chinese. The first, and slightly larger, group are the "Taiwanese" (as they are called there). They settled Taiwan a few centuries ago, and speak a Chinese dialect called "Hakka" or "Fujianese", which is closely related (equal?) to one of the dialects spoken in mainland China near the Taiwan Strait. Their cultural capital is Tainan, in the Southern part of Taiwan. There you can see the most traditional temples, as well as an old Dutch fort and other relics from Taiwan's history.

The second group are the "Chinese", these come from all over the mainland, and had fled to Taiwan together with Chiang Kai-Chek when the communists won the civil war at the end of the 1940s. They mostly speak Mandarin, which is the "official" Chinese dialect, and by far the most common on the mainland. They basically ruled over Taiwan until recently, via the KMT party. Their powerbase is Taipei.

There are also some smaller groups, such as the 11 aboriginal tribes (related to Polynesians), who are the remnants of the people who lived in Taiwan before the first group settled, as well some foreigners. As may be expected, most of the "Taiwanese" support independence, whereas most of the "Chinese" support eventual reunification, although important minorities in both groups support the opposite view. However, both groups consider themselves to be Chinese, and live in a traditional Chinese culture.

What's my take on the situation? I believe one should try to keep the status quo, as any deviation from it would probably lead to violence. If Taiwan declares independence, Beijing is almost sure to attack. The reason for this is "face". In Chinese culture, everything revolves about keeping face. The Beijing governement stands to to lose a huge amount of face if Taiwan secedes, especially after all the threats they have been making over the years. For them, this loss of face would be considerably worse than damage done by a war with Taiwan. They are also clever enough to know that the USA would not mount any serious defence of Taiwan in the event of such an attack. Why? Because China is a much bigger trading partner than Taiwan, and is becoming more and more important. Besides, China might actually fight back, and they have nukes. In the last 50 years, the USA has learnt that it is (currently) most profitable to fight wars only against extremely weak opponents.

On the other hand, the Taiwanese are not ready to be absorbed by China, for various reasons. One is economical. They like their free-market system, and are very good at making money. They don't want any restrictions slapped on them. However, as the Chinese economy is modernising at an impressive rate, this point is losing its relevance. The other point is, of course, freedon and democracy, and self-rule. The Taiwanese have only recently acquired this, and are loathe to give it up again. But is this feeling strong enough to withstand the enormous pressure pushing towards eventual reunification? Unfortunately, I think history has shown that the peoples' desire for freedom and basic human rights is a weaker force than that of the economical and practical. I reckon that, once the Chinese economy has become sufficiently capitalist, Taiwan will eventually be absorbed. And the Western media will look elsewhere.
---------
"Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Good info, mostly... (2.80 / 5) (#9)
by taiwanjohn on Sat Jan 31, 2004 at 04:36:58 PM EST

First, thanks for writing this. You provide a lot of background info that I couldn't include. (As is, the article is already pushing 2000 words!)

The two main ethnic groups are "Taiwanese" (ben-sheng-ren, from this province) and "Mainlanders" (wai-sheng-ren, from other provinces).

The mainlanders are the ones who came over in the late 1940s with Chiang Kai-shek. The Taiwanese are further subdivided into Hakka, Cantonese, Fujianese, and aboriginals. Aboriginals include 12 officially recognized tribes (a 13th known tribe is now extinct).

Each of these groups has its own language. But during the KMT's martial law era, only the mainlanders language, Mandarin, was allowed.

Among these groups, the Fujianese are most closely associated with the term "Taiwanese", and their power-base is definitely down south, in Tainan and Kaohsiung. Lately however, the term "Taiwanese" has taken on a broader sense, inclusive of any ethnic background.

The Hakkas' power-base is in north-central Taiwan, around Hsin-chu.

As for Chinese identity, polls show that Taiwan's population has defined itself as steadily more Taiwanese and less Chinese over the last decade or more. The number who describe themselves as "Chinese" has dwindled to less than ten percent, and the number who call themselves both Chinese and Taiwanese has also shrunk, while the "Taiwanese" have increased dramatically in recent years.

You're quite right on the issue of "face", and how much of it Beijing would lose if it failed to retake Taiwan. But you're wrong if you think the US won't do anything to prevent the PRC from doing so.

Right now, China is hemmed in on every side by less-than-friendly powers. Taiwan would give the PRC its welcome-mat to the entire Pacific. The US is not about to let that happen!

Yes, China has nukes... a whole two-dozen of them. The US has thousands. China is not going to use nuclear weapons against the US. It would be suicide.

As for whether or not the Taiwanese will stand up to China and demand their democracy... read the book. I've lived here for ten years, and I didn't know half the shit I learned from that one document.

Cheers,

--jrd

[ Parent ]

I stand corrected (none / 1) (#13)
by flo on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 08:31:40 AM EST

Looks like I got most of my details wrong. What I wrote was the basic impression I got from when I was there (in Hsin-chu, actually).

As for the China vs USA issue, I'm not sure I agree. At least we both agree that the US's actions will be dictated entirely by what is good for the USA. Unfortunately, the actual fate of the Taiwanese people will not enter into the equation, except in the form of (empty) public statements. I predict that Taiwan will be absorbed into China within the next 10-15 years, probably relatively peacefully, and will keep some special status similar to Hong Kong for a while.
---------
"Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
[ Parent ]
Fate of Taiwan... (none / 0) (#16)
by taiwanjohn on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 01:52:19 PM EST

Demographics are confusing in Taiwan, because people form constituencies along so many different lines. There is the primary separation between Mainlanders whose families came to Taiwan in 1949, and the Taiwanese whose ancestors immigrated in the 18th or 19th Century. These two constituencies closely overlap the division between unification and independence factions.

Then there are the ethnic divisions between Fukianese, Hakka, Cantonese. The Mainlanders are evenly spread among these three language/ethnic groups, plus many other Chinese sub-cultures, like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing. The Taiwanese comprise almost all of the Fukianese, and maybe two thirds of the Hakka and Cantonese. (These statistics are just my best guess, so handle accordingly.)

And to further confuse matters, "Taiwanese" is also the word for the "Min-Nan" dialect, which is a cousin of Fukianese, spoken by the Fukianese group. So "Taiwanese" denotes both an immigrant group and an ethnic group.

But in the last few years, "Taiwanese" has taken on a new meaning for a new identity, an identity that defines itself at least in part as, "Not Chinese." This group is the most inclusive, because any citizen can be in it, as long as that citizenship in a free Taiwan is his primary "group affiliation". In the younger generation especially, even a lot of Mainlanders identify themselves as "Taiwanese" these days. They say it with pride, knowing their particular mix of cultural influences is unique.

They do not see themselves as Chinese (except in the ethnic sense), but rather as Taiwanese.

So much of that heritage was suppressed by the KMT for so long, it has only recently started to flourish again. For example, today's college students are the first generation to have no memory of being forbidden to speak their native (family) language in school. Everyone over 25 remembers being fined (or perhaps getting a ruler across the palm) as a kid for speaking their own language instead of the "official" Mandarin dialect. History was taught from a China-centric point of view, to inculcate the One China mantra.

But in the last few years, people have started to realize, "Hey, I don't have to be Chinese anymore, I can be Taiwanese now." Until 1987 that was illegal in Taiwan. Now the only thing trying to stop them from saying that is China. Indeed, when Lee Teng-hui started using the "T" word in the 1996 presidential campaign, China responded with live-fire missile tests.

Since then, Taiwan has endured much humiliation and hardship from Beijing. Taiwan's very existence as an example of "Chinese" freedom and democracy is taken as an insult by China's current rulers (who should instead try to learn from its success).

On the US we agree. But on China, I think it's more likely the regime will collapse within 10 or 15 years. I just hope it will happen fairly peacefully, as it did in Taiwan. Either way, after the collapse, yes, Taiwan might agree to join a new democratic China.

But the Taiwanese will not join the current incarnation of China. They will not accept any unification deal that in any way implies a "right" for the PRC government to use force against any citizen of Taiwan for any reason. In 1989, Beijing proved it does not deserve that right. No population on earth was more glued to the TV during the Tiananmen uprising than Taiwan.

The "crisis" in the Taiwan Strait originates not in Taipei, but Beijing. The Taiwanese are quite happy to maintain the status-quo of de-facto independence forever. China is the one upsetting the apple cart, demanding a change in the status-quo with no guarantee of safety from repressive encroachments, as we've seen in Hong Kong.

China's only chance to woo Taiwan into eventual unification is to renounce the use of force. In fact, if China renounced the use of force tomorrow, the KMT/PFP ticket might very well unseat Chen in the presidential election on March 20th.

It's such a simple thing, but they just don't get it. They've been playing "Bad Cop" so long they forgot you're supposed to mix in at least a little bit of "Good Cop" once in a while, if you want to get results.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Correction... (none / 0) (#19)
by taiwanjohn on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 02:29:51 PM EST

And to further confuse matters, "Taiwanese" is also the word for the "Min-Nan" dialect, which is a cousin of Fukianese, spoken by the Fukianese group. So "Taiwanese" denotes both an immigrant group and an ethnic group.

The point is, the two "Taiwanese" groups are different. Not all Min-Nan speakers are in the immigrant group, but that group does include the aboriginal tribes, since the Mainlander/Taiwanese demarcation is 1945~49, and they were obviously here before that.

This is confusing for the Taiwanese themselves, which is one reason why it's taken this long for this Taiwanese identity to develop, after martial law was lifted in 1987.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

some points (none / 0) (#33)
by Phil San on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 10:54:20 AM EST

I'm glad that this topic is being raised here, more people should be aware of what is going on in the Taiwan Straits.

I'm aware that a virtually unrepentent Lenninist state is more or less going to kill that last bastion of democratic inclined Chinese because of the United States' "containment" strategy.

Here're a few comments that might help K5ers better understand what's going on over there. Diclaimer: I lived in Taiwan for 8 months last year (yes, I wore a facemask during the SARS episode), and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I am hardly an expert on Taiwan and cross-Strait relations.

So much the better that means you most likely won't use words like "hegemony" and "dialectic" in the same sentence.

Firstly, Taiwan is inhabited by essentially two different groups of ethnic Chinese. The first, and slightly larger, group are the "Taiwanese" (as they are called there). They settled Taiwan a few centuries ago, and speak a Chinese dialect called "Hakka" or "Fujianese", which is closely related (equal?) to one of the dialects spoken in mainland China near the Taiwan Strait. Their cultural capital is Tainan, in the Southern part of Taiwan. There you can see the most traditional temples, as well as an old Dutch fort and other relics from Taiwan's history.

Yes and this is important how now to what they should/are doing? I don't mean to belittle this but so many people in the world use "cultural difference" as a way of doing a cop out when discussing events. To give a trivial example everyone will go on and on about how this and that ethnic group in say Ruwanda, Burma, or Iraq hates each other. I say exactly how is this different from the problems of blacks and whites in the United States? Of course it's just imperative to deal with this in the world we live in but the rest of the world get off claiming that they have this strong level of hatred and they just have to have seperate country's/governments/lines for the merry-go-ground. It's pathetic.

The second group are the "Chinese", these come from all over the mainland, and had fled to Taiwan together with Chiang Kai-Chek when the communists won the civil war at the end of the 1940s. They mostly speak Mandarin, which is the "official" Chinese dialect, and by far the most common on the mainland. They basically ruled over Taiwan until recently, via the KMT party. Their powerbase is Taipei.

This is the group that I would support. I believe that they made their mistakes but for the most part the Lenninists took the old carrot and the stick approach with the people of China about all the wonderful world they would create and then played the old switcheroo on them. Frankly it's hard to compete with an enemy that can make pie in the sky promises and then points to your every mistake as an evil.

There are also some smaller groups, such as the 11 aboriginal tribes (related to Polynesians), who are the remnants of the people who lived in Taiwan before the first group settled, as well some foreigners. As may be expected, most of the "Taiwanese" support independence, whereas most of the "Chinese" support eventual reunification, although important minorities in both groups support the opposite view. However, both groups consider themselves to be Chinese, and live in a traditional Chinese culture.

I don't think that Marxist inspired Lenninism is a traditional Chinese artifact. Really do these people think that they are going to live in a world of happy bunnies and sunshine if they like the totalitarian Chinese get ahold of them? Really they must be thick.

What's my take on the situation? I believe one should try to keep the status quo, as any deviation from it would probably lead to violence. If Taiwan declares independence, Beijing is almost sure to attack. The reason for this is "face". In Chinese culture, everything revolves about keeping face. The Beijing governement stands to to lose a huge amount of face if Taiwan secedes, especially after all the threats they have been making over the years. For them, this loss of face would be considerably worse than damage done by a war with Taiwan. They are also clever enough to know that the USA would not mount any serious defence of Taiwan in the event of such an attack. Why? Because China is a much bigger trading partner than Taiwan, and is becoming more and more important. Besides, China might actually fight back, and they have nukes. In the last 50 years, the USA has learnt that it is (currently) most profitable to fight wars only against extremely weak opponents.

Aaaah and here is the nice weasel out position that most political science people take. Don't deal with a threat with any action when the going gets tough, "contain" the threat2 with the power of the Cold War V2.5 (now out of beta testing). Here's a thought to people maybe the Chinese "government" (read police state) needs to actually be something resembling a democracy (and economic democracy dosn't ammount to much when you can have a police state that Hitler would have only dreamed of) rather than what it is. Supporting Tiwan is important because it's the last vestige of any true government that wasn't founded on gross exagerations and lies.

On the other hand, the Taiwanese are not ready to be absorbed by China, for various reasons. One is economical. They like their free-market system, and are very good at making money. They don't want any restrictions slapped on them. However, as the Chinese economy is modernising at an impressive rate, this point is losing its relevance. The other point is, of course, freedon and democracy, and self-rule. The Taiwanese have only recently acquired this, and are loathe to give it up again. But is this feeling strong enough to withstand the enormous pressure pushing towards eventual reunification? Unfortunately, I think history has shown that the peoples' desire for freedom and basic human rights is a weaker force than that of the economical and practical. I reckon that, once the Chinese economy has become sufficiently capitalist, Taiwan will eventually be absorbed. And the Western media will look elsewhere.

And we ditch a group of people because it's inconvinent and we don't like to get rid of evil on that scale.

Maybe the reason they don't want to be with China is because they would have shall we say a little "accident" if they do.

This would be like asking say Finland if it wanted to join the USSR back in the day. Only an idiot would want that.

2Imagine a really wimpy type of siege wherein the army tries to surround the city and threaten to prevent their army from leaving or doing any real moves but still allows virtually anyone including traders, citizens, etc to leave.

[ Parent ]
We want a referendum too on the War on Terror (1.25 / 12) (#10)
by United Fools on Sat Jan 31, 2004 at 06:01:04 PM EST

We want a referendum here in the US on whether bin Laden is evil and al Qaeda should be defeated. That will be the true expression of the will of the American people!
We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
Like all good Americans... (1.13 / 22) (#12)
by theElectron on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 12:14:15 AM EST

I very fervently look forward to a nuclear world war against the Red Chinese. I often go to bed at night with visions of fields of godless Chinaman being hewn like so many cords of wood with the incendiary projectiles of a circling AC-130's M134 GE Minigun.

The Taiwanese people should know that America stands behind them, ready to dispatch, with her M1911 of Justice, as many of their yellow slant-eyed breathern as necessary in order to defend their God-given liberty.

--
Join the NRA!

Have you considered running for office? (3.00 / 3) (#18)
by ti dave on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 02:05:37 PM EST

I'd like to be your campaign manager, should you choose to run.
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Long time no e- (none / 0) (#20)
by taiwanjohn on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 02:35:20 PM EST

Hi tE,

Nice to see your negative charge has not weakened... ;-)

--jrd

[ Parent ]

China's strategic nuclear force is a joke (none / 0) (#27)
by sellison on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 12:05:04 AM EST

we'd maybe lose LA, Seattle, and SF, while all of China would be reduced to glassy sand.

No, the Chinese will never attack the US with strategic nukes over Taiwan, instead they will seek to gain a conventional ability to harm our carriers.

They might include tactical nukes in that attempt, but I doubt even that, as that would give us an excuse to eliminate their entire fleet and air force rather than just those elements that try to cross the straights.

No, China is a paper tiger, Taiwan should declare independence now, while a man with a brass set sits in Lincoln's chair, and in a decade the whole thing will be forgotten.


"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

I heard that (none / 0) (#42)
by theElectron on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 06:48:36 PM EST

we'd maybe lose LA, Seattle, and SF, while all of China would be reduced to glassy sand.

We should be so lucky.

--
Join the NRA!
[ Parent ]

I hope you were being tongue-in-cheek... (none / 0) (#56)
by Kiyooka on Fri Feb 06, 2004 at 03:21:02 PM EST

because mowing down Chinese people would make you even more "godless" than them. And whatever happened to God/Love is colour-blind?

[ Parent ]
In a nutshell... (2.25 / 8) (#23)
by BadDoggie on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 06:35:04 PM EST

I'm not prepared to spend the next three hours writing a long response, but chew on this:

You are asking the West to fight your battles. You depend primarily on the U.S.' foreign policy to protect you from China. Your politicians actively antagonize China to gain voter support. You kick sand in their face and run to the U.S. to protect you.

In case you haven't noticed, we're a little busy at the moment, both at home and abroad.

Leave China the hell alone. Settle your disputes (like the ones over the Senkaku Islands/"Diaoyu Tai" and Paracel Islands) and make closer friends with Japan. It wouldn't hurt to have Viet Nam on your side, either. And you could get Malaysia and the Philippines on your side as well if you'd settle the Spratly Islands dispute better than that "Declaration on Conduct" you signed and which isn't legal binding.

After you're friendlier with your neighbours, ally with them. The U.S. 7th Fleet is rather busy and can't keep risking a showdown with China when a few of your politicians run their yaps. Write at home as passionately as you wrote here.

We know how hard it is to get people to do what they should, like not allowing a politician to spew populist crap to get votes. The whole world is hearing what the U.S. propaganda channels (CNN, Fox, et al.) are broadcasting, but an increasing number of Americans are getting tired of it. You need to do the same with your people.

You mentioned your new system, yet another on of the bloodless revolutions which have been so prevalent over the past 15 years.
Get your politicians to stop antagonising China or you won't have this system much longer. The U.S. is not going to fire a gun at China.

You changed your system; the question is, can you make it a better one?

woof.

"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

Simplistic views... (none / 0) (#25)
by taiwanjohn on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 10:53:46 PM EST

(Note: While I understand "you" is a convenient pronoun, it doesn't apply to me personally, when referring to the Taiwanese. I am an American, of German ancestry, living in Taiwan for over ten years.)

Leave China the hell alone.

Wow, who knew it was so easy? All Taiwan has to do is "Leave China the hell alone" and everything will be hunky dory. Thanks for clearing that up.

And those island disputes too would simply evaporate if Taiwan would just shape up. It's not as though China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, or Japan contribute anything to the difficulty of finding a resolution.

And what a relief to know that Taiwan can have improved relations with all those countries by just flipping a switch. Intense diplomatic interference from China has nothing to do with it.

The U.S. is not going to fire a gun at China.

The US doesn't have to fire a gun at anyone to defend Taiwan, it only needs to remind China that the US opposes the use of force. It could even hint that the US would look favorably on a Chinese offer to renounce the use of force, in exchange for a "One-China" declaration from Taiwan.

But in reality, it will never even come to that, because China cannot attack Taiwan right now. The outcome is too uncertain, and merely preventing the referendum is not worth the risk. After a few more years of military build-up, China will feel confident in taking Taiwan before the US has time to do anything about it. At that point, they will attack (at a time of their choosing) regardless of the US 7th Fleet.

The origin of instability in the Strait is the Cold War itself, which has not yet ended with China, despite years of "constructive engagement." Taiwan has long ago dropped it's claims to Chinese territory and renounced the use of force, except in self-defense. China's refusal to do the same puts the region at risk.

As for "kicking sand in their face"... it's more like biting a hand that is trying to strangle you. China is far more aggressive than Taiwan in this standoff, yet Taiwan is somehow blamed for standing up to the town bully.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Simplistic? I said I didn't have time. (none / 2) (#32)
by BadDoggie on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 09:12:00 AM EST

(Note: While I use "you" as a convenient pronoun, it appies to the Taiwanese. I am an American living in Germany, and I use "we" both as a European/German resident and as an American, depending on the context.)

"Leave China the hell alone" and everything will be hunky dory. Thanks for clearing that up.

No problem. Glad to help. I did say I was being brief. Antagonising China is not a Good Thing, but the Taiwanese keep doing it. And then they keep expecting the U.S. to back them up. My little brother certainly learned this lesson long ago.

And those island disputes too would simply evaporate if Taiwan would just shape up. It's not as though China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, or Japan contribute anything to the difficulty of finding a resolution.

It's also not China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia or Japan who are immediately concerned with the Chinese government suddenly becoming their government, is it? For all I know, Taiwan may have the best claims in the world, but someone somewhere has to give, and the only one of the group looking for good friends is Taiwan.

Ah, but this is Taiwan, the plucky nation of dissenters. Taiwan's standing up to the big, bad Mainlanders just ain't as interesting now that the Cold War's over. And the U.S. needs China to deal with North Korea, something considerably more important to the world than whether Taiwan goes the way of Hong Kong.

And what a relief to know that Taiwan can have improved relations with all those countries by just flipping a switch.

Negotiations are difficult and none of you are willing to budge. The rest of the countries don't need to; Taiwan does. Needs drive actions. What are Taiwan's needs?

Intense diplomatic interference from China has nothing to do with it.

And Taiwan has never interfered with others' diplomatic processes before.

The US doesn't have to fire a gun at anyone to defend Taiwan, it only needs to remind China that the US opposes the use of force.

And that reminder is in the form of three Seventh Fleet task forces, clearly a belligerent move and one to which China will most certainly respond. This is a country that's scraping up the money it doesn't have to put a man on the Moon, which you can't do for under $100B these days. It's a proud country and standing up to the Yanks is always a way to make people at home happy.

Then it comes down to a dick-swinging contest, and that evolves into a game of chicken. Then someone dies and all hell breaks loose.

It could even hint that the US would look favorably on a Chinese offer to renounce the use of force, in exchange for a "One-China" declaration from Taiwan.

China doesn't give a shit what the U.S. looks on favourably. It really doesn't. You only have to look at U.S. economic and foreign policies to see that.

Perhaps Taiwan should try and cut a deal with the Mainland.

woof.

"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."
[ Parent ]

Simply infuriating (none / 1) (#34)
by deadcow on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 11:04:28 AM EST

As a Taiwanese American, I'm pretty offended by the ridiculousness of your suggestions. I think "we" --(using a collective pronoun, btw, is also ridiculous as "we" all have different opinions, thus the four-party democracy in use in Taiwan, which came into power through voter's choice, not a "bloodless revolution")-- are very aware that "Antagonising China is not a Good Thing," insofar as antagonizing China is a very real threat which could get all of our loved ones killed. It's not an abstract danger like an American like yourself might face, like seeing a couple hundred soldiers killed on fox news far far away from home. Our so-called "plucky dissenters" have put their careers and lives on the line countless times for democratic causes within Taiwan, and now for the cause of Independence against China. There are few benefits to being "plucky dissenters" except for those piddling little things which some might call freedom and dignity. Is it too much to ask that America, the supposed champion of freedom and dignity not ACTIVELY support Chinese oppression? America, and the rest of the countries of the world which refuse to recognize Taiwan, an independent nation, are cogent collaborators in Taiwan's oppression. If "we" were to just go with the flow and keep our mouths shut, then Taiwan would already be a province of a dictatorship, our lives at the mercy of the documented brutaltity of the CCP.

This argument is admittedly one from a standpoint of moral good and NOT political utility. Sure, China is a huge market, can be useful for dealing with North Korea, etc. But they are just one such politically-centric government which values expediency over morals and rights and freedoms. Do you want America to become just another self-centered dictatorship working solely for the sake of its own people--and once the politicians are trained to think this way, what's to stop them from working solely for their own sakes? It's clear, I think, that selfishness is not a value which we want to cultivate in our leaders.

[ Parent ]

Again, I've been rather hasty with my words (none / 2) (#36)
by BadDoggie on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 11:58:55 AM EST

As a Taiwanese American, I'm pretty offended by the ridiculousness of your suggestions.

I'm talking about the big picture, here: don't piss off China and don't expect the U.S. to intervene.

I've made the second point clear, so how about I give you a few examples of what I mean for the first?


And those are only the most recent examples.

"bloodless revolution"
Yes, perhaps I could've chosen my words more carefully, but in the unrest, it could have gone much differently. Much differently.

Our so-called "plucky dissenters" have put their careers and lives on the line countless times for democratic causes within Taiwan, and now for the cause of Independence against China.
Good for them. They have my admiration. Unfortunately, your country -- as a whole -- ignores realpolitik.

There are few benefits to being "plucky dissenters" except for those piddling little things which some might call freedom and dignity.
And yet you (again, the generalised form I seem to upset so many with) spit on China's own dignity. Americans fought the British for six years to get their independence, when high-tech was a cannon with shrapnel that could take out more than a dozen men close together. They then had to fight another three years only a few short decades later.

Weaponry has changed and Sun Tzu's basic rules haven't. China massively outnumbers you and it has enough weapons to flatten your entire island. You can't win your independence by fighting for it in any sense of the word. You can only negotiate for it, and you can't negotiate very well when your people and politicians are busy waving their backsides at the other side.

Is it too much to ask that America, the supposed champion of freedom and dignity not ACTIVELY support Chinese oppression?
Unfortunately, it is. Way too much. You see, under the current regime, America has violated no fewer than five basic worldwide treaties (including START and Geneva) already. And we've long overlooked "discrepancies" in China's adherence to human rights treaties for two reasons: economics and politics. We need cheap Chinese goods and we don't want to piss off China.

This is geopolitics and the way the world works is, for the most part, nothing but pragmatic. That's how the big boys play, anyway. Which is more in our interest, all the computer parts we need or an immediate and fundamental change in how China treats prisoners/poor/criminals/etc.? That's really what it boils down to.

And it's worked, too. Today's China is nothing like Mao's China. Well, the Southeast China, anyway. Has it worked as well as we'd like? No. Has there been progress? Yes.

But Taiwan doesn't accept there is a world beyond the Straits other than the US who are expected to be everyone's saviours... until they've been saved, of course, but that's a different rant entirely.

America, and the rest of the countries of the world which refuse to recognize Taiwan, an independent nation, are cogent collaborators in Taiwan's oppression.
There we go. That's what I like to see -- a smooth transition. So we're the saviours and oppressors. Now what?

We gave up official recognition of Taiwan in order to stabilise relations with China in the 1970s. This was a Good Thing for the whole world, although it sucked for Taiwan. But calling yourselves "Republic of China" didn't help much. Two countries called themselves "China" and the world went with the one that had 99% of the people.

[skipping the parts where I more or less agree with you in principle and have no real argument to offer]

Do you want America to become just another self-centered dictatorship working solely for the sake of its own people--and once the politicians are trained to think this way, what's to stop them from working solely for their own sakes?

America is only working for the sake of its own people. Do you truly not realise this? Not only is America really like that, it has always been like that. America looks out for America's interests first, which is why the U.S. gets along with China. Unfortunately, some people aren't even worried about what's good for America and they're currently running the country (into the ground). This will change; it has always changed in the past. But what will not change is the self-serving actions that are the hallmark of American policy.

It's clear, I think, that selfishness is not a value which we want to cultivate in our leaders.
I don't like dandelions on my front lawn, either, but if you've got grass, you accept that you'll eventually have dandelions. Of course, you can pull them up, rip off the heads before they bloom, clean 'em up and make tasty salads out of them.

woof.

"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."
[ Parent ]

Sun Tzu? (none / 0) (#39)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 03:27:52 PM EST

Weaponry has changed and Sun Tzu's basic rules haven't. China massively outnumbers you and it has enough weapons to flatten your entire island. You can't win your independence by fighting for it in any sense of the word.

You're right about Sun Tzu's rules not changing, but there's this thing called water, and there's a whole bunch of it between Taiwan and China. It makes Taiwan a lot easier to defend.

Numbers don't matter much unless they refer to navy ships... especially troop carriers and associated support and protection.

There's also a lot of air between China and Taiwan. But Taiwan has lots of shiny F-16's and Patriot missiles too.

America is only working for the sake of its own people. Do you truly not realise this?

Okay, I think I see the source of our "disconnect" on this issue. You think everyone else is as cynical as you, and I don't... especially with Americans.

I guess we'll find out soon enough who got it right... ;-)

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Two Things (none / 0) (#51)
by deadcow on Tue Feb 03, 2004 at 11:56:55 PM EST

(1)War

I completely agree that China could utterly crush Taiwan in an instant. The hundreds of missles (thousands?) pointed at MY house RIGHT NOW is a very real threat. The thing which China could not do, however, is take over Taiwan's infrastructure intact with a land invasion. The Taiwan Strait is an effective barrier to China's aged navy (thanks to America's "generous" sales of billions of dollars of their outdated equipment--still more modern than China's though). Mainly, my point here is that a takeover of the things which make Taiwan a good place to own (industry, workforce, stellar economy, etc.) would be utterly destroyed in a successful takeover. Additionally, China's international credibility would take a big hit, and it is likely that their government would collapse internally in an actual war. Just leveling Taiwan from afar, therefore, would not be beneficial in an economic or political sense(Taiwan is currently China's largest foreign investor with over $40 billion invested since the 1980s.)

(2)Antagonism

If Taiwanese did as you suggest, and made no noise whatsoever, not to commemorate the 228 incident (which has nothing to do with Taiwanese independence, but everything to do with democracy), not to hold a referendum, and not to speak with the Vatican, then where would that leave us? Perhaps we mutely accept the switch of recognition to mainland China over Taiwan, and allow the Chinese to determine whether or not Taiwan can join, say, the WHO, without sending a single letter of "antagonistic" protest. Taiwan would no doubt be quickly assimilated into China, as Hong Kong was. Oh yay! problem solved, right? Now Taiwan, a democratic country with a democratically elected leader has a dictatorial central government, heavily restricted legislative elections, and an appointed representative of the CCP who knows nothing of Taiwan as its leader. It's also become an unneeded economic attachment to the Chinese empire, and would likely see a large drain in its economic power to Shanghai, as Hong Kong has.

The point is, Taiwan needs to do these things to survive as a country. The Taiwanese are not merely separated Chinese, but possess a rich culture all their own. I don't think the 3.20 referendum is unduly provocative; Though it initially earned many rebukes, once the actual questions came out, the US government approved of the referendum. It's difficult to argue against holding referendums as a general rule--a referendum can be answered with a "yes" a "no" or a "no comment"--in short, it's a reflection of the democratic will of the people. If the question of independence came up, people could easily vote "No"! Holding the 3.20 referendum, therefore, is a democratic event, not an unduly provocative one. It sets a democratic precedent; it is not a stepping stone to independence because the referendum law specifically denies the holding of any such referendum UNLESS it is a matter of national security (i.e. Taiwan is attacked by China, in which case it's a moot point anyway).

It's difficult, btw, to have peaceful talks with a country which refuses to recognize you as a country--China's precondition for talks with Taiwan is that Taiwan recognize the "fact" that Taiwan is a part of China(The so-called One China policy)--in which case there's nothing to talk about anyway! Taiwan has long since given up its claim to the Chinese mainland, and has agreed that the One China policy could be a topic of discussion at any talks--with the possibility of peaceful unification with the mainland. If anyone's being antagonistic here, I don't think it's Taiwan.

[ Parent ]

Hong Kong never claimed independence (none / 1) (#53)
by BadDoggie on Wed Feb 04, 2004 at 04:57:59 AM EST

Their "democracy" came during the last year of the lease. They never had democracy under British Rule; they had a governor and were subject to the Crown. But, oddly enough, at the end they found out that very few were subjects of the Crown.

So Hong Kong is a bad example. That the place would revert to Chinese control was known decades in advance.

You can't have a fundamentally different form of government than the rest of the country, as many splinter groups find out sooner or later. Check out what happened to the Diggers in the 17th century (St. George's Hill).

Either you work for independence first through a concession for self-rule or just give up now and start sending the invitations to the People's Army. I"m not sure how you might get that concession, but I've mentioned a few things that guarantee you won't.

It's not that I'm anti-Taiwan or pro-China. In fact, I consider China to the biggest long-term threat to the West in many ways. But I'm a realist and a pragmatist, and just as I not thrilled about needing surgery, so too am I underwhelmed over the need to deal with China. Both are troublesome, painful and even dangerous, and both are necessary in the long run. And all the 1s and 0s you can muster to slap on my comments doesn't change that.

If it means anything to you, I really didn't mean "plucky" in a bad way.

woof.

"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."
[ Parent ]

1's and 0's (none / 0) (#55)
by deadcow on Fri Feb 06, 2004 at 03:56:39 AM EST

You mean in terms of binary code? Yes. In all fairness, however, I gave you a (2)Neutral, because while your initial comment was reflexive and insulting, your detailed comments were reasonable. :)

You can't have a fundamentally different form of government than the rest of the country

Taiwan is currently an independent country, you know, in every sense but one--international recognition. If you insist that Taiwan is a part of China, and is thus subject to this proposed rule of thumb, then you must recall that at one point mainland China was an independent country in every sense but one--international recognition. And yet their fundamentally different form of government worked just fine. It's clear, I think, that this is not just because China had size and economic treasures to exploit, among other pragmatic benefits, but because it was indeed a separate country, and still is. Mainland China's government really has nothing to do with Taiwan's!

I also remain unconvinced that doing -nothing- is going to "win" us a concession for self-rule. Rolling over and playing dead (i.e. accepting the one-China policy as a prequisite to talks) is equivalent to actual political death and the end of self-rule in Taiwan. You may decry our tactics (some of which I also disagree with--the tactics, not your decrying), but if there is no alternative but surrender (we can't think of any alternatives either!), then I think we'd rather not surrender.

[ Parent ]

Fair enough... (none / 0) (#38)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 02:32:41 PM EST

Okay, I have to agree that Taiwan's diplomatic skill is not the greatest. My impression is that the Diaoyutai and Spratley islands problem presists because it is inherently intractable. Even if Taiwan decided to drop its claims, there would still be multiple parties left arguing.

But let's say Taiwan did it anyway, what would Taiwan get out of the deal? It would have to be something big, to make it worthwhile. (They can only use this once.) It would have to be something the recipient countries could get away with, without pissing off China too much. Hmm... something big that won't piss off China too much... um... is there such a thing?

But let's suppose they had done somthing like that in this case. Taiwan gives up all claim on the disputed islands in return for immediate declarations of support for Chen's referendum, as soon as it is announced.

It could work. If a few countries did so, others might follow. Then again, maybe they wouldn't, and then all those new "good friends" would be on China's shit list right next to Taiwan.

What's really needed is some form of pressure that can be applied to Beijing by all the major players in unison. That way China would have no choice but to lighten up a bit. But it's hard to build that kind of coalition when you don't have diplomatic ties with anyone important, and the West is still spellbound over China's over-revved, over-hyped economy. So it would have to be something that would catch on naturally, without needing a large coalition up-front. (It's impossible to build a "critical-mass" coalition to take on China because negotiations would have to be kept secret from China for too long.)

I wonder if Chen could have been naive enough to think his referendum announcement would "catch on" like that. Whatever... the deed is done. Having announced it, he has to go through with it now. Backing down would mean giving away the right to vote on unification.

One way or the other, a precedent will be set, on or before March 20th. The only way China can stop it is either to threaten invasion beforehand, or actually invade. But then they'd lose their "victim" status, and be seen as an ugly aggressor.

The more China puts on the heat, the more Taiwan gets air-time on CNN... "CRISIS IN THE STRAIT!" Having more "in-depth coverage" of the background behind this issue works in Taiwan's favor, not China's. The only way to avoid that is with a surprise attack, but that is a huge gamble for China. Taiwan does have some military might; it would be no cake-walk. And when democratic Taiwan is at war with China, it might still ring the "plucky Taiwanese" bell loud enough to get some help, or at least sanctions. Then there are all those other risk factors for China, mentioned in the article.

I'm sitting here in Taipei right now, and I'm really not worried about China invading over this. It just ain't gonna happen. The referendum is already old news, any "updates" only make China lose more and more face.

China doesn't give a shit what the U.S. looks on favourably. It really doesn't.

Guess what Taiwan doesn't give a shit about...

Actually, I meant to say the "US would urge Taiwan to look favorably on a Chinese offer..." but that phrase must have disappeared somewhere between keyboard and chair as I was typing. Sorry.

But seriously, what do you suppose Taiwan does and does not give a shit about? Who's the desperate "cornered rat" in this situation? Who's got nothing and everything to lose?

The West has applauded Taiwan's democratic advances over the years. You say Taiwan has continually kicked sand in Beijing's face over the years. But the two are one and the same.

Look at every time China has rattled its sabre over the last 10 or 12 years, and you'll always find an event in Taiwan's democratic progression. From altering the constitution to direct presidential elections, from renouncing claims to mainland territory, to the first peaceful change of leadership in "Chinese" history...

Taiwan did not make those laudable democratic advances by playing it safe.

Like it or not, this thing is going down. Where do you stand? Why?

--jrd



[ Parent ]
China a paper tiger (none / 0) (#35)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 11:24:27 AM EST

China is utterly reliant on the US for it's current economic boom status, which is a result of the US "exporting" billions of dollars into the country.

Start a war with Taiwan, and shipping rates to the US skyrocket and the Chinese competitive edge in manufacturing goes up in smoke.

A slowdown of industrial growth in China will reveal the weaknesses of the government and lead to all sorts of internal problems, particularly in China's nascent and shaky banking system.

Taiwan is a once in a lifetime position. They can pretty much do whatever they want, and the big powers cannot do much about it.

[ Parent ]

independence vs. Independence (none / 1) (#24)
by karb on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 10:15:12 PM EST

I think part of the displeasure on the US side stems from the fact that taiwan, does, in fact, enjoy de facto independence. While it would be desirable for taiwan to be actually independent, the current situation, with the uneasy peace and non-MAD it entails, is a pretty good deal.

In short, patriots suck, go panthers.
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?

A day may come when the courage of America fails. (1.33 / 9) (#26)
by sellison on Sun Feb 01, 2004 at 11:19:27 PM EST

But it will not be the day when Red China tries to invade Taiwan!

Taiwan should declare independence and get the thing done soon, while a man of Honor and Will is sits in the White House, while if the Chinese dare to complain they will swiftly find themselves no longer in possesion of a fleet or an air force.

Fighting George Bush will stop any PRC aggression against our freedom loving friends and long time allies in China.

We will not forget that the Kuomintang stood with us against the Japanese empire in our darkest hour, nor the PRC's disgusting trickery in Korea and criminal support for the Viet Cong which resulted in our troubles in Vietnam.

Let the Red Army try to swim naked to Taiwan, because that is the only way they will have to get there if they want to try!




"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush

Sellison, do you want to join us? (none / 0) (#29)
by United Fools on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 01:09:27 AM EST

"Fighting George Bush...", "a man of Honor and Will..." is already an honorary member.

Maybe the whole population of Taiwan can join us as well if they believe this stuff.
We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
[ Parent ]

Preach on brotha Sill! (none / 1) (#30)
by Tyler Durden on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 02:47:17 AM EST

Yesterday President Bush essentially placed the United States on the side of the dictators who promise war, rather than the democrats whose threat is a ballot box. His gift to visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was to condemn "the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan" while ignoring the sanguinary rhetoric of the man standing next to him. Mr. Bush had his reasons for doing so -- above all to avoid one more foreign policy crisis during an election year. But in avoiding a headache for himself, he demonstrated again how malleable is his commitment to the defense of freedom as a guiding principle of U.S. policy.

Don't ever let the truth blind you.

Jesus Christ, EVERYONE is a troll here at k5, even the editors, even rusty! -- LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Your a funny guy! (none / 0) (#31)
by Alhazred on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 09:01:23 AM EST

Fighthing George Bush. You mean the same guy that was so brave he had to serve stateside in the Air National Guard? Then desert? Give me a break. George Bush is a stain on the reputation of the United States.

And don't bother to trot out Iraq. That pathetic example of bullying the weak hardly counts as 'bravery'.

Anyway, enough trollbaiting for one day.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]

Formosa Betrayed, by George H. Kerr (none / 3) (#28)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 12:59:58 AM EST

The book mentioned in the article was in fact the inspiration for writing it. So I'd like to start a discussion thread for people who've read the book, and would like to comment on it.

I heard of Formosa Betrayed years ago, but it has been out of print for some time. When I finally found it online a few weeks ago, I read it straight through in a couple of days. 500 pages of PDF is a marathon, but I couldn't stop reading.

My "inspiration" for writing this article was primarily to encourage others to read the book too. Though others less interested in Taiwan may not find it as gripping than I did, the story of how infrastructure built-up under 50 years of Japanese rule was stripped away -- and tens of thousands of Taiwanese were killed -- by the KMT troops, is compelling in its own right.

I'd be very interested to hear reactions from others who've read it.

Cheers,

--jrd

PDF Download: (none / 1) (#44)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 09:15:27 PM EST

http://www.formosa.org/~taiwanpg/kerr.pdf

[ Parent ]
Thanks! (none / 0) (#46)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 03, 2004 at 01:29:39 AM EST

Glad to see they fixed that link. It wasn't working at the time of writing.

[ Parent ]
It still wasn't - I had to track it down (n/t) (none / 0) (#48)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Tue Feb 03, 2004 at 11:51:59 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Tenfold thanks! ;-) [n/t] (none / 0) (#49)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 03, 2004 at 02:28:43 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Referendum from US Perspective (none / 2) (#37)
by StrifeZ on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 12:55:36 PM EST

Taiwan exists because of the United States. Period. If they were not under our protection, China would have delt with them a long time ago.

Taiwain should act smart. The US economy is recovering, our military is busy doing important work in a more pressing area in the globe. If China tries something, we might not feel the need to help out.

The second any nation within our Reservation (common defense shield, i.e. NATO, Japan, South Korea, Austrailia, Taiwan, the Phillipeans) steps outside the line, they are on their own.

Taiwan can play chicken with China if they want, but China will win, and the US won't save them if they invite it on themselves.

But frankly, China won't do anything, because it'll scare away investment and cause their artificially propped up economy to collapse, and the resulting US military intervention would send them back to the 1950s capability wise.

China may have 2 million soldiers, but that doest matter to B-2s at 50,000 feet armed with 82 independently targeted PGMs and when their largest ship is the size of one of our smaller combat ships.

In short, Taiwan needs to be pragmatic, not stupid.


KITTENS@(_%&@%@_($&@(_$&^@$()&@%@+(&%
0, Hide - your opinion is stupid (none / 2) (#41)
by polish surprise on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 06:19:07 PM EST


--
Controversy is my middle name.
[ Parent ]

A looming war -The 3.20 referendum is just a decoy (1.00 / 5) (#43)
by poonit on Mon Feb 02, 2004 at 08:01:07 PM EST

Let me put my view on this 3.20 referendum. This is just a small step, although a critical one, in a much larger plot. The Taiwan leader wants it so eagerly not to boost up his vote at home, not for the security of Taiwanese, not to improve the US-Taiwan relationship, not even for his re-election(as he himself already admitted), although a re-election is what he wants. The author is right that this referendum indeed will set a precedent, a very dangerous one. The trick is the Taiwan leader makes sure he has the authority to hold the referendum before he even chooses a topic to vote on. The topic doesn't matter, the outcome doesn't matter. All he wants is to make sure he has the power to hold such as referendum. If the 3.20 referendum is held, he will be able to hold a second, a third referendum at the time of his choice, and on a topic of his choice. According to his plan, the 2nd referendum will be in 2008, when he left his office, if he is re-elected this time(Because he doesn't want to be the one to confront the mainland militarily), and the topic would be "Taiwan Independence"! If he gets his way of the 3.20 referendum and the re-election, neither the mainland the the US will be able to stop him from holding the independence referendum. I believe this is a calculated strategy. The Taiwan leader is now purposely tring to draw the US and the mainland China into a direct military confrontation, in order to achieve their goal of Taiwan independence, because of the Taiwan Relationship Act. And the plot doesn't stop here. The real intention of those political forces is to establish some sort of unification with Japan, and eventually bring Taiwan under Japanese control, as it was 60 years ago. The person behind the scene is not Chen Shuibian, the current Taiwan leader, but Li Denghui, the ex-Taiwan leader, who receives his education in Japan 70 years ago. And the re-unification of Taiwan and Japan has been his political goal all along. That's why they are resisting so much international pressure and still pushing the referendum forward. They are trying to manipulate both the mainland and the US to achieve their political purpose, not for the Taiwanese people, neither for democracy. Those cunning politicians are willing to risk the life and security of 23 million Taiwanese to achieve their own political goal, but don't think everyone will be fooled. They should really be tried as war criminals.

Hideously retarded (none / 0) (#50)
by deadcow on Tue Feb 03, 2004 at 11:13:38 PM EST

Can someone say "conspiracy theory"? Just because Lee Denghui was educated in Japan 70 years ago(followed by which he got his Ph.d from Cornell) you think he wants to achieve "some sort of unification" with Japan? Next thing you know Taiwan will be the 53nd state(after puerto rico and England "reunite" with the US)!

[ Parent ]
Standard PRC propaganda line... (none / 0) (#52)
by taiwanjohn on Wed Feb 04, 2004 at 02:32:27 AM EST

Poonit's conspiracy theory is a fair summary of Beijing's official stance, from what I've seen. (In other words, it's pure horseshit.)

As for Taiwan becoming the 53rd American State, have you heard of the 51 Club? ;-)

Chen can't call endless referendums, as poonit suggests, because the referendum law permits only narrowly-defined "defensive" referendums. If Chen could think of a way to shoehorn a vote on changing the constitution into that definition, he would no doubt do so. But that probably won't be necessary, as public opinion is alread leaning toward constitutional reform anyway.

What Chen will actually do is take the 3/20 referendum as a mandate to invest more heavily in defense, perhaps also moving to "professionalize" the armed forces. The object will be to increase the amount of time Taiwan can withstand a cross-strait war. If Taiwan can stand for even a couple of weeks, China will take more diplomatic pressure than it can afford. At the least, economic sanctions would likely be imposed, and depending on when it occured (say, a few years from now), the US military might indeed come to the rescue.

Americans don't want to fight a war with China for Taiwan's sake, especially if Taiwan isn't doing it's fair share to defend itself. But if Taiwan is seen to be actively building up its own defenses, and fighting its own fight, Americans will be far more sympathetic.

By the way, I don't agree that China can "utterly crush Taiwan in an instant," as you said in another post. China has 496 ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan, and presumably a couple hundred more cruise missiles too. Taiwan has Patriot-II anti-ballistic missile defenses, which would winnow out at least some of the incoming.

Several hundred two-tonne bombs raining down on Taiwan would be a massive blow, but it would not be the end, only the beginning. Thousands of people would die, thousands more would be injured, and hundreds of buildings would become craters (many of them military targets). Then the real fun would begin: attempting an amphibious invasion.

China's only "certain" option for victory over Taiwan is nuclear. And the would be the end of China.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Patriot-II (none / 0) (#54)
by deadcow on Fri Feb 06, 2004 at 03:36:56 AM EST

Isn't all that effective. I'm not sure how much damage 496 missiles can do, but the numbers keep mounting. Also, Taiwanese experts estimate that at least two patriot-II missile systems are necessary to take down one ballistic missile. Also, Taiwan doesn't currently have the long-range radar capability to guide the patriot system effectively. And, like you said--nuclear weapons. With the continuing build up of long range weapons of mass destruction in China, I don't think Taiwan could mount an effective defense of its cities and industry (not military structures). The point is, however, that mass destruction is likely not ever going to be China's main objective. The aforementioned sanctions and diplomatic pressure alone might not be enough to restrain China, but the loss of economic input from Taiwan, and the deaths of millions of "their countrymen" might destabilize China from within and make them balk at destroying what they could possible conquer.

[ Parent ]
Launching missles (none / 0) (#59)
by SittingDuck on Wed Feb 11, 2004 at 12:04:29 PM EST

It's a little disturbing that the possibility of China launching missles at Taiwan is kicked around here as if it weren't exceedingly low. That's very much a scorched-earth, no-win kind of maneuver that only makes sense if China has exhausted political/social avenues and has given up on Taiwan. I would hope that the world-level political response to such a move would be so critical, China won't do it.

[ Parent ]
Shock and Awe... (none / 0) (#60)
by taiwanjohn on Thu Feb 12, 2004 at 01:48:38 AM EST

The objective for China's missiles is not to "directly attack the civilian population" as I wrote in the article, but to take out as much of Taiwan's defensive capability as possible in one massive assault, to clear the way for invasion. No doubt there would be plenty of collateral damage too, but the bulk of he casualties would be men in uniform.

Nevertheless, it is a "scorched earth" option of last resort, as you say. And I believe you're right that the rest of the world would not just stand by and say, "Well, that's all right China, clearly you had no choice but to bomb the f*** out of Taiwan... after all, they were (gasp!) HOLDING A REFERENDUM!!"

Sanctions would cause an economic meltdown in China. Failure to take Taiwan quickly would mean a loss of face and legitimacy for Beijing. (Military analysts say it would take two weeks, at current force levels, assuming missiles are used.) Any US military involvement would probably be decisive in Taiwan's favor. Any of these outcomes could potentially bring down the Chinese government, which already has its hands full with all the problems mentioned in the article.

If I were writing the article today, I would include a link to this book review of All Under Heaven. It describes some of the ways in which Beijing "whips up nationalistic fervor" to prop up its claim on power.

I would also point out the ominous phrase "master race", and remind the reader that the word "Nazi" is derived from the name of Hitler's National Socialist Party. Like pre-war Germany, China is far more fascist than socialist, and the similarities don't end there.

People who think the Cold War is over need to wake up and smell the soy-sauce.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Taiwan used to be strategic (none / 0) (#45)
by kondor on Tue Feb 03, 2004 at 12:39:25 AM EST

From a military standpoint, Taiwan (Formosa) is one of an unbroken chain of islands off the Chinese coast with US military presence. The military thinking used to be that if a single node in the chain was broken then the next line of defense became the Pacific coast of the US. This may not be true anymore, because of the importance of long distance missile warfare controlled by space navigation, but if it is, The US will never let Taiwan fall to a hostile power.

Errata (none / 0) (#47)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 03, 2004 at 01:49:50 AM EST

A friend sent the following in email:

Two factual points--the requirement that one vote in the area of one's household registration is not in the Constitution (although I believe the Household Registration system is). This requirement comes from the Elections Law. Germany and Italy both have similar requirements. It's still a real dumb, anti-democratic law though.

[LINK: Election Law (Chinese)]

Your synopsis of early Taiwanese history is misleading--the Koxinga regime that displaced the Dutch, was a mercenary army with many Japanese fighters led by the half-Japanese Koxinga. Koxinga's network of trade and piracy extended from Fujian to Nagasaki and to Manila. It was not a 'Chinese' regime in the usual sense of the term at all. In the late 17th Century, the Qing displaced Koxinga's heir, but they never formalized their rule until the mid-nineteenth century.



Addendum... (none / 0) (#57)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 10, 2004 at 01:21:19 AM EST

In the week since this article was published, there have been some interesting developments. A pair of Bush administration officials, one each from State and Defense, testifying before a Congressional hearing, put the Taiwan issue in perspective.

The officials "slammed China's deployment of some 500 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan as a clear attempt by Beijing at intimidation, and called the action a serious threat to cross-strait stability." They also "urged Taiwan to develop a 'national will' and bring about 'improved national consensus' over the need to develop military capabilities to deal with any use of force."

The Taipei Times has a couple of articles which together sum up these developments fairly well (IMHO). The first is a news report on the testimony; the second is an analysis piece on the implications.

FWIW...

--jrd

Referendum, from Taiwan's perspective | 60 comments (47 topical, 13 editorial, 1 hidden)
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