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Sunday, November 12, 2006

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New US Congress: What's in store for Taiwan?

Only time will tell, but I saw a couple of articles today that look at how the new Democratic US Congress will view Taiwan and China. First, there is an AFP article by P. Parameswaran, entitled: China to come under tighter scrutiny by new US Congress. It doesn't say much about Taiwan, but there is this nugget about Robert Hathaway of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, who says: "I think the most noticeable impact of the Congressional elections is likely to be on US China policy." The article goes on to imply that, at least according to Hathaway, Democrats have Taiwan on their mind:

Evaluating the Republican Party's loss of control of the House of Representatives and Senate in last Tuesday's legislative elections, he said the Democrats were likely to pressure the Bush administration to be "more confrontational" with China on trade, human rights, religious freedom and Taiwan-related issues.

"And I think that's where we are likely to see the biggest difference as a result of the elections in terms of Asia," he said.

In the run-up to the US elections, some Democrats lambasted Bush for the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs as a result of a tidal wave of cheap imports, resulting from what they say is a vastly undervalued Chinese currency.

Then, Taipei Times has an article by Charles Snyder: [Analysis] Impact of Democrats' win unclear. While the article points to an uncertain future, it does offer some evidence of a hopeful future. For one, it argues that the soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is pro-Taiwan:

Taiwan supporters are looking at Nevada Senator Harry Reid, now the minority leader and in line to become the majority leader, to give Taiwan more time than did the current leader,

While Reid's main strength is in domestic issues, he has spoken out strongly in favor of Taiwan in the past.

Speaking in favor of Taiwan's participation in the WHO during the SARS pandemic in 2003, Reid praised President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"Under President Chen's strong leadership, Taiwan has remained true to its democratic value and has continued to be a model for its neighbors in the region," he said on the Senate floor. "The WHO's refusal to grant membership or even observer status to Taiwan has ... placed the health of all 23 million Taiwanese in jeopardy."

Last year, as Bush was en route to the APEC summit in South Korea, Reid, in a letter, called Bush's China policies "ad hoc, inconsistent and essentially aimless," adding that "China's non-democratic government has taken actions and pursued policies that understandably stoke concerns and fears in America."

The article is less positive about Joe Biden, who will likely become the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations committee:

Biden is known for a pro-China stance and for not particularly liking Taiwan.

Although Biden has said in the past that he is one of the remaining congressman who voted for the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in 1979, and still agreed with that decision, his backing for Taiwan is limited.

Perhaps the biggest cause for hope in Taiwan, looking at the new political landscape in America, is the ascension of Sherrod Brown from the House of Representatives to the Senate. I wrote about Brown earlier on this site, but Snyder has the goods:

A big plus for Taiwan, its lobbyists feel, is the victory of former Congressional Taiwan Caucus co-chair, representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio, to a Senate seat. Brown could give a boost to the Senate caucus, which was largely inactive under Allen.

Democratic co-chair Ti Johnson will have a greater role in guiding the bipartisan caucus now, but Brown could become an important member.

Taiwan supporters might even push for Brown to get a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee, taking the position now occupied by Maryland Democrat Paul Sarbanes, who is retiring.

Replacing Allen as the Republican co-chair of the Senate caucus could be John Kyl of Arizona, one of Taiwan's biggest boosters in the Senate, who holds the powerful post of Republican Policy Committee chairman. Kyl is already a member of the 25-man caucus.

Replacing Brown as one of the four House caucus co-chairs could be Democratic Representative Robert Andrews, a vocal defender of Taiwan's interest, especially in seeking to get a US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement.

I'm not really sure what this all means in the long run, especially with Bush still serving as president, but one thing does seem clear to me: these two articles are putting the initial dents in the tired old meme (here's another one, Tim) that Republicans are Taiwan's only friends in America. It is about time that someone puts that one to rest, and that more Democratic friends, besides the right wing fringe, come to the fore.

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3 Comments:

At 10:06 PM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Wulingren wrote:
- - -
... these two articles are putting the initial dents in the tired old meme (here's another one, Tim) that Republicans are Taiwan's only friends in America
- - -

For those of you who may not know what Wulingren is talking about, the comment in parentheses was directed at me and relates to a project I have in the works. I'm trying to compile a comprehensive list of the inaccurate memes which the media uses when writing about Taiwan in order to discover the patterns that will reveal more of what's hiding "behind the curtain."

In addition to Wulingren's example, another one might be the BBC (which has a "special relationship" with CTiTV) and their use of the word "leader" in place of "president" in the headlines of more than 95% of its articles whose main subject is Chen Shui-bian. When you notice patterns like this, a different picture emerges.

If you want to submit some of your least favorite memes, click on my name below to go to my personal blog and look for "Send e-mail to Tim Maddog" at the top right of the page.

Tim Maddog

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a blurb I put out the day after the elections for FAPA friends...

Now that the Democrats have taken the majority in both the House and
the Senate, we need to start looking at what this means to us as a
grassroots Taiwan advocacy organization and we also need to look at
how we can use the Democratic majority to our advantage for the next
couple of years and beyond.

First: Some Party Considerations
Many Taiwanese may be disappointed by the Republican loss as they tend
to see the Democrats as ╲pro-China╡ based on Clintonâ•˙s 3 Noes and a
record of the Dems being ╲soft╡ on China. I know many of you out there
voted Bush into office based on the understanding that heâ•˙d be ╲good
for Taiwan╡. I think if we take a step back we will see both parties
have engaged in policies that have been neither good nor bad for
Taiwan, but rather good and bad for the US, which is a reasonable
outcome for US representatives. So if you were looking to the
republican majority in congress and control of the executive as a
panacea for Taiwanâ•˙s diplomatic isolation, consider where we are now
and what the latest election might mean in the future.

Second: Why Should We Look Beyond Republicans?
Is Bush good for Taiwan? I think from what we have seen over the past
6 years, the answer is a resounding NO. Aside from offering weapons
systems that Taiwan is not buying, the War in Iraq has been disastrous
for Taiwanâ•˙s efforts toward dejure independence.

The Bush administration has attempted to finance a war on borrowed
money while cutting taxes, allowing China to buy US debt. China is the
second largest holder of US debt behind Japan. This puts the US in an
unfavorable position should a confrontation with China arise.

I think in the future, representatives will be cool to the idea of
sending US troops abroad in the short to medium term, making the US
more likely to ╲allow╡ China to continue its expansion. I have been
told by some US representatives that, with the war in Iraq, and the
problems with North Korea and Iran, they just canâ•˙t politically deal
with Taiwanâ•˙s requests for improved recognition.

Taiwan has less and less to put on the table economically, with
democracy being the greatest asset against Chinese aggression. This
principle for supporting Taiwan has been severely weakened in the last
few years. In essence, the Bush administration has invaded a country
╲to deliver democracy to the people of Iraq╡ whether they asked for it
or not, while supporting another ╲friendly╡ dictator in the form of
Pervez Musharaf, a man who seized power from a democratically elected
president in a military coup. At the same time, the US insists
Taiwanâ•˙s democracy remain contained. Is democracy really an important
gambit?

Third: Party Favors and Paradigm Shift
It has been widely assumed that the Republican Party is Pro-Taiwan and
the Democratic Party is pro-China. This is an oversimplification and
inaccurate. Taiwanese can be grateful for the Taiwan Caucus in the US
House of Representatives, which is a bi-partisan congressional caucus
that, in essence, agrees Taiwan is an important issue concerning US
interests in the Pacific. Although we are grateful for the support,
some of it may be misplaced as a relic of Cold War policy and it is up
to us to initiate a paradigm shift in supporting a contemporary Taiwan.

The Republican Party has traditionally thrown greater support behind
Taiwan as a rival to the PRC. This thinking is a continuation of the
Eisenhower doctrine of the 1950â•˙s that saw Taiwan as a link in the
╲Pacific Chain╡ to block Communist expansion into the Pacific. Other
Republicans saw Taiwan as ╲Free Christian China╡ and hoped it could
prove to be a Christian outpost in a Gibraltar of heathenism a.k.a.
fighting the godless commies. Some of our supporters on the Republican
side of the aisle still support Taiwan based on the dated paradigm of
Taiwan as a ╲rival╡ of China. Remember, those countries that hold
diplomatic relations with Taiwan are diplomatically considering Taiwan
to be a rival China.

The Democrats, a party which has at times been more socialist than it
is today, formed a policy around Rooseveltâ•˙s hope in China as an Asian
leader and Trumanâ•˙s distain for the Chiang regime.( I find it
interesting that Chine is the only colonial power that survived
following WWII despite the formation of the UN and its mandate to seek
redress for colonized people). Many leaders in the Democratic Party
have followed the belief that isolation does not work and China will
be changed by embracement and acquiescence, though that has hardly
happened as China remains politically oppressive while opening its
economy. Many Democrats do not support Taiwanâ•˙s dejure independence as
it is linked to the Republican stalwart issues above.

Realistically, US parties do not function the same way Taiwanese
parties do; top down. Often, it is up to the constituents to pressure
their representatives and those representatives will not always tow
party line if his/her constituents disagree. During the recent
campaign, many Republicans were eager to advertise their differences
with the White House. States that conduct greater trade with China
will naturally avoid taking an ideological stand against China if it
means their constituents will receive Chinese contracts. A
representative of a district of retirees has very little to lose in an
ideological battle.

We need to present our representatives with practical and strategic
reasons to support Taiwan based on the concept of Taiwan as a friendly
Pacific neighbor and trading partner not a ╲rival╡ of China or an
anti-communist stronghold.
It is at this juncture that we really need to annunciate the
differences between the Taiwanese people and the ROC, because the two
are often confused. Many believe ROC policy of the past 50 years is
representative of the will of the people. At times it has been true,
but at times it has not. We should avoid making the issue about
Chinaâ•˙s lack of democracy, but rather Taiwanâ•˙s belief in it. Leave
whatâ•˙s wrong with China to the Chinese.

1) Stability
a. Taiwanâ•˙s Participation In The UN Is Essential For Stability In The
Pacific.
b. A Free, Independent Taiwan is Already An Acceptable Option.
c. Chinaâ•˙s Position Is A Threat To Pacific Stability and Therefore A
Threat To Pacific Trade Which Could Hurt US Interests
2) Democracy
a. Taiwanâ•˙s Unique History and Experience Has Led To A Unique
Taiwanese Democracy That Needs To Be Protected.
b. Taiwan Does Not Threaten Chinaâ•˙s System And Does Not Wish to Unite
With China, Democratic Or Otherwise.
c. Containing Taiwanâ•˙s Democracy Under Threat Undermines The
Principles Of Democracy And Leads To A System That Does Not Represent
The Will of The People.
3) Economy
a. A Free Taiwan Strait Is Good For Our Economy and The Economy of
Japan; Our Pacific Ally.
b. Taiwan Remains A Major Trade Partner With The US and Will Continue
To Consume US Products.
4) Politically
a. Upgrading Contact Between US and Taiwanese Officials Will Lead To
Transparency and Stability.


Fourth: Democrats and Opportunities
For those of you who believe we should just hang our heads because now
that the Democrats are in control of the legislative branch, they will
just invite China to invade Taiwan, I urge you to look at the
opportunities.

For those of you who have done your history, youâ•˙ll know that the
Taiwan Relations Act was a bipartisan legislative effort that acted to
replace the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty, not out of an ideological need
to support democracy, which didnâ•˙t describe Taiwan in 1978-1979, but
as an effort by the legislative branch to wrest some control over
foreign policy away from the White House, following the Panama Canal
Treaty of 1978, in which President Carter signed the treaty without
consulting congress.

Again we have a congress that would like a greater hand in foreign
policy, independent of the White House. Taiwan could provide the
contrast the Dems are looking for to underscore their independence
from the White House that was lacking in the last congress.

We also need to appeal to the Democrats core constituents to highlight
issues they care about i.e. Labor, Environment, Civil Liberties etc╜

China makes a tempting target for the three issues above as many labor
unions that make up the core of the Democratic faithful are
increasingly hurt by Chinese dumping, labor and trade policy (read:
stealing American jobs). This may give the democrats some incentive to
seek a punitive policy, which involves increasing Taiwanâ•˙s status. The
risk lies in Taiwan being a notorious offender of piracy and nobody
wants to see China take their business elsewhere.

Chinaâ•˙s record on the environment and civil rights is abysmal and it
could encourage some democrats to build a closer relationship with
Taiwan if we can demonstrate Taiwanâ•˙s commitment to social justice and
environmental awareness. From my own observations, the greatest
triumph of the Chen administrations has been improvements to the
justice system that protect human rights. Amazing!

 
At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put it this way: Americans in general from the politicans all the way down to the ordinary citizen just needs to know more about supporting Taiwan independence period. Not just whites, but other races. Not just the politicans but the ordinary person who rarely keeps up with politics. What is really stupid is how Bush invades Iraq which never had weapons of mass destruction and then he switches the message from the pulpit from weapons of mass destruction to "Oh, let's promote democracy!" He is so hypocritical because he turns a blind eye to Taiwan. He supports people like Bill Gates and other business people who just want big money from trade with China while ignoring human rights, freedom, freedom of religion, and so on. This couldn't be the same America my grandfather fought for in World War 2 (and he was black! He supported America even though he was discriminated against), the America in which a black man died first for the cause of independence (Crispus Attucks), and the America that has the same values of democracy as Taiwan. No I'm afraid that all people care about now is just money and power. Bush has now made it even harder for Americans to support defense of Taiwan because of his blunder in Iraq. What would happen when China invades? China isn't stupid. I'm sure they study carefully how the American public responds to long wars.

I am sort of happy that the Democrats have won control of the government, but it is now up to them to actually push more attention towards Taiwan. Taiwan is very important and I totally agree with anonymous's statements about why we should support Taiwan. Thank you.

 

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