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.
Taiwan, China, US Congress, Harry Reid, Sherrod Brown