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Deep Involvement in Taiwan is Negative U.S. Assets

Apr 14 , 2015
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

The United States deep involvement in Taiwan is a negative asset, and has been manifested more clearly than ever before. It is high time for the U.S. to change course and work with China to turn the Taiwan issue into a positive factor in promoting the Sino-U.S. relations. Though the U.S. understands that Taiwan has been the territory of China since ancient times, there have always been some people with a Cold War mentality in the U.S. who want to use Taiwan as leverage, or even an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” to contain China.

After the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was born in 1949, the U.S. “lost China” and chose to recognize the Kuomintang (KMT) government in Taiwan. China and the U.S. experienced about 22 years of estrangement and hostility. The Taiwan issue had been in the central place in the talks between Chinese and U.S. leaders during U.S. president Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 and also in negotiations for normalization of relations between China and the United States. Those talks and negotiations did not conclude until December of 1978 when the Carter Administration decided to sever the “diplomatic relations” with Taiwan, to withdraw American troops and military installations from there, and to abrogate the treaties it had signed with Taiwan. China and the U.S. established full diplomatic relations on January 1,1979. The U.S. recognizes the Government of the PRC as the sole legal Government of China. Within this context, the people of the U.S. can maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan. However, the U.S. Government acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China. The process of the normalization of relations demonstrates that the Taiwan issue carries largely a decisive weight in the development of the Sino-U.S. relations.

In the last 36 years after the normalization of relations, no change has been found in the fact that the Taiwan issue remains key to Sino-U.S. relations. It is a regular pattern that whenever the U.S. violated the one-China principle, Sino-U.S. relations suffered. The cumulative impact of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and grant of visa to Lee Teng-hui, the regional leader of Taiwan, led to a rare crisis of Sino-U.S. relations and still remains fresh in memory. For the first time since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979, China and the U.S. found themselves in the summer of 1995 with no ambassadors working in each other’s capitals. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the Sino-U.S. relations can avoid potential danger and be put on a very firm basis only when the U.S. truly abides by the one-China principle in words and in deeds. It is impossible for China and the U.S. to build a healthy, stable relationship while the U.S. still keeps on playing the so-called Taiwan card. The best choice is for the U.S. to seize any interference in the internal affairs of China and its territory Taiwan, to terminate arms sales to Taiwan and any form of official exchanges, overt and covert, with Taiwan, and to truly let people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait settle their political and military differences by themselves. By doing so, the U.S. will benefit strategically from the more stable bilateral relations, and avoid losses resulting from constantly damaged bilateral relations because of the Taiwan issue.

With the general trend of the peaceful development of the cross-Strait relations established, good opportunities have arisen for China and the U.S. to work together to resolve the Taiwan issue completely so as to avoid dangerous obstacles to the smooth, healthy development of the Sino-U.S. relations. Continued expansion of exchanges and cooperation in various fields between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is not only in the interests of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but also helps maintain peace and stability in the region. The U.S. has all along cared about the resolution of their differences by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait by peaceful means. At this point, what the U.S. needs to do is not to give any wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” advocators, who are trouble-makers of the peace and stability in the region. Any idea to win them over or to work with them smoothly by sheer good luck carry unbearable risks, for they have their own political goals and will not give up for the interests of the U.S. Therefore, the U.S. has to oppose Taiwan independence through concrete actions and not be deceived by seeing through their trouble-making nature of those political leaders in Taiwan who refuse to recognize the “1992 Consensus,” otherwise the U.S. would have to confront numerous troubles they would inevitably bring about.

With regard to the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, it is fair to say that prerequisites for such sales have already disappeared. The mainland of China poses no threat to the security or social or economic system of the people on Taiwan. The people on the mainland are ready to join hands with the people in Taiwan to defend their common homeland. With growing exchanges in the economic, financial and tourist areas between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, talks on political and military matters and political and military exchanges would become a natural and inevitable development. Under such circumstances, continued US arms sales to Taiwan would serve the interests of neither the U.S. nor China. Instead, it would give rise to many new troubles for the U.S. To avoid this dilemma, a U.S. decision to totally terminate arms sales to Taiwan would be a wise choice. When the decision is made and executed, there is no need for the U.S. to worry about or restrict how Taiwan uses those arms bought from the U.S.; more importantly, a major obstacle to the development of Sino-U.S. relations can be smoothly removed.

Termination of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and firm opposition to “Taiwan independence” do not in any sense mean the U.S. is giving up on Taiwan. It actually means that the U.S. has come to truly abide by the principles and the spirit of the three joint communiqués between China and the U.S. It could be a significant historic step on the part of the Obama administration to work closely with China to build the new type of major power relations, and would greatly help enhance U.S. credibility in China and strengthen mutual political trust between the two countries. Such a valuable and historic diplomatic legacy, if President Obama could leave before the end of his presidency, would be remembered and praised as remarkable contribution to the people of China and the U.S., and also to the people of the whole world.

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