The short answer today is yes. But the question will continue to resurface as the relationship between Taiwan and China continues to get more cozy. The newfound warmth has developed over the last 365 days, or the first year of Ma Ying-jeou’s Presidency. The President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) declared during his inaugural address that there would be “no reunification, no independence, and no war” during his term in office.
Ma found some easy opportunities for cooperation with the People’s Republic of China almost immediately. Last August, just three months into his term, Time magazine wrote about the transformation, “Relations between Taiwan and China have arguably seen the most rapid advancement in the six-decade standoff between the two governments. Ma launched direct weekend charter flights between China and Taiwan for the first time, opened Taiwan to mainland Chinese tourists, eased restrictions on Taiwan investment in mainland China and approved measures that will allow mainland Chinese investors to buy Taiwan stocks.”
Emerson Niou of Duke University believes the U.S. still plays an important role in the region, not only for the security of Taiwan, but for Chinese diplomacy. In a symposium at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, he suggested that China needs continued U.S. involvement in Taiwan. That relationship gives China a backdoor into Taiwan for diplomatic purposes, with the U.S. playing intermediary. He says the U.S. also needs the relationship, because it relies on China to play the same role with North Korea. China is the intermediary there.
In the eight years before Ma took office, Washington’s goal was to prevent a serious meltdown or conflict. Now the Obama administration has a new challenge. Shelley Rigger of Davidson College puts it this way, “Taipei has adopted a brand-new blueprint for its China policy, a blue print loaded with opportunity and risk. The U.S. needs to update its own approach to respond to the new situation Taipei is creating.”
It is easy to for Americans to say, great let Taiwan go there own way now, after-all we have enough problems to deal with. But that would be a mistake. Economic power is shifting east, American need to be engaged, connected and a part of the future. This can happen even as relations thaw between Taipei and Beijing.
If you would like to get in-depth insight on the Cross-Strait relationship, go to FPRI.org. It is a great resources. –Mary Caraccioli
One Response to “Taiwan: Does it still need the United States?”
Michael Turton Says:
May 11th, 2009 at 10:58 pm
The US is not playing intermediary, it has no role in the talks at all; it has been elbowed aside, to be sweet-talked while the KMT places the island in China’s orbit. This development has widespread approval among US China analysts, many of whom are involved in business interests in/with China.
The KMT has totally sold out the island in the talks. If you look at the summary above, which is typical of what appears in the foreign media, no details of the agreements are offered. Taiwan News note of the direct flight agreement:
“For example, ARATS turned down various requests by the SEF side, such as Taipei’s plea to increase the flights for Taiwan airlines in “golden routes” such as between Taipei and Shanghai and instead graciously expanded flights between Taipei and “hot spots” like Nanchang and Hefei instead and added northward routes that passed only through PRC air control zones to emphasize the “domestic” character of cross-strait air routes.”
“For example, the failure to include onward flight rights in the new pact will reduce Taiwan into a “commercial air dependency” of the PRC, whose airports will gain control over the lion’s share of lucrative “hub” onward connections. Given the widespread claim that Taiwan is rich in capital but short on “investment opportunities” (at least for myopic Taiwan investors), the influx of PRC state-owned companies, with the assistance of local proxies, will be able to use the maximum of 30 percent ownership to secure effective managerial control over Taiwan companies and their technology or knowhow in most economic fields, including telecommunications and news media, snare public works contracts and channels for patronage, and, with investments in hotels and travel companies, secure control over the bulk of renminbi spent in Taiwan by Chinese tourists.”
The KMT does not care because to the Old Guard who are in charge of the talks (not President Ma) the island is merely a bargaining chip to be used in their dream of getting back into the game in China. The KMT has also carefully kept the negotiations out of democratic oversight, despite overwhelming public support for a referendum on any agreement. The legislature has also been shut out.
In other words, handle the Establishment views of FPRI with care. They tell neither the right story nor the whole story.