A Bold Move
Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui recently stirred an already simmering pot by stating, during a July 9 interview on German radio station Deutsche Welle, that talks between Taiwan and the mainland could continue only if they were considered “state to state” instead of the commonly used and more ambiguous “political entities.”
Although both countries officially favor eventual reunification, Taiwan says it would be willing to reunite with the mainland only after China put into effect extensive democratic reforms.
In the shadow of Chinese power, Taiwan has for years avoided referring to itself as a nation so as not to anger its big brother. That is what makes President Lee’s recent statements so bold. They have provoked a strong response from China, which has accused Taiwan of “publicly poisoning” the atmosphere on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, declaring that “This will bring monumental disaster to the people of Taiwan.” China has repeatedly made a point of insisting it would not rule out the use of military force against Taiwan if the island’s reunification with the mainland should be threatened.
If Taiwan had any illusions of support from its old, and now uncertain, ally America, those hopes have been dashed. U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman James Foley said, “Our policy is unchanged. Our one-China policy is long-standing and certainly well-known.” He said Taiwan’s future was “a matter for the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resolve.”
With China furious and the U.S. highlighted as an unreliable ally, where will this leave little Taiwan? One thing is certain: Taiwan’s defiance has further prodded an already irritable China—a China which sees no real check to its power in the region.