An Ongoing Face-Off
One of life’s great pleasures is seeing a bully’s threats ignored. That’s why the victory of Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party was such a sweet experience for supporters of democracy everywhere.
Mr. Chen’s triumph in Taiwan’s presidential election on March 18 came despite strong warnings from China, which has long threatened to invade the island republic should it declare independence from the mainland, or even resist unification talks indefinitely.
Since it became a free nation over half a century ago, Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, has earned a reputation for valiantly fighting against the forces of communism. China considers Taiwan a renegade province; and, as the Trumpet has stated for years, China’s ultimate objective is to bring Taiwan into complete subjection under the communist yoke.
The handwriting is already on the wall.
Prior to the election, 74-year-old Chinese President Jiang Zemin announced that he plans to make Taiwanese “reunification” with the mainland his final legacy. Thus, a timetable for reconciliation has been set.
In addition to Mr. Jiang’s statements, on February 21 Beijing issued an 11,000-word White Paper on Taiwan, signaling a new impatience in China. The paper stated that if Taipei should drag its feet in reunification negotiations, Beijing would be made to “adopt all drastic measures possible, including the use of force.”
That is not all. Just days before the elections, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji cautioned Taiwanese constituents against voting for the pro-independence candidate. Mr. Zhu said, “Let me give advice to all the people of Taiwan: Do not act just on impulse…. You will regret it very much—and it will be too late to repent.” He added that China was willing to “shed blood” to defend its “territorial integrity.”
Mr. Chen’s election flies in the face of China’s crude mandates. This bold move has China on the defensive. How Beijing will respond to the new president has suddenly become one of the most critical issues in Southeast Asia.
A Long-Time Ally
Some political analysts want to portray China’s recent threats against Taiwan as empty bluster. They believe China’s attempts to influence the election backfired, just as its scheme of launching missiles into the Taiwan Strait seemed to have backfired during the last election in 1996. Many Taiwanese citizens, however, are not so optimistic. They realize the challenges their new independence-minded president faces as he works toward breaking the current deadlock in relations with the mainland. They know that if Mr. Chen pushes the wrong buttons, he could provoke a Chinese invasion.
Taiwan also has reason for trepidation because of the flurry of American diplomatic activity toward Beijing in the past several years.
U.S. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay recently criticized the Clinton administration for deserting Taiwan on the eve of its election. He said that the president was “appeasing” Communist China and encouraging their warlike posture. “This administration has treated Taiwan with a thinly veiled disdain,” he said in a foreign policy address on March 16. “This proud people who have nurtured liberty in the shadow of tyranny have been all but abandoned by a democratic superpower of unrivaled strength.”
Indeed, Taiwan has been a long-standing and faithful ally of the U.S. It has had strong democratic rule for a number of years and is deeply devoted to America.
Loss of Face
The Taiwanese cannot help but wonder whether America will soon terminate diplomatic relations with them. Such an action would automatically invalidate the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty and 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, both of which oblige the U.S. to defend the island. This would be detrimental for both America and Taiwan. “For the U.S. to unilaterally scrap [the Mutual Defense Treaty] with a time-tested friend would…result in a further loss of U.S. credibility around the world” (Plain Truth, June 7, 1975).
Herbert W. Armstrong, the late founder and editor-in-chief of the Plain Truth magazine, foresaw Taiwan’s fate more than 40 years ago. Here is what he wrote after the Quemoy confrontation, in a letter dated September 19, 1958: “Will Red China invade and capture Formosa? In all probability, yes—but when depends on when God Almighty decides…. It is probable that…free China will fall into the clutches of the communists. The Red Chinese will ‘save face,’ and the United States, with many American troops now on Taiwan, will again lose face!”
From the viewpoint of Asian leaders (and others), a nation’s merit is invaluable. That is why China is relentlessly trying to defame America. They know that once a country’s reputation is damaged or destroyed, it is very difficult to establish credibility again.
Mr. Armstrong explained this truism in a July 5, 1960, letter. “Loss of face has far greater meaning to the Oriental mind than to ours,” he wrote. “Orientals regard prestige, or loss of it, on the basis of the person of the nation’s leader.”
The reason Chinese leaders continue to defiantly shake their fists at the U.S. and Taiwan is simply that no one is stopping them! Consequently, their disrespect for America grows. Likewise, the longer their belligerent words and actions go unchecked, the more evident it is that the U.S. lacks the courage and will to squelch China’s number-one goal of reunification.
Mr. Armstrong explained further, “The Communist policy is not to attack the West first or direct…. They know this ‘loss of face’ they have given our peoples, by humiliating and insulting the U.S. president—and getting away with it—will have a tremendous effect on turning the minds of Eastern peoples against us and toward communism…. Reds are now shouting, for the first time, ‘The United States is clearly defeated. It is already wobbly as a world power’” (ibid.).
Cause for War
Although China currently finds it difficult to push the agenda of Taiwan unification on its own terms, “it has now raised the stakes, and it will not want to lose face over such an important issue as Taiwan” (Intelligence Digest, March 10). Therefore, China will continue browbeating Taiwan—and could even revert to scare tactics, including staging war games or imposing a naval blockade in the Taiwan Strait.
The danger, especially in light of the fact that Taiwan’s newly elected leader is pro-independence, is that Taipei may view these measures as only “face-savingsaber-rattling—and this calculation could, in turn, encourage Taiwan to go one step too far” (ibid.).
Some intelligence sources believe that Chinese forces still are ill-equipped to invade Taiwan, despite
reports of growing Chinese military capabilities. According to one of the Pentagon’s top experts on the Chinese military, however, Beijing may have figured out a way to force Taiwan’s surrender without a full-scale invasion. “Mark A. Stokes [says] a massive, coordinated air strike employing hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles could cripple Taiwan’s air defenses and early warning systems, destroy its command, control and communications centers and demolish Taiwan’s eight primary airfields, thereby neutralizing the Taiwanese air force as well as its naval ports…. [China] could then force the Taiwanese to sue for peace on Beijing’s terms” (Washington Post, March 21).
China is already building two surface-to-air missile bases near Fuzhou—a coastal city barely 160 miles across the Taiwan Strait opposite Taipei. China also possesses a potent arsenal of sophisticated electromagnetic sea mines, Kilo-class submarines, and a nuclear-powered destroyer capable of penetrating navy defense systems. In addition, as we have pointed out in previous issues of the Trumpet, China is developing a strategic partnership with technically advanced Russia. Because of this, “in the space of only years China will be able not only to threaten the island but U.S. forces if they intervene” (Stratfor GIU, March 3).
If the Chinese are planning a missile attack on Taiwan sometime in the near future, the U.S. would be well-advised to prevent it now instead of following a policy of appeasement and taking a hands-off approach to Taiwan. That kind of “peace making” does not work in the end.
Washington’s spin-doctors apparently want U.S. citizens to believe that defenselessness and lack of preparation for war is not only safer, but a sign of maturity. Their psychology of pacification appears designed to convince America’s peace-loving peoples that any effort to prevent a military conflict is too provocative and therefore too risky. However, this rationale may backfire in their faces the instant China lobs the first missile across the Taiwan Strait!
The February 1978 Plain Truth, reporting on the Carter administration’s drive for closer relations with China, put it this way: “Many Taiwanese see Washington’s seemingly irrational policy of pursuing relations with [China] on [China’s] own terms as a policy of appeasement—a policy which will encourage Communist Chinese aggression in the same way Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler encouraged Nazi aggression.”
Although President Reagan tried to patch up relations with Taiwan in the 1980s, U.S. policy has once again tilted against Taiwan in hopes that Taiwan’s new government under Chen Shui-bian will accommodate Beijing’s demands. That is unlikely. Around 95 percent of the Taiwanese are against allying with China. Polls show that a growing number no longer even consider themselves Chinese. Furthermore, although Mr. Chen has pledged not to declare independence while he is in office, chances are that his Democratic Progressive Party will adopt a nationalist policy Beijing considers unacceptable.
Samuel Berger, President Clinton’s adviser for national security affairs, recently said that the U.S. attaches great importance to developing its ties with Beijing and supports a prosperous, stable and strong China. He also remarked that he felt the best way to protect America’s interests and promote democratic change in China is by “continuing a policy of principled, purposeful engagement with China’s leaders and people.”
On March 29, Mr. Berger visited China to meet with Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen. In the meeting he remarked that “the U.S. government does not support the ‘Taiwan independence’…or Taiwan’s entry into any international organizations that require statehood” (Xinhua News Agency, March 29).
How can the U.S. government expect China to respect them if they stab a faithful partner like Taiwan in the back? Truly, America’s Communist “lovers” will double-cross them in due time!
The Plain Truth of February 1978 reinforced this observation: “Within the framework of Oriental ethics, a yielding to [China’s] demands for scuttling Taiwan—though it would serve [China’s] purposes—would also earn [China’s] contempt. Abandoning an ally, even though it be Taiwan, would be a demeaning loss of face for the United States before the Chinese.”
The Chinese have said their struggle is “final and to the death.” Many believe it is impossible for China and Taiwan to settle their formidable differences peaceably, through negotiations. Therefore, in the absence of diplomatic or political solutions, China will likely take Taiwan by force—relatively sure that Washington will not interfere.
The U.S. is “losing face” over the China-Taiwan dilemma. Moreover, the Chinese are making every effort to “save face” on this issue, because they know that a reunion with Taiwan would signify the final severance of Taiwan’s U.S. ties, which have restrained China’s communist ambitions for decades.
Yes, a major conflict is looming in Southeast Asia. Every indication is that Washington’s affinity with China will continue, until a once powerful America eventually betrays Taiwan and its democracy-loving people.