The US certainly seems to think so.
Washington has delivered an exceptional rebuke to Taiwans’ President Chen Shui-bian after a speech in which he proposed abolishing a unification council with China, as well as other hardline policies.
The US State Department issued a statement on Monday evening defining US policy towards Taiwan and reminding Mr Chen that Washington “does “not support Taiwan’s independence and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either Taiwan or Beijing”.
“We certainly weren’t expecting [Mr Chen’s speech] and we weren’t consulted about it,” Adam Ereli, spokesman for the US State Department, told reporters at a regular briefing.
Mr Chen, who has been espousing a harder line towards China since an electoral defeat in December, proposed at the weekend abolishing the National Unification Council, a non-official advisory body whose responsibility is to co-ordinate unification with China.”What unification of China are we pursuing?” he asked.
Mr Chen also called for Taiwan to join the United Nations under the name “Taiwan” – instead of the country’s official title, the “Republic of China” – and for the drafting of a new constitution by the end of the year.
Mr Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party and many supporters of Taiwan’s independence view the “Republic of China” title, flag and constitution as relics of the Kuomintang, Taiwan’s once-authoritarian ruling party, now its main opposition.
“Most Taiwanese people want to see the country pursue national dignity and enhance its Taiwanese consciousness,” Mr Chen said.
After living there for nearly 6 months, I’d have to agree with Chen’s last statement. I have spoken to so many Taiwanese people about it, and have been surprised at how unified they all are on the topic of unification: they see the idea as patently absurd, idiotic and inconceivable. There were a couple of exceptions. One of my colleagues from Hong Kong is in favor of unification, strictly because he feels it will bring financial benefits to a shrinking Taiwan economy. But to say this is a minority opinion doesn’t say nearly enough.
With all Chen has said about this subject, I fail to see why the US should be so shocked at his statements above. They’re consistent with his worldview and with everything he’s said before. Whether it’s wise or smart of Chen to insist on pushing the envelope the way he does is a separate conversation. I’m just saying it shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore when he does it.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.