Should Chen keep his trap shut on China?

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.

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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.

The Discussion: 73 Comments

randomchinadude’s comments remind me of the observation that many Chinese speak of domestic policy as an abused child would speak about their parents. Extremely protective outside (because my dad does love me! sob sob) but scared and upset at home.

Many of my close mainland Chinese friends have told me that they are very frank and critical of their government when they are with “their own kind.” This need to save face outside is really unreasonable. Most rational americans (and certainly the ones here) generally are very open on discussing the challenges in their country.

My feeling of the reason most people reasonable come to this site is to have a similar discussioin on China – to get perspectives from all types of people on what’s going on in China, its challenges, and its realistic short term and long term potential.

We are not to blindly scream USA! USA! or CCP! CCP! Comments like “we kicked your ass in Korea,” and some of the commies similar comments regarding jizz have no place here.

It’s probably hopeless, but any time you commies want to respond to the US bases effects on stability worldwide, I’m still waiting.

February 1, 2006 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

“We are not to blindly scream USA! USA! or CCP! CCP! Comments like “we kicked your ass in Korea,” and some of the commies similar comments regarding jizz have no place here.”
A good point.
I challenge all of the shenhong tongzhis out there to hold themselves to a “only discuss China on China threads, only discuss the U.S. on U.S. threads.” That way, when faced with a genuine criticism, Xin and the other CCP backers will have to answer the question at hand, without recourse to “but in America there is problem X, Y and Z” kind of arguments.
For an example of what I mean, see the above postings on how Xin tried to avoid the point on what his reception would be if he were to stroll up to a crowd of Tibetans and inquire into their feelings on libertaion.

February 1, 2006 @ 1:31 pm | Comment

Oh, that and the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty.

February 1, 2006 @ 1:58 pm | Comment

Stuart,
Mongolia, well we called outer mongolia, and we call one of our provinces inner mongolia. You know why? lol

Chinese government does not want outer mongolia, though my opinion is different.

Skystreaker,
“how it has prevented the otherwise more severe military buildup in Asia.”
A superpower country generally has this role in region. But in asia, I would think china gonna take this role sooner or later. But we just gotta improve our rural area first. 🙂

Ikillspys:
If you think the topic is insulting so much, the way you talk about tibetan is doing the same way too all chinese. Tibetan are chinese since 800 years before there were a USA.

Richard:
I do considered before I comment. Recall my comment about French critisizing China’s eating dog thing. “I already took France off western democratic country list”. So for the rest, needless to talk to them. Remember my first post on this forum is “waiguoren” thing? Why do you guys use troll or commies refer to us? I said and proved “waiguoren” is not an offense and after then I never use it on this forum. So, what about troll and commies? Shall I be honored about them?

Shulan:
I love our leaders and I wish you love yours too. And your comment “PLA body liquids is also close to non-existent.” This is true, when they are soldier, they don’t use them, that’s the chinese rule. We all know that. And don’t call that “noble”.

Gordon,
You have no idea what you are doing. You are neither respecting my country, nor respecting tibet. I give you a story between mongolian and han-chinese. Mongolian’s invasion to china caused 89% population reduction in north china, as revenge, han-chinese kicked some mongolian out of china, for the rest killed. In north china, some area, people used to say :”In ZhongQiu (mid-fall), we eat moon cake, we chop mongolian heads”. I DO NOT go to any han-chinese to remind them 89% population reductioin and I DO NOT go to any mongolian to talk about han-chinese chop mongolian head. It is miracle that even such hate in history, china today is still ONE country.

Liu Yixi,
I am sure your government even said “mainland” would use nuclear weapons. This is ridiculous to the hell and your government is suck. Brainwashing taiwanese people by evil-ise everything CCP did. I remember not long time ago, I was already in australia, Lv XiuLian said something like “CCP will turn taiwan into culture revolution period”. Don’t you think is not a brashwash?

Random china dude, you are right. I do not hide problems china currently has. But it’s just no point to talk to people whose initial purpose is not for china’s benefit. When I talked to chinese friends, we simply talk everything mentioned here. I mean all the social problems.

And it is funny I was called one of commies here. I am not communist member. And I never was. I simply said something defending my country.

I start worrying about you guys mental health as most of them still learning chinese, but wait, with such mood? At least when I learn english, I didn’t see any english countries as evil imperialism. So enjoy your evil communism chinese study. lol

have a nice day. lol

February 1, 2006 @ 4:48 pm | Comment

“, I was already in australia, Lv XiuLian said something like “CCP will turn taiwan into culture revolution period”. Don’t you think is not a brashwash? ”
I agree with you 100% I think the above quote is not a case of brainwashing. I am glad that we have the same idea on some things. Based on your other postings, I am a little surprised that you recognize that the CCP would feel a need to have a cultural revolution in Taiwan to make the people into ignorant slaves.

February 1, 2006 @ 6:59 pm | Comment

Yixi,
sorry for my english, my meaning was opposite. No, CCP will not bring culture revolution to taiwan. Why should CCP do that? I can’t find a reason, you give me a reason.

February 1, 2006 @ 8:50 pm | Comment

Xin, why did the CCP feel the need to bring the cultural revolution onto mainland China? You give me a reason.

February 1, 2006 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

In one breath the US tells Chen to buy arms to fight China, and in the next it tells him not to talk up a fight in case he actually has to follow through.

Does this strike anybody else as perverse?

February 2, 2006 @ 5:17 am | Comment

ACB said:

In one breath the US tells Chen to buy arms to fight China, and in the next it tells him not to talk up a fight in case he actually has to follow through.

Does this strike anybody else as perverse?

Not really. Ever hear the saying, “walk softly, but carry a big stick”?

It’s one thing to prepare for a defensive strategy, but it’s quite another to instigate it.

I support the people of Taiwan, but I also consider Chen Shui-Bian to be a trouble-maker.

February 2, 2006 @ 5:59 am | Comment

Clarification:

I meant to say that it’s one thing to prepare for war, but it’s quite another to instigate it by antagonizing the enemy.

February 2, 2006 @ 6:00 am | Comment

“sorry for my english, my meaning was opposite. No, CCP will not bring culture revolution to taiwan. Why should CCP do that? I can’t find a reason, you give me a reason.”

Probably because the people of Taiwan have enjoyed a free media which openly criticizes politicians and libraries & bookstores full of history books which are accurate for so long. The CCP would view this as intolerable. Of course, there would not be a full-scale temple smashing teacher burning cultural revolution like the one in dalu, but there would be a swift and harsh crack-down on basic freedoms.

February 2, 2006 @ 6:12 am | Comment

Yuxi,

Don’t forget a rapid imprisonment of current political officials.

February 2, 2006 @ 6:57 am | Comment

Xin, your turn

February 2, 2006 @ 8:25 am | Comment

Richard and all the rest in the thread here:

For quite sometime, i have declined to comment on cross-straits relations, but there is still a burning urge to do so.

For a rare occasion, a social democrat and realist like me would for once praise the Bush Administration for swiftly rebuking President Chen for his proposal to scrap the National Unification Council and the guidelines it espouses.

What Bush did was a sensible, calculating and realist approach to international affairs. The US cannot afford to let Taipei have a veto on its position in regards to the status quo in the Taiwan Straits. To let Taiwan redefine the status quo that has kept the tenuous peace in Asia-Pacific is potentially dangerous and catastrophic. Chen was trying to drag the US into a head-on conflict with China. If Taiwan goes down, so does the US.

Imagine if Chen has his way, and the US kept silent about it, what will be the consequences? The Pan-Green would think that they had tacit support from Washington and push their independence agenda even further and provoke an aggressive response from China. China would no longer trust the US as a leverage to keep Taiwanese independence in check. It will set a dangerous precedent for the Pan-Green to venture on a path of further adventurism and raise the stakes for all the three parties. War would be likely.

Many here would then lament and whine and say China is the problem, it is the aggressor who threatens to wield military force on a democracy etc etc. Like it or not, China will USE FORCE ON TAIWAN, if the island declares de jure independence. But its a political fact, all the US leaders from Truman to Bush know that China will go to war should Taipei seeks formal independence. For the peace and stability of Asia-Pacific, tough to the Taiwanese, they don’t have much a choice. If Taipei maintains the status quo, they can be assured of US-Japanese help should Beijing launch an unprovoked war on the island. IF Taipei agitates unilaterally for independence, i seriously think the US will have no choice but to let Taiwan be another Hungary in Nov 1956. Look at Beijing’s threats in the past, in the 50s they said they would intervene in Korea, they did. In 1979, they told the US and the USSR that they would attack Vietnam, they followed up their threat promptly. What makes you think that they would not attack Taiwan, if they would carry out threats on foreign soil, let alone Taiwan, which they considered a renegade province?

We can argue non-stop here about whether Taiwan should be independent, whether US foreign policy is amoral or is Bejing the devil etc etc.. But folks lets face the hard facts on the ground. The Chinese will strike on Taiwan if the latter declares independence, in which they would not care whether the US would intervene or not. Thats a political fact and reality. Chen is trying to play God and change the status quo which has spared the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits warfare and destruction, for better or worse.

Unless the US are ready to have a regime change in China, lets stop this meaningless and endless arguments here. If you cannot dictate China’s policy on Taiwan, there is really no point in all these arguments. The US would not risk a major war with a great power in the Pacific theatre for an island over 10000 miles away from the US mainland especially when it was Taiwan who was engaging on a path of adventurism to change the geopolitical framework which had kept the delicate balance of power in the region.

So it is still about realpolitik, richard. Sorry about that. Bush may be stupid, but not stupid enough to start a major war in Asia in which Chen and his Pan-Green Camp is dragging him into. He still needed Beijing’s cooperation in more urgent matters: the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

February 2, 2006 @ 9:19 am | Comment

And to many here:

I also notice this interesting trend that as the issue of Taiwan is being brought up, Tibet and Chinese oppression will definitely be brought up simultanously…

I am not defending the illegal CCP regime and would be the last to do so with my nationalist sympathies.

However, don’t anyone think that all the rhetoric about democracy and Tibet is right but at the same time double-standard and bias? It sounds ironic but things are like that.

The Australians slaughtered the Aboriginals and with its “Stolen Generation” and Howard’s refusal to apologise for the genocide against the natives, yet few Westerners or governments ever mentioned about it, let alone criticise Canberra.

The US also built its current territory through armed conquest, chasing Amerindians off the land with all the atrocities, slaughters. Just because the Amerindians became almost wiped out does not erase that crime.

The West also remain silent on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan on their human right records.

And the theocratic regime in Teheran which seeks nukes now is the end result of US propping the authoritarian regime of the Shah by using the CIA to overthrow a democratically-elected secular nationalist govt led by Mossedeq in 1953.

I brought up all these not to defend Beijing’s crimes or its repression in Tibet. What i want to say is, if you wanna preached sucessfully without others having a pinch of cynicism, bring a mirror along and look at yourself first.

As a true democrat, i would criticise all regime when they violate rights and engaged in repression regardless be they China, US-inclined or not.I don’t give a damn as long as they are oppressive. I suspect many here “selectively” criticise, hiding their own past and position themselves as moral arbitrators when they were so dirty and ugly themselves. Nothing beats pretence and hypocrisy. Didn’t Bush teach you that?

February 2, 2006 @ 9:45 am | Comment

We’ve covered this before – this post is mainly of people interested in Asia and China. Sure we can talk about Chechnya, Native Americans, the lost australian aboriginals, or the compromise of American principles to satisfy its energy needs, etc.

But you’ll probably find more interesting comments regarding those issues on other blogs. If websites regarding those issues were constantly referring to other issues, we’d never really get anywhere in terms of discussions.

February 2, 2006 @ 9:59 am | Comment

SP, this is a blog about China, so don’t be surprised that we focus on…China.

I have never endorsed Chen’s independence movement and constantly post that I fear he is being reckless in provoking the PRC and threatening the status quo.

February 2, 2006 @ 10:08 am | Comment

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I posted the following on this very thread yesterday:
” I challenge all of the shenhong tongzhis out there to hold themselves to a “only discuss China on China threads, only discuss the U.S. on U.S. threads.” That way, when faced with a genuine criticism, Xin and the other CCP backers will have to answer the question at hand, without recourse to “but in America there is problem X, Y and Z” kind of arguments.
For an example of what I mean, see the above postings on how Xin tried to avoid the point on what his reception would be if he were to stroll up to a crowd of Tibetans and inquire into their feelings on libertaion.”

To sidetrack a discussion of CCP policy by pointing out that Australia, America, Brazil or wherever are also not without skeletons in their closet is not to answer the initial criticism.
As a blog dedicated to China, this site posts a good number of threads related to political failings in the western world. Those are a relevant venue for such criticisms.

February 2, 2006 @ 10:22 am | Comment

Yixi,

Let me go on record now stating that I take offense to that “horse” statement.

February 2, 2006 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

Can’t resist:

A horse is a horse,
Of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse
Of course,
That is, of course, unless the horse
Is the famous Mister Ed!

People yakkity yak a streak
And waste your time all day,
But Mister Ed will never speak
Unless he has something to say…

February 2, 2006 @ 12:59 pm | Comment

Horse’s Mouth,

I meant nothing personal and apologize for my insensitive choice of words.

February 2, 2006 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

I’ll let it slide this time.. 😛

February 2, 2006 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

Re: Xin’s question about cum.
I don’t know that I could find any of your army’s cum in other countries, but I bet I could track down some phlegm pretty quickly.
(I know I’m fighting fire with fire here, so if ya wanna delete it, no prob).
The reason you’ll never find this army in a “foreign country” is because anywhere they land suddenly becomes an “inseparable part of China for thousands of years, whose unity with the motherland is recognized by the DPRK, and the Republic of…. blah blah blah”

February 5, 2006 @ 11:30 am | Comment

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