The unsettled status of America’s policy toward China confuses leaders in China and the United States, and it needs to be abandoned, said Rep. Steve Chabot (R.-Ohio), co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.
“One-China is a dangerous fiction that most of the international community has bought into in order to mollify China,” said Chabot at a recent conference hosted by the Heritage Foundation.
Chabot was among several experts who spoke about the relationship between People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the island of Taiwan.
Labeling the policy as “outdated and irrational,” as well as “counterproductive,” Chabot called upon the U.S. government to publicly denounce the One-China Policy, thus officially relinquishing any support America may be showing of China’s forceful efforts to control Taiwan.
By not speaking out, he said, America gives the wrong impression to Beijing, Taiwan and the world, because Chinese leaders assume U.S. silence indicates agreement.
By continually ignoring the issue, the U.S. government encourages Beijing’s demands on Taiwan to succumb to unification, according to Chabot.
Even though any step in that direction may invoke controversy, Chabot doesn’t see any reason for the U.S. to fear possible Chinese repercussions.
“China relies on the United States,” Chabot said, “not the other way around. As the world’s pre-eminent power, we must not tolerate China’s threats.”
Chabot’s not the only one to find major defects with the policy. Others noted its failure to define boundaries and expectations.
“I consider our China policy to be fatally flawed in the sense that the key terms used to describe it are precisely the opposite of what the words mean on their face,” said John Tkacik, senior research fellow of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.
Tkacik explained that the term “One China” implicates the U.S. government recognize only one government in China at a time—and not necessarily that Taiwan is part of China.
Dating back to the days of President Richard Nixon, U.S. administrations have failed to clarify the implications of the policy as defined by the U.S. government.
The policy advocates the misconception that America doesn’t support independence for Taiwan—an idea that clashes with America’s proclaimed vision of widespread democracy.
Some leaders question China’s commitment to resolving differences with Taiwan through peaceful means, as the upgrading of China’s military continues in full force, according to Pentagon adviser Mike Pillsbury, who also spoke at the conference.
“As the PRC rapidly modernizes its military in order to provide its leadership with credible options for the use of force,” Pillsbury said at a conference in Taiwan in 2004, “Taiwan’s relative military strength will deteriorate, unless it makes significant investments into its defense.”
Both Chabot and Pillsbury agree that Taiwan needs to build up its military—to prove its desire for U.S. support and to show Beijing that it will not be walked over.
However, Juliet Chung, born and raised in Taiwan and now living in Baltimore, attended the conference and felt uncomfortable by some opinions raised.
Chung said more important than Taiwan’s independence is the ability Taiwan has to progress democratically by fostering a positive relationship with China.
“For us, the China-Taiwan relationship is a matter of life and death,” she explained, “because what we have is the right to vote and that single vote can hopefully … represent our weak voice against the mainstream politics.”
The opportunity for progress, prosperity and security are what matter most, Chung said, whether they take place under unification with China or co-independence.
She said she worries that building up Taiwan’s military will only aggravate Chinese political leaders, escalating military confrontations on both sides.
Because Taiwan is a great asset to China, according to Chung, the people of Taiwan do not fear there will be a Chinese attack. Not only has Taiwan invested the majority of its monetary funds in China, but it represents China on the cultural front as well. This is what subdues Taiwanese concerns of an irrational outbreak by Chinese military to unleash its power and wipe out Taiwan.
“Taiwan is more China than China,” she said, explaining that “Chinese culture” is best manifested on the island when it comes to food, education and other aspects of life the Chinese are famous for. “By destroying Taiwan they are destroying themselves.”