Anti-US reaction no aid in sea spat
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times  2016.7.23

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines has had a detrimental effect on Chinese interests. The tribunal’s ruling on Tuesday last week set off a hysterical anti-US reaction in China — the product of Beijing’s deliberate policy of keeping its public misinformed.

In Taiwan, some individuals have also been fanning the flames of anti-US sentiment, saying that Taiwan has been sold out by Washington.

The US might have some degree of influence over the South China Sea arbitration process, but it cannot manipulate the tribunal’s judges. If it were able to do so, given the US’ Asia “pivot” strategy, Taiwan’s important location and the current positive relationship between Taipei and Washington, why would it allow repeated use of the phrase “Taiwan Authority of China” to appear in the ruling? Is this not a carbon copy of the time when, under former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “one China” policy, the Philippines deported suspected Taiwanese criminals to Beijing?

Furthermore, while the US has the ability to influence Manila, it has no way to control or prevent the Philippine president’s recent flirtatious advances toward Beijing.

As for whether Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) is an island or a “rock,” this is not an issue of sovereignty, but rather an issue of exclusive economic zones.

Prior to the tribunal’s ruling, Taiwan was not invoking its right to a 200 nautical mile (370km) exclusive economic zone around the island and driving away non-Taiwanese vessels from those waters, nor was anyone else seeking to drive Taiwanese vessels away. Aside from reiterating its position on its claim to sovereignty over the island, did the government really need to react excessively, with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) rushing into the fray?

What is more important: upholding sovereignty over Itu Aba or upholding Taiwan’s national security? Beijing rejects and denigrates Taiwanese sovereignty, but are high-level politicians rushing to protest?

The government would not dream of sending politicians to Nanjing to lay its claim to sovereignty as the Republic of China and yet it feels comfortable making a big show of a high-level visit to Itu Aba.


Such a visit would certainly play into the hand’s of Beijing’s anti-US posturing. Furthermore, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) has called on Tsai to follow in Ma’s footsteps and visit the island.

This kind of anti-US populism can also be seen in Taiwan’s treatment of US beef imports. Is US beef really unsafe? The US has among the strictest controls on food safety of any country in the world. Taiwanese cattle farmers are disadvantaged by its lower prices, but that is good for consumers. All that is required is for the government to draw complementary measures to assist Taiwanese cattle farmers. Meanwhile, countless adulterated and contaminated food products are being smuggled into Taiwan from China: What are politicians’ plans for dealing with this?

A frequent refrain from academics and media personalities with close ties to the KMT is: “The US will sell out Taiwan.”

While it is certainly true that the US in the past engineered leadership changes in South Korea and Vietnam, those leaders were dictators. The US did abandon Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), but aside from the fact that he was the dictator and leader of a corrupt one-party nation state, the US was duped by China’s scheming leaders for more than 60 years — a mistake for which Washington is engaged in a period of self-reflection.


Perhaps the US was also fooled by Ma — after the Taiwanese public was tricked into voting for him. After all, the US is a democratic nation that respects the results of elections.

Following the assassination attempt on then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on March 19, 2004, in the run-up to the presidential election that year, former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) created a huge stink. Nevertheless, the US, following normal procedure, recognized Chen’s victory. In addition, the Taiwan Relations Act and the “six assurances” have provided consistent and effective protection for Taiwan.

Every country places its own national interests ahead of others and the US is no exception. Despite this, there is a substantial degree of common interest between Taiwan and the US. They share a common belief in democracy and have common strategic interests. This stands in stark contrast to China, with its constant threat to annex Taiwan. Since we share common values and interests, when faced with a difference of opinion over an issue, would it not be better to engage the US in dialogue instead of hurling abuse and visiting islands?

The KMT’s pro-China stance inevitably results in the party fanning the flames of anti-Americanism and driving a stake between Taiwan-US relations. Some pan-green politicians and political commentators have also used the media to malign the US. Of course the media must reflect public opinion, but if there is a divergence in public opinion, they also have a responsibility to report the opposing side of the argument.

Politicians and political commentators should take a longer-term and more balanced view than the average member of the public. If the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet was not periodically cruising through the Taiwan Strait, does the KMT seriously believe that Taiwan would be able to repel an invasion from China? If the US had not opened up international markets, would Taiwan’s economy have been able to rely on exports to power its economic miracle? The KMT would be wise not to bite the hand that feeds it.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Edward Jones


    LingFengComment 發表在 痞客邦 留言(0) 人氣()