Unnecessary Provocation

We think that Taiwan's referendum to apply to the United Nations under the name 'Taiwan' is a provocative policy. It unnecessarily raises tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and it promises no real benefits for the people of Taiwan on the international stage.

Condaleeza Rice
US Secretary of State

Dear Secretary Rice:

Like many Americans living in Taiwan I think your recent statement is a provocative action. It unnecessarily raises tensions between the democratic ideals we cherish and the policies of your administration. The statement promises no real benefits on the international stage for the people of America, Taiwan, or even China.

The moment was not worthy of you, Ms Rice. History has recorded your name already as a crucial player in the advancement of democracy. You were your country's Russia expert during the fall of the Soviet empire. The people of central and eastern Europe did not achieve democracy in those years because America sent mixed messages. Your motto then was peace through strength, not status quo.

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.

Ronald Reagan

Compromise is inevitable in day-to-day governing. But it becomes betrayal when it gives away too much. Your statement, a payoff to Beijing after its help with North Korea, does just that. To say Taiwan's referendum is not helpful to you, to say you don't support the move, is one thing. To say you oppose Taiwan holding one is another. It gives away too much.

China's abusive leadership needs to understand that your country's commitment to democracy is not a chip to be traded. It needs to understand that the rights of free people, in Taiwan or elsewhere, are not the property of others to trade.

Please inform your counterparts in Beijing that they will have to collect America's IOUs with different currency.


Photo: Banner at Taipei Main Station
Taipei, Taiwan
2007 October

© Alton Thompson



Taiwan Echo said...

Nicely written, Alton. Did you send it to Ms Rice?

Alton Thompson said...

I'm guessing it can be found.

I hope my neighbours in Taiwan recognize the opportunity in this. Ms Rice, willingly or not, just loaded the bases. Now is the time for Taiwan to step up to the plate and hit this thing out of the park.

If a pro-UN referendum passes now, no one will be able to say afterwards that Taiwan's people were 'encouraged' to do it by some outside power. Everyone will know that Taiwan's people are speaking on their own and that UN membership is a priority. Their statement will be all the stronger for the discouragement lobbed its way beforehand.

The situation resembles 1996, when China shot missiles across Taiwan's bow before its first popular election of its president. This time America is shooting the missiles at China's request (I blush to say), but the tactic and its source are the same. We do best to meet it the same way. Resolve.

It's great to hear from you, Echo. Thanks. I'm a fan.

Taiwan Echo said...

"This time America is shooting the missiles at China's request"


China was trying to bite Taiwan hard but was bitten back. They learned the lesson that's why they keep low profile this time. It's now USA's turn to do all the barking for China, when China sits back and laughs.

I am just surprised how low USA is willing to go to serve an authoritarian regime. The more USA trying to suppress Taiwanese expression of opinion, the more Taiwan will gain momentum and worldwide recognition. In the end USA will be the only loser in this game.

I have been wondering how Bush is gonna teach next generation about the idea of democracy. Is he gonna tell them:

"They don't have the right to pursuit democracy before I earn enough to buy a private jet?"

Alton Thompson said...

Rice is a career diplomat. She chooses her words carefully and then sticks to the script. Taiwan has been well served by this on the whole. Ad libbing on Taiwan Strait issues can be disastrous, as her predecessor's experience shows.

Her statement targeted a single proposal on a referendum that is already on the ballot and isn't going away. It said nothing about what the US reaction would be to any result. It repeated the standard words about US policy in the region.

All of that is by design. So is the press conference held the same day by US military officials on Taiwan Strait issues. Two messages emerged out of this: 'We're ready for anything' and 'If China's leaders had their way, the US would be saying something critical of Taiwan every day.'

All that remains to be seen now is how Taiwan's people vote.

Standing up for yourself. It's not something you can wait for permission to do. This is true for societies as for individuals.

When it's time to stand up and be counted, you either do it or you don't. The moment is yours and yours alone.

At such times, your best friend is often the one who is daring you to do something.