Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report is back from surgery and once again passing around insight into the Beltway Mind. Here’s his latest excerpt on Taiwan affairs:


It sounds like the private Chinese discussions of late mirror almost exactly much of the substance of concerns aired at Heritage, including what Taiwan law may require in the event either of the UN membership referenda are passed.

Both US and Chinese experts seem increasingly convinced that one or the other will pass, although no one can predict that a DPP presidential victory automatically means the DPP referendum also will be approved…and vice versa for the KMT.

But the real concern in both Washington and Beijing, at least, is that the DPP’s Frank Hsieh will be president-elect, and also be faced with a successful DPP referendum AND a legal claim by President Chen that it has the force of law, no matter what Chen promised AIT’s Ray Burghardt. [MT: This was corrected in the subsequent report: last night's Report (12/18) we mistakenly wrote that Taiwan president Chen Shuibian had already contradicted his promise to AIT head Ray Burghardt that the DPP referendum...if passed in March...would not have the force of law.

We seem to have misunderstood a press question at the excellent Heritage Foundation discussion earlier in the day, and thought that a "what if" actually was a "he just said" problem.]

The US has long been concerned about China’s propensity for actions which seem disproportionate to the practical reality of DPP actions in a real world…see the Anti-Secession Law, especially.[MT: this would seem to imply that the State Department's position is that if it doesn't talk at Taiwan, China will launch fighters.]

And China has long been concerned that even though it appreciates the strong rhetorical position of the Bush Administration toward DPP actions the US considers to be a risk to the peaceful status-quo, the US continues with manifestations of support (especially arms sales) which undercut the tough US line.[MT: But Jimmy Carter revealed last month that the Chinese had privately agreed to US arms sales in 1979. Isn't it time someone reminded them? ]

So, in a sense, both China and the US now worry about what China may feel compelled to do, perhaps against its enlightened self-interest, in the event of a DPP sweep of the presidency and referendum votes.[MT: Yes, we heard this rhetoric in 2000. And in 2004. Four years later, a millon Taiwanese have sunk $150 billion into China and everyone moves freely in and out. China can send a concrete signal any time it likes by acting against Taiwanese interests in China. Instead, it has successfully transferred the costs of deterrence to the US-Taiwan relationship. ]

The Bush/Yang, and now the Sun Yafu private meetings all seem aimed by China as spurring the US, and Bush personally, to even greater efforts to head-off the referendum vote.

We asked Amb. Joseph Wu about that after his eloquent, even passionate defense of his president and the referendum at Heritage, and Dr. Wu frankly warned that at this point, there is no turning back…the vote on both the DPP and KMT referendum will take place as scheduled.

Among the practical risks being incurred by Taiwan, discussants agreed, is that whatever one may think of the justice of the cause, the DPP policy puts in motion a dynamic in which China will feel justified in…for example…pressing for a UNGA [UN General Assembly] vote specifically endorsing Beijing’s policy on “one China”…and perhaps even more likely, accelerating Beijing’s “Dollar Diplomacy” against Taiwan’s remaining formal diplomatic recognition partners around the world.[MT: It is highly unlikely that China will ever strip the ROC of its remaining diplomatic partners. That would isolate Taiwan and leave it unconnected to any version of China, encouraging further independence moves. A UN General Assembly vote is, from the propaganda standpoint, a thing to be feared.]

At risk of getting ourselves into trouble, we felt it was notable that discussants John Tkacik, Harvey Feldman and others, even though clearly sympathetic to the thrust of the international space and Taiwan identity goals of the DPP, frankly warned that the referendum battle was counter productive to Taiwan’s international position, and especially its relations with the United States.[MT: Note two things: first, Taiwan needs to find a way to fix this problem pronto; and second, all of the discussants and pro-Taiwan types are conservatives or Establishment scholars. There is no Dem China policy, and there is no progressive discussion of Taiwan. Start talking, readers: what can Taiwan do to fix this mess with the US? ]

All discussants agreed that the Bush Administration has missed chances to actively sponsor Taiwanese international memberships in ways defined as acceptable to the PRC.
A current example…China’s notification to the ICAO of two new air routes which just happen to go down the center of the Straits and which could have the effect of curtailing Taiwanese defense interests (and therefore US interests).

Despite having two major international airlines, Taiwan has not been supported for ICAO membership by the US, it was noted.


UPDATE: ESWN has a link and translation to a blog in Chinese about the Heritage Meeting. Note how the events emphasized in the blog in Chinese are completely meaningless in the meeting account given by Nelson.