Wendell Minnick, who writes on Asian defense affairs and is based in our very own Taipei, had an excellent article today in Defense News on Taiwan’s declining international support:

China is having success in its diplomatic and economic campaign to weaken international support for Taiwan, the self-governing island’s de facto ambassador to Washington said.

Joseph Wu, whose official title is representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), argues that Beijing has used diplomatic and economic thuggery and threats to weaken U.S. resolve to defend Taiwan and undermine Taipei’s efforts to get recognition in the United Nations.
Quite true — and this shows how important it is to change the UN initiative to “Taiwan” rather than ROC. Because “Taiwan” has no inherent conflict with China, since it does not claim to rule China, unlike the ROC. What a tragedy that the Chiang government never grasped a proposal by a high ranking insider, proposed to the US in 1972, to turn Taiwan into “the Chinese Republic on Taiwan” in which “Chinese” was only an ethnic label and not a political term. Too many insurmountable political obstacles….. I love the opening sentence of the next paragraph.

Washington has become increasingly critical of Taiwan’s democratic initiatives. In particular, President Chen Shui-Bian has been pushing for a public referendum on allowing Taiwan to join the United Nations. The issue has irritated both Beijing and Washington.

How often do you see the referendum referred to as a “democratic initiative” in the international media? I will rain beers on Minnick if I ever see him in Taipei.

After Wu claimed that US officials were “addicted” to Chinese help, Randall Schriver said that was overstated:

“Certain challenges may be best addressed through U.S.-China cooperation, and thus it makes complete sense the U.S. should explore possible cooperation with Beijing on these matters,” said Randy Schriver, now with Washington-based Armitage International. “But remember, the United States still sanctions China for Tiananmen activities, still criticizes China for human rights abuses, still sells arms to Taiwan and still welcomes the Dalai Lama to Washington for an audience with the president. If Washington was overly dependent on Beijing for diplomacy and trade, you’d likely see a very different approach on these and other matters.”

Schriver has long been a friend of Taiwan.

Wu fears a weakened Taiwan will result in an unnecessary war in the region at a time when the U.S. Pacific Command has been moving troops and materiel to the Mideast.

He argued that a weak Taiwan military will encourage Chinese military adventurism, while a strong Taiwan military would foster regional stability.

U.S. officials declined four times in 2007 to accept Taiwan’s letter of request for price and availability for 66 F-16s. Wu said the fighter jets would help the island defend itself without U.S. support. Without them and other weapons, the U.S. military may have to fight a devastating war in the Taiwan Strait.

Almost everyone, except perhaps the Administration, has made the connection between the criminal and stupid war in Iraq and declining US influence in the Pacific. The sad part is that the US hasn’t seemed to want to encourage someone else to step up and fill its shoes temporarily (read: Japan) while it is off blowing up its treasury, reputation, and military in the Middle East.

Support for Taiwan is eroding in the U.S. Congress, long a steadfast advocate, Wu said: “The Chinese influence of Congress is growing.”

Forces inside Taiwan have helped erode external support, he said. The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been more aggressive about pushing for freedom from Chinese influence. Ten years ago, a majority of Taiwan citizens identified themselves as Chinese, while today, some 80 percent self-identify as Taiwanese, Wu said.

The connections made here are just plain weird. The previous paragraph points out that China’s influence in Congress is increasing, and then the next paragraph complains about the DPP’s policy of “… pushing for freedom from Chinese influence.” Whatever that means. It then offers some stats on local identity. However, Minnick does not explain how enhanced local identity has led to a fall off in Congressional support. There’s no connection between the two! Has a line gone AWOL?

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which lost the 2000 presidential election, has since been working against the rival DPP. KMT leaders have traveled to Beijing to pay respect to the Chinese Communist Party, while KMT legislators have blocked proposed defense budgets and security measures.

The paragraph above is a great paragraph — it is not often that one sees in the international media references to the ongoing cooperation between the KMT and the CCP. I should add that I read that CSIS reported that after the 2000 election, KMT representatives went to China to instruct Beijing not to negotiate with Chen Shui-bian.

What China fears most is a DPP victory in both the legislature and presidency, which could push the KMT out of political power. The DPP’s Frank Hsieh and the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou face each other in the March presidential election.

Hard to see how anyone could fear a DPP win on Saturday. T’aint gonna happen. But the last section is wonderful:

Wu said Beijing had harassed Taiwanese delegations at international meetings with nongovernment organizations (NGO), coercing hospital, firefighter and hairdressing groups and beauty contestants to change Taiwan’s title to “Chinese Taipei.” Chinese thugs have shown up at many NGO conferences and ripped Taiwan flags from flagpoles.

In one incident watched by millions of Taiwanese on local TV, Chinese thugs bullied a Taiwanese beauty pageant contestant to tears.

The result has been increasing distaste for Beijing within Taiwan and fears that Chinese rule over Taiwan would be brutal.

Yup. Each time China abuses Taiwan, it chills Taiwanese hearts.