Ting-i Tsai, a longtime and always excellent commentator on Taiwan affairs, had another choice piece in the Asia Times on Beijing’s use of Washington to suppress Taiwan:

Unlike its previous approach of directly threatening Taiwan over its holding of referendums in 2004, Beijing pressured Washington this time around to deliver its message.

“Beijing’s approach is brand new and totally different from the past,” said a former senior Taiwanese cross-strait affairs official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official contended that the DPP government had failed to recognize the change and come up with a way to counter it.

Beijing has repeatedly warned Washington since 2005 that Taiwan would likely declare independence before President Chen steps down in May 2008. Chinese officials suggested numerous scenarios under which this would happen to their Washington counterparts, including Taiwan’s declaring independence by adopting a new constitution, President Chen’s creating an incident in the Taiwan Strait to escalate tension, and simply declaring independence based on a positive outcome in the UN-bid referendum.

Tsai observes that China’s strategy was to keep acting as though it would cause a war in the Strait, to force Washington to push Taipei into its arms:

According to an article by Shi Yinhong, professor of International Relations at Renmin University, Beijing started to shift away from its policy of harshly condemning Taiwan between 2000 and 2001. At the same time, Beijing concluded that it should gradually convince the administrations in the White House through the upcoming administrations to accept the unification of China, and have Washington make a political choice between Taipei and Beijing.

“China should prepare for war with a serious and determined attitude, and continually maintain and escalate American’s fears and concerns over a war across the Strait,” Shi wrote. “This would be a crucial reason for the US to slowly accept China’s unification.”

The US cooperation with authoritarian China to suppress a democratic Taiwan is not explicitly mentioned by any of the US commentators. Instead, they they put the blame on Taiwan — Washington’s weakness has nothing to do with its stupidity in invading Iraq and its destruction of our moral high ground:

“It [Washington] tried every way it could to convince President Chen not to go forward with this process, but he did so against our advice. Why would Washington accept a process that leads to an outcome it opposes?” Bush noted.

Alan Romberg, senior associate and director of the East Asia Program at the Henry L Stimson Center, echoed Bush’s view by arguing, “Now that they [DPP] see the potential consequences, it is simply too late to rewind the clock.”

Whether the DPP can come up with a third referendum backed by both parties remains to be seen, but some pro-KMT academics have warned that the KMT would suffer from even worse diplomatic isolation if its presidential candidate were to win the March election but the referendums failed to pass.

According to an analyst close to the DPP, holding a referendum that could explicitly detail the desire of Taiwan’s people for international space would be its preferred scenario at present.

We’re not sure what outcome is occurring here that Washington opposes, since China can stop any actual entry of Taiwan into the UN with its trusty security council veto. Apparently Washington opposes the possibility that at some point someone may try to enter the UN under the name “Taiwan.” Now correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Chen Shui-bian send a letter to the UN asking to enter under the name “Taiwan” back in July, and didn’t the earth continue to rotate on its axis after this event occurred?

I’m just checking….although, to be fair, it is true that Washington had to “secretly” correct the UN Sec.-gen’s erroneous claim that Taiwan was part of China.

Tsai cites Bonnie Glaser at the end for an opinion that is apparently quite common in official Washington:

In a presentation given in Washington recently, Bonnie Glaser, senior associate at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggested that Beijing recognizes that it will face unprecedented challenges in responding to Taiwan’s demands for greater international space and reductions in its military threat toward Taiwan in a meaningful way if the candidate Beijing apparently favors, the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou, wins the presidential election.

The answer to Dr. Glaser is that no, there will be no unprecedented challenges, because the KMT and the CCP have been talking to each other since the mid-1990s about just this moment. Instead, scripted events will occur, stage-managed by both sides. Is it that Official Washington does not get how tightly Beijing and the KMT are interlaced? Or do they just not care if Ma puts Taiwan into Beijing’s orbit and totally destabilizes the security position of the US in the region (think of the conundrum Japan faces if Taiwan turns toward Beijing)? My money’s on door number 2, there, though several knowledgeable people have said the first choice is the correct one: the Bush Administration doesn’t get it.

One of the international correspondents pointed out to me that the day after the Presidential swearing-in here there’s a vote on Taiwan’s next application to the WHO, which will be a test for President Ma (if indeed Ma wins). What will he do when the PRC refuses him? I would argue that this isn’t going to be a test. Either the PRC will throw Ma a bone and let Taiwan in to make Ma look like a winner — which wouldn’t surprise me in the least, it would be one smart short-term move (Beijing can always get Taipei expelled later if necessary) or else the KMT and the CCP will agree on a script for handling it so that Ma accepts it. But there won’t be any surprises….and watch as Ma cooperates with Beijing in further reducing Taiwan’s international space.

UPDATE: Don’t miss this fantastic article on Kosovo that a reader turned me on to, from Christopher Hitchens in Slate. One of the many money quotes:

It’s a shame, in retrospect, that it took us so long to diagnose the pathology of Serbia’s combination of arrogance and self-pity, in which what is theirs is theirs and what is anybody else’s is negotiable.

Anyone recognize a state like that in Asia? Anyone?