After suffering all weekend from cold and food poisoning, Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous day, so I went out and didn’t blog. Meanwhile future Secretary of Something or Other Lief-Eric Eisley has a long and balanced piece commenting on the lack of trust in the US-Taiwan relationship, adapted from a piece that went out to some IHT partner papers:

First, there were perceptions of betrayal on both sides. President Chen articulated in his 2000 inaugural address “four noes” regarding Taiwan’s international status. US officials considered Chen’s subsequent statements on Taiwan independence and the constitution, initiatives to use “Taiwan” instead of “Republic of China,” discontinuation of the National Unification Council and pursuit of referendum politics as going back on his word. International friends of Taiwan faced Chen’s public use of their support and cooperation to score partisan points. Chen’s identity politics to garner votes domestically came at the expense of trust internationally.

Meanwhile, some in Taiwan felt that Washington abandoned Taiwan’s democracy for profitable relations with China and post-Sept. 11 security priorities. They allege that Washington takes cues from Beijing on how to deal with Taiwan. Some groups in Taiwan express the sentiment that the island is so strategically important, America must protect it, and that Taiwan “standing up to China” is what Washington really wants. They feel betrayed when US officials make clear the position of “no unilateral change to the status quo” and criticize Taiwan policies.

Second, there was lack of consultation and mutual respect. US-Taiwan trust needs open and stable communication between executive and legislative branches. Unfortunately, Washington places prohibitive restrictions on official contacts. What is more, the Chen administration fell short in staffing Taiwan’s foreign policy. Many policy experts remained loyal to the KMT camp while Chen’s DPP lacked human resources and did not sufficiently reach across the aisle. Chen often shuffled appointed positions for political reasons; with such turnover, it proved difficult to develop coherent policy and build trust with officials of other governments.

Chen’s administration also presented surprises — such as “one country each side” and discontinuing the Unification Council — without meaningful consultation with Washington. Unpredictability damages trust, as does diplomatic scolding. The Bush administration felt compelled to admonish Taiwan publicly, especially regarding the United Nations referendum. While the referendum is unlikely to pass, it caused unfortunate perceptions of Washington not adequately respecting Taiwan’s democracy and Taiwan not adequately respecting US interests.

Eisley is OK where he talks about the international side — certainly the US is just as responsible for the situation as the Taiwan side is, and it is good to at least see an allusion to that in the media. Eisley does not mention that the Bush Administration has systematically strangled relations, as Therese Shaheen noted in an article last year. Some of it is just plain wrong:

Many policy experts remained loyal to the KMT camp while Chen’s DPP lacked human resources and did not sufficiently reach across the aisle.

…..did not sufficiently reach across the aisle?” On what planet was that written? Here on my planet, the DPP had a KMT premier and KMT defense ministers, including the excellent Lee Jye, who would eventually get kicked out of the KMT for cooperating with the DPP (note the fate of those who put the nation above the KMT). The ambassadorship to Washington, the nation’s most important foreign post, was also in Blue hands. How much “reaching out” is enough?

After that discussion the article veers into Establishmentia, that land where reality vanishes in a haze of Serious Writing:

Third, Taiwan politics were fiercely contested, causing defense policy to become overly politicized. Taiwan’s young democracy is not institutionally consolidated and remains handicapped by lack of international recognition and susceptibility to united front tactics by Beijing. Chen’s domestic credibility has been dangerously low since the terms of his reelection in 2004 and charges of corruption and mismanagement. The long-ruling KMT had no experience of how to act as a faithful opposition. Defense policy, particularly arms purchases approved by Washington, became a political football. By not funding the arms package, Taiwan appeared to be spurning cooperation with the US and not taking responsibility for self-defense.

….the long-ruling KMT had no experience of how to act as a faithful opposition.” You gotta treasure sentences that do epistemological backflips to appear balanced — as Lee Jye’s experience showed, the KMT has never acted in good faith and never intended to.

By not funding the arms package, Taiwan appeared to be spurning cooperation with the US and not taking responsibility for self-defense.” This should more accurately say that “despite being one of the world’s largest importers and a faithful customer for US arms, Taiwan left itself vulnerable to charges it was not doing enough in its own defense — by those whose interests were served by such charges.” Note that Eisley’s piece never says which party rejected the arms package more than 60 times and also broke its promises to the US to get them passed: the KMT. A key characteristic of “balanced” and “serious” writing is that it refrains from clearly identifying the anti-democracy side’s nefarious actions, whilst explicating the pro-democracy side’s failures in great and sometimes erroneous detail. Thus “Chen’s identity politics” are clearly identified as a cause of trouble, though the KMT’s own identity politics do not even come in for a mention, and forthright presentation of the Blues’ cooperation with China is missing (barely hinted at in the term “United Front”). One of the most important missing elements in international media discourse on Taiwan is KMT–Beijing cooperation. Sure like to know why………

The closing frame is 100% Establishment:

The greatest challenge for the next Taiwan president will be stabilizing Taiwanese identity. Key for restoring US-Taiwan trust and improving Taiwan’s standing will be the new government’s ability to build domestic consensus on an international strategy. Such a strategic vision would prioritize interests (economic competitiveness, secure autonomy) over desires (international reputation, formal independence).

…with all the right keywords: economic competitiveness, stability, consensus…..the problem with a “balanced” piece like this is that because it dwells on “Chen’s identity politics” as a cause of instability, rather than the actions of both parties, when it calls for stability at the end, it sounds pro-KMT rather than “balanced.”


One of the bummers about being a progressive Taiwan supporter is that so many of one’s political allies in the US are right-wingers; witness the detestable John McCain’s recent strong words on China, versus the nonexistence of China and Taiwan in Dem discourse. Staunch Taiwan supporter Therese Shaheen writes in the conservative Washington Times:

The drubbing earlier this month of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic People’s Party in parliamentary elections has some American conservatives breathing a sigh of relief. The stalwart William Rusher represented many when he wrote in The Washington Times that the DPP’s loss to the opposition KMT was “a gratifying victory” for Taiwan and “well-wishers in the United States.”

To Mr. Rusher, DPP President Chen Shui Bian’s “policy of cautiously increasing Taiwan’s separation from China simply aggravates Beijing to no purpose, since Taiwan is for all practical purposes entirely independent of the People’s Republic of China and has our assurances.” That is news to many, not least the KMT, which has transformed itself into the party that will do almost anything to prevent Beijing from believing that.

Mr. Rusher is giving voice to what many conservatives want to believe, to wit: Nothing in China, Taiwan or the United States had changed since about 1982. It has, though. Notwithstanding recent elections’ results (and possibly a similar result in March’s presidential elections) there is little about the situation that warrants this distressingly outdated read of the situation…..

As Shaheen notes, not all conservatives are on the ball about Taiwan….


In other US-related news, the media are reporting that Taiwan is buying 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, 8 of which must be manufactured in Taiwan.

Wu said that Taiwan’s Industrial Development Bureau signed the deal to buy the aircraft from Lockheed Martin in December 2007, after Lockheed Martin had agreed to include technology transfer, or industrial cooperation, in the deal.

Under the agreement, Wu said, Taiwan has requested that eight of the 12 P-3Cs be manufactured in Taiwan as well as a flight simulator.

Lockheed Martin has submitted its industrial cooperation plan for Taiwan to the US Navy, CNA quoted Wu as saying.

The P-3C can perform in various roles including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, maritime surveillance, naval fleet support, and search and rescue.

Congratulations to Lockheed! Does it really mean that the aircraft are going to be 100% Taiwan-made? Or just the fittings? This is good news — one of the big problems with getting the arms deal done was that the US had specified there would no Taiwan manufactured input into the submarines. What legislator would vote to spend money that wasn’t coming back to his constituents? Now at least part of the work connected to the arms package is being done here.