Ah, the world was different back in the 1960s, as Newsweek relates in a piece adapted from a new book on the 1960 Olympics:

The context was different, but the central political question as the Rome Olympics neared was the same as it is now: how should the world deal with China? The issue was debated that year by Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John F. Kennedy during the presidential campaign, and Brundage and the IOC became embroiled in it as well. The United States did not recognize Mao’s mainland government, Mao did not recognize Chiang’s island government and the IOC had nothing but trouble with both. Not long after the People’s Republic withdrew from the Olympics, the IOC ruled that Taiwan could no longer call itself the Republic of China at the Olympics because it did not represent the geographical entity of China. It could march in the opening ceremony only as Taiwan or the other name for the island, Formosa.

Suddenly Brundage went from being called a tool of American foreign policy to being labeled a communist sympathizer. Right-wing groups in the United States mounted an intense letter-writing campaign denouncing him. The State Department, while claiming to be free from political involvement in the Olympics, began a lobbying effort to persuade the IOC to overturn the decision. The Taiwanese, in diplomatic cables with Washington, went so far as to suggest that perhaps they should introduce Brundage, a known philanderer, to some of the “fleshpots of Rome” to help the cause. When all else failed, the United States urged Taiwan to boycott the Olympics rather than accede to the change in nomenclature, which was taken as a symbolic victory for the Reds in the cold war.

Taiwan might have boycotted, the writer says, but it had a great decathalete named CK Yang who had a pretty good shot at a medal. Eventually he took silver, outdone by his close friend Rafer Johnson.

It seems a simpler time, the Cold War, when everything was so black and white, compared to today, when we just had to worry about global flash heating by nukes, instead of global warming by Hummers. But today’s China Olympics offer all kinds of new wrinkles, as the Taiwan News notes in another of its hard-hitting editorials this week, pointing up the problem that the resolution of the China Taipei vs. Chinese Taipei mess implies for Taiwan’s sovereignty:

First, the flap was “settled” through secret negotiations conducted by KMT Spokesman Lee Chien-jung, a close associate of former KMT chairman Lien Chan, through the KMT-CCP “party-to-party dialogue” platform, evidently behind the backs of both National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Chairwoman Tai Hsia-ling and Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan.

Unless authorized in advance by the MAC, Lee’s actions reflect the creeping domination of the functions of Taiwan’s democratically elected government, including the management of external affairs, by the KMT itself.

“Conflicts of interest”

Even if Lee did receive secret authorization, the fact that the KMT and not the authorized Strait Exchange Foundation played the key role in the resolution of this flap reflects a dangerous and anti-democratic concession by the elected government and casts open the door to major “conflicts of interest” given the lack of political transparency and legislative regulation or oversight over KMT-CCP interactions.

Second, the prominence of the KMT-CCP platform, as shown by the agreements reached by PRC State Chairman and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao and KMT Chairman Wo Po-hsiung in late May and Lee’s resolution of the Olympic moniker flap, confirms that the party to party platform is now the genuine “Track One” in the cross-strait relationship.

The KMT-CCP dialogue served as a “track two” mechanism when the KMT was in opposition, but since Ma and the KMT took power May 20 and agreed to accept the “Consensus of 1992,” which Beijing has declared is equivalent to its “one China principle,” there have been no political hindrances between the two governments.

Therefore, the legally authorized and regulated channel between of Taipei’s Straits Exchange Foundation and Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait should be the sole platform for bilateral talks on all issues.

However, Beijing’s provision of “results” to the Hu-Wu talks and Lee’s mission aim to show that the KMT-CCP party-to-party platform is the genuine “Track One” in cross-strait relations.

In line with the current practice of the PRC and the past of the KMT party-state, the two parties will make the important policy decisions and the two governments, through the SEF and ARATS, will executive the details.

The result will be the denigration of Taiwan’s democratically elected government to a subordinate position under both the KMT and CCP parties.

The negotiations are party-to-party, not state to state. Not authorized body to authorized body. As I observe when former TSU legislator Lai Shin-yuan was appointed to the MAC post, it did not mean that she would be able to safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty or that Lee Teng-hui would have finger in this pie, as he does in some many others. It meant, in the final analysis, that the MAC would not be a major player in cross-strait policy formulation and negotiations. This has come true. Lai has been reduced simply to giving her opinion on events.

In the Party-State politics of the KMT, the Party is the state, and the government is just one more apparatus in the Party’s system of rule. In a real democracy political parties do not conduct negotiations on behalf of the nation, especially secret negotiations. Especially with counterpart Party-State systems, authoritarian in nature, and inimical to the future of democracy and independence on the island.

Sovereignty. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.