Taiwan riddle for Trump, Xi
No nation ought to have a “two-nation theory” as it militates against the founding myth of a race, its people and the nation.
India with its own two-nation theory suffered partition and ungainly carnage. The mainland China and the outgrowth of its selfsame organic in the form of Taiwan too militate against the rationale of nation-state, ideally speaking.
The schism between communist supremo Mao Tse Tung and the flight of Chiang Kai Shek leading the Kuomintang happens to be a perennial scar on the founding myth of the Chinese nation, but Taiwan too needs its Independence.
The small north-top nation of Taiwan has followed a capitalist and democratic mode of development and is a micro scab tissue on the organic scaffolding of China, according to the mainland China’s argument.
The Chinese never gave up on the severed Taiwan, while the status of Taiwan has always been mired in the quick sand twilight zone of Taiwan’s rights and status. The smaller administrative unit with its promiscuity with the United States soon charted a grand growth and development story for itself.
Also, in the contemporary context, President Donald Trump’s post-inaugural conversation with the State head in Taiwan led to a blowback with the Beijing, wherein, the old wounds despite a Nixon-Mao détente in 1971 as part of Ping Pong diplomacy were sure to make an impact upon the general tenor of the Washington-Beijing bilateral.
The Taiwan Relations Act, passed in April, 1979, declared substantial but non-diplomatic relations with the people of Taiwan.
Senator Barry Goldwater and other members of the Congress opposed the decision of President Jimmy Carter, as he had abrogated the Taiwan US Mutual Defense Pact, which served as a larger security umbrella for Taiwan since 1954.
The Chinese act of supporting Washington in its role playing in Afghanistan and the Dragon’s expedition against Vietnam, the sore for America, brought Beijing and Washington together for a brief furlough.
Thus, as fallout of this rift in the American homeland, the institution of the order of the American Institute in Taiwan was established and this spawned new commercial and abiding cultural ties between the US and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The American understanding leaves apart the islands other than the mainland Taiwanese Island and the Penghu Island away from the jurisdiction of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).
The purport of the TRA happens to be historically that, “The Taiwan Relations Act potentially requires the US to intervene militarily if the PRC attacks or invades Taiwan.” The act states that “the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defence capabilities. However, the decision about the nature and quantity of defence services that America will provide to Taiwan is to be determined by the President and the Congress”.
The US has displayed a strategic ambivalence in the context of Taiwan in order to tread the twin canoe balancing acting on the Oriental seas of the Asiatic Space. It is this development and snippet out of international law, which has to be sorted out peacefully by the involved Nation State actors.
Initially, in the contemporary context, President Trump had called for a review of the status of PRC, but after a conversation with Beijing akin to other issues such as immigration policy and others, he has mellowed down a great deal.
Yan Xuetong, Dean of the School of International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, wrote in the New York Times, “Even though Trump has said he will support the ‘One China’ policy, China cannot fully trust him. Even his own people don’t trust him.” Thus, the Washington folks need to stick to a tough talking position, if they seemingly want to appear to be stately like. Still, a mellowing down in the light of Xi Jinping’s strong observations on the American standpoint has been taken in astutely by President Trump ‘uppity’ and upbeat campaign trail.
The question which needs to be answered is: can the twin superpowers share power in the Pacific? The American stratagem towards the PRC has always been interpreted as being that of strategic ambiguity and one that of “cooperative competition” in nearly all contested terrains in the larger international system, including the nationalist northern speck over China.
To put to rest doubts about any American legerdemain, Trump reiterated the American support to a “One China Policy” in a telephonic conversation with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.
It might be a tactical retreat by the American strategists and President Trump. The Cable News Network in one of his news reports informs the audience, “President Trump’s willingness to pull back from some of his more extreme ideas has been welcomed by market watchers. The pledge to Xi on Taiwan “matters to investors because if China can bring about a change like this, it may succeed in softening other US policy positions,” said Paul Donovan, global chief economist at UBS Wealth Management.”
The Chinese are of the opinion, pragmatically speaking that, Beijing is hopeful about the US mellowing down and taking substantial interest in the trade negotiations between both the nations.
Still, when China refers to the right of self-determination and insurgent ministrations in provinces such as Xinjiang, its own standpoint in the context of twilight-zone Taiwan stands on shaky grounds.
The new Chinese Policy of “leapfrog development” happens to be that of serving the mainframe Han race as most of the demographic alterations in the sphere of internal migrations have already been accomplished. Thus, the Chinese canard of playing the aggrieved nation in the context of Taiwan falls flat in the light of the strife-torn East-Turkistan movement.
The Uighur Turks, the original ethnic group, were belittled in all prevalent manners in order to hike the fortunes of mainland unity, the Han way. The same discrimination gets reflected in the manner in which national day parades exist as charades in light of the pattern of “select participation at national events”.
So much the so for the Chinese doublespeak. London-based the Guardian has reported that China reiterated in January, 2017 very categorically that Taiwan is non-negotiable.
Even, going by national polls in Taiwan, most of Taiwanese nationals prefer a separate existential streak for themselves and do not prefer to kow-tow along with the dragon wing’s flippancy. This allows dissent and freedom of existence in the name of the Taiwanese insistence on self determination. US President Trump does not propose to utilise the Taiwanese angle as a bargaining chip to outdo PRC diplomatically in the Asia Pacific.
In return for the Chinese demands, the US has already raised the bogey of the North Korean question, which insists on making Pyongyang retract from its scary and regimental nuclear ambitions and the ambiguities associated with it.
The American concerns over North Korea are genuine as it has ratcheted up the threat to take the military route over North Korea but China, too, has alertly refuted the American threats and concerns.
Still, as a summation, the Trump dispensation can hope for a negotiated settlement with Beijing in the peninsular region if not with the North Korean dictator.
Still, Chinese currency manipulation and subsidies serve as the constant obstructions in a steady Sino-US Relations. Also, Washington should link up its “Rebalancing” with Asia in the light of the Chinese claims over Taiwan.
(The writer teaches International Relations at Indian Institute of Public Administration, Delhi)
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