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Commentary | PERSPECTIVES ON TAIWAN

A Presidential Punch in the Stomach . . .

Clinton ignored the Shanghai Communique and rewrote U.S. policy, to the delight of his Chinese hosts.

July 09, 1998|BRUCE HERSCHENSOHN | Bruce Herschensohn is a distinguished fellow at the Claremont Institute. Web: http://www.claremont.org

President Clinton's participation in the news conference with President Jiang Zemin of the People's Republic of China was Clinton's finest hour. No one could have performed better than he did in his statements about human rights, about democracy, about Tibet and about Tiananmen Square. He had to fill with pride every person who believes in liberty and is dedicated to human rights.

But after leaving Beijing, he went to Shanghai and while there he stated, "We don't support independence for Taiwan or two Chinas or one Taiwan and one China. We don't believe that Taiwan should be a member in any organization for which statehood is a requirement."

It was like being punched in the stomach.

This was not a restatement of policy, as his administration says. It was a new policy in which he gave a shove to the people of Taiwan.

The administration spokespeople would have us believe that the Shanghai Communique, signed by President Nixon, stated that there is one China, and Taiwan is part of China. What the Shanghai Communique said was that "the U.S. acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China." That was true in 1972. He stated the absolute fact as it existed regarding the belief of both the Republic of China on Taiwan and the People's Republic of China on the mainland. The governments in Taipei and Beijing agreed with that statement. The issue in 1972 was, "Which of the two governments is the legitimate government of China?"

In 1972, at the time of the communique, advocating independence of Taiwan was a crime in Taiwan. But as time passed, and the Republic of China on Taiwan became a democracy and guaranteed free speech, talk of independence was no longer a crime but became a widely felt advocacy. It became part of the platform of the Democratic Progressive Party. There are some 74 political parties in the Republic of China on Taiwan, and the DPP was the second biggest vote-getter in the 1996 elections. Its presidential candidate, Peng Ming-min, is a strong advocate of independence.

Clinton has announced a position that could cause great political upheaval on Taiwan. Further, when he said, "We don't believe that Taiwan should be a member in any organization for which statehood is a requirement," he was taking a position totally opposed by the most prominent political party on Taiwan. President Lee Teng-hui of the Kuomintang strongly advocates the republic's readmission into the United Nations.

I hope Clinton remembers--or at least has been reminded of--our position on Taiwan's membership in the U.N. in 1971, when it was expelled from that organization. President Nixon's ambassador to the U.N., George Bush, was the leader in trying to maintain the republic's continuation of membership and referred to the ouster of Taiwan as a "moment of infamy." Nixon said that the United States "deeply regrets the action taken by the U.N. to deprive the Republic of China of representation in that organization."

Clinton has written a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy, a policy that must be giving Jiang great joy and enhanced incentive for his obsession: reunification, peacefully or by force.

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