Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Art of (Diplomatic) War

Now that the three-way public tussle between China, Taiwan, and the United States is sufficiently focused in our collective rear-view, several helpful analyses have come across our radar that practically evaluate the reasoning behind each government's recent actions and the best step forward. In particular, these articles and documents focus on how Taiwan-U.S. relations may be improved -- one may even say salvaged -- in the near future.

The first was brought to our attention by Michael Turton in a posting yesterday on his blog, The View From Taiwan. John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation has weighed in with a logically-argued Web Memo, suggesting some very attainable tactical changes on the part of Washington and Taipei. Number one on our list out of Tkacik's recommendations is enhanced communication. To Taipei Tkacik says:

Coordinating with the United States and other key democracies is essential to preserving Taiwan's international personality in the United Nations, in its agencies, and across a broad spectrum of world organizations. Taiwan's leaders must approach these issues with a systematic and strategic outlook.

And for Washington?

Upgrading the rank and influence of the U.S. representative in Taiwan would be a good start. Giving Taiwan's representatives in the U.S. regular access to the National Security Counsel, along with Defense, State, and Commerce Department staff, is also desirable.

When it comes to maintaining friendships -- personally or internationally -- communication always helps.

Tkacik's call for a more systematic and strategic outlook concerning Taiwan's participation in the global community was echoed in yesterday's Nelson Report -- which quotes remarks made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for China Tom Christensen at the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council meeting in Annapolis. Some of Christensen's words:

Whether we like it or not, most countries in the world accept Beijing's characterization of Taiwan, and, when energized, the PRC can call in overwhelming support to marginalize Taipei. The Taiwan people are, of course, long accustomed to PRC pressure, and we are certainly not telling them not to resist these efforts; our own position is far from passive. That said, Taipei needs to push back intelligently and in a sophisticated manner that plays to its strengths. Frontal assaults on Beijing's sensitivities are bound to fail and, at the end of the day, leave Taipei further behind.

Whether Taiwan ultimately holds the referendum on UN membership or not, it is certainly a valuable point that 'assymetric' diplomatic challenges to China's eminence in the United Nations are needed.

Direct and open appeals for the realization of equal rights work great for drumming up publicity, but Taipei will probably have to work in a more oblique and creative (as a chess player might say, "baroque") fashion in order to navigate around Beijing's strengths and play off of China's weaknesses.

Keeping the world community skeptical about Beijing '08 -- some are allready calling 2008 the "Genocide Olympics" -- seems to us like a logical start. In the meantime, we're breaking open our copies of Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz.

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