It seems that for now the United States will persist in pressuring Taiwan's President Chen to back down over the proposed referendum on UN membership, yet the pitched battle of rhetoric that took place at the end of last week seems to have produced more gains than losses for Taiwan.
First, there was the diplomatic intervention by the United States that quashed China's proposal to hold a vote in the General Assembly on Taiwan's sovereign status. Then during the APEC meeting, as the rock-solid Financial Times reports, President Bush took the opportunity to drive home the message to Chinese President Hu Jintao:
The remarks were made in a speech on Friday attended by Mr Hu at the Sydney Opera House, ahead of the Apec regional summit in the city this weekend.
“We will encourage China to open up its political system and give greater voice to its people,” said Mr Bush, according to remarks released prior to delivery. “As our relationships with South Korea and Taiwan during the cold war prove, it is possible to maintain friendships and push toward democracy at the same time.”
He said the Olympics would be a “moment of pride for the Chinese people”, when “the eyes of the world fall on Beijing”.
“We urge China’s leaders to use this moment to show confidence by demonstrating a commitment to greater openness and tolerance,” he added.
The message to China seems clear -- whereas the Bush and Chen administrations may currently stand in disagreement over the timeliness and prudence of the retooled and renewed push for UN membership, Taiwan democracy remains a regional strategic asset and a valuable cause the United States is willing to defend. Furthermore, Beijing should use the 2008 Summer Olympics as an opportunity to appreciate the open flow of information that Beijing will either permit during the Beijing Games, or that will be pried from the government's clutches by international reporters.
With its lust for absolute power, as with all other forms of addiction, Beijing admitting it has a problem will have to be the first step on its 'long road to recovery'.