The first is an editorial by the Houston Chronicle, entitled, "Their dilemma, and ours," in which the Chronicle underscorses the dark irony we have to live with when democratic Taiwan continues to get the international 'cold shoulder', while oppressive Beijing happily frolicks towards the 2008 Summer Olympics without the slightest reform to China's cruel and stifling political system. Some highlights:
Neither independent nor subjugated, commanding one of the world's largest economies but officially recognized by few nations, the island democracy of Taiwan endures a tenuous existence in a world that requires global access. If that weren't bad enough, it is menaced by a hostile neighbor that claims ownership.
Taiwan's dilemma offers a similar set of difficulties for the United States. Taiwan's de facto U.S. ambassador, Joseph Wu, outlined for members of the Houston World Affairs Council the several bitter ironies of the situation. The United States must maintain workable relations with China and can't recognize Taiwan, even though:
• China menaces Taiwan with missiles and threats, while Taiwan poses a danger to no one.
• Taiwan is a major U.S. trading partner, importing many tons of agricultural products, including Texas beef, and exporting electronic equipment that meets high standards of quality and safety. China sends us tainted food and toxic toys.
• Taiwan has curbed its air and water pollution, but China's regime fears environmental activists more than environmental degradation.
Chinese leader Hu Jintao recently called for talks with Taipei officials to maintain peace in the region. China and Taiwan should "resume talks on an equal footing as soon as possible," Hu said before his recent summit with President Bush in Washington.
As for the United States, the least it can do is grant Taiwan the same generous trading terms it recently gave South Korea, one of Taiwan's chief competitors. Washington should also champion Taiwan's desire to work with vital international institutions such as the United Nations' World Health Organization. To deny Taiwan access is to punish a peaceful, democratic ally while rewarding an oppressive competitor.
We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Pay particular attention to the call for increased trade (TUFTA?) and UN/WHO membership for Taiwan in the pentultimate sentence. These actions are the first solid step towards righting the wrongs collectively forced upon Taiwan over the many years that it has been a legitimate democracy.
The second article was by Simon Tisdall of the U.K. rag The Guardian. Entitled, "Taiwan squeezed as US and China negotiate," it highlights an unsettlying dynamic that was recently discussed during a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation: the more the United States suffers from diplomatic tunnel vision dealing with the Middle East, the more it is forced to rely on major regional players like China to help maintain at least a semblance of order elsewhere in the world. In doing so however, the United States may end up bargaining away foreign affairs objectives it would never have conceded otherwise. One can easily see how this might apply to Taiwan:
According to Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-ban, China now has 988 missiles aimed at Taiwanese targets and is continually adding to its arsenal. Chen, who strongly opposes unification and the communists' "one China" mantra, recently described Beijing as a threat to regional peace and said it was preparing to take the island by force by 2015. Last month China said it had deployed a high-performance radar system designed to complement its surface-to-air missiles and jet fighter interceptors.
Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, questioned the build-up during a visit to Beijing last week. The two sides agreed to create a military hotline to help defuse crises. But Gates' overriding stated priority was securing China's backing for steps to curb Iran's nuclear activities. On Taiwan, he merely reiterated Washington's formulaic support for maintaining the status quo.
. . .Taiwanese officials say China has become adept at manipulating the Bush administration. "They are under pressure from China. China is very clever. If they want to do something on Taiwan, they call the White House and tell the Americans that Taiwan is rocking the boat. Then the US government puts pressure on us," a senior official said. "Of course we are afraid about the growing cooperation between the US and China. It's a problem for us. It is definitely squeezing Taiwan."