March 30, 2000
SUBJECT: Clinton, China and Taiwan
In his press conference
yesterday, President Clinton made some remarkable statements on Taiwan
and China that have largely gone unreported but which reflect a troubling
trend in Administration policy. Increasingly, the president appears to
back Beijing in its attempt to intimidate Taiwans nascent democracy.
When asked to comment
on the fact that the Chinese had told National Security Advisor Sandy
Berger that the U.S.-China relations were at a "critical juncture,"
the president stated that the reason for this was the China-WTO
decision before the Congress." Clinton utterly ignored the obvious
and real source of the crisis -- China's threat to use force against Taiwan.
President Clinton went on to say that Taiwan's newly elected president,
Chen Shui-bian, "seems to be quite well aware of the weighty responsibility
he now has" to diminish tensions with China, suggesting the burden
for maintaining peace lies with the democracy being threatened rather
than the dictatorship doing the threatening.
also identified himself with China's position in reunification negotiations.
"The Chinese," he said, "have been quite clear that they
were willing to be patient and to negotiate an arrangement which might
even be different from that in Hong Kong." (Hong Kong returned to
China as a special autonomous region of China in 1997; since then it has
seen Beijing disregard its promises of democracy and rule of law for Hong
It is as if the president
believes that Taiwans exercise in democracy -- the recent elections
saw 86 percent of the eligible voters go to the polls and resulted in
the first transfer of power from one democractically elected government
to another in the 5000-year history of the Chinese people -- is more threatening
than Beijings saber-rattling. Rather than celebrating Taiwans
embrace of American political freedoms, President Clinton sent Berger
scuttling to Beijing to reassure the Chinese leadership that the White
House opposes any effort to recognize Taiwan's international legitimacy,
and that it also opposes increased defense ties between the United States
and Taiwan, passage of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act and/or sales
to Taiwan of military systems by which it could defend itself.
What a disgrace.