The recent close mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung,
Taiwan's two largest cities, remind us that Taiwan remains a
thriving democracy. Along with South Korea, Taiwan is one of two
former Asian dictatorships that have made a true transition to
This democratization has won Taiwan many friends around the
world, including the United States, Australia, Japan, and Britain.
But this support doesn't change the fact that Taiwan faces a severe
threat from China.
At this moment, China has more than 800 missiles aimed at the
island. Its military often conducts exercises relevant to an
invasion of Taiwan. That kind of power makes some observers in
government, business, and academic circles wary of upsetting China.
Yet China has shown that it respects strong, principled stands
rather than a submissive, begging attitude.
The US and other democratic nations must stand up for Taiwan's
right to determine its own future without China's military threats.
Taking this stand means welcoming Taiwan's representation in more
international organizations - and yes, rethinking their approach
toward the so-called One-China policy, which declares Taiwan to be
part of China.
China's bogus historical claims
China claims Taiwan as its own even though the People's Republic
of China has never controlled the island.
Even Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, in his
interview with Edgar Snow on July 16, 1936, made very clear that
Taiwan should be independent.
Historically, Taiwan belonged to China only during the short
period between 1945 and 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists occupied
the island and killed some 20,000 Taiwanese who demonstrated for
democracy. The Ching Dynasty, which ruled parts of Taiwan from 1683
to 1895 was Manchu, not Chinese. At that time, China, too, was a
The One-China policy is unfair to Taiwan - and it forces nations
that want to keep relations with both China and Taiwan to walk a
diplomatic tightrope. That's why Taiwan's allies need to revise
their policies toward China and Taiwan.
Take the US. Like many nations, it has two large "officially
unofficial" diplomatic missions in Taiwan, while Taiwan has many
missions in America. Both sides enjoy diplomatic privileges such as
immunity and tax waivers. With its Taiwan Relations Act of 1979,
which treats Taiwan as a state, the US has partially overcome the
One-China policy. But many US bureaucrats still treat Taiwan as
inferior. And many US allies have accepted the claim that the island
is a province of China.
In international relations, one of the closest parallels to
Taiwan is East Timor, although Taiwan is much more prosperous and
maintains a vigorous democracy. Only with the fall of Indonesian
President Suharto in 1998 - after nearly a quarter century of
oppressive military rule - did the East Timorese people gain the
right to vote on their future, choosing independence and freedom