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THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Taiwan marks an anniversary

Washington, April 11, 2019 | comments
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By THE WASHINGTON TIMES - - Thursday, April 11, 2019


China, the ancient “Middle Kingdom,” continues to be one of the greater ironies of our fiercely shattered times, when the unexpected is often the barely believable. For decades, the United States recognized the Republic of China, sited on an island off the coast of China, and threatened by the vastly larger government in Beijing, as the actual ruling government of the world’s most populous country.

Even after Mao Zedong’s Communists forced Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists to Taiwan, much of the world continued to treat the Republic of China on Taiwan, as “China.” Indeed, when the misnamed People’s Republic of China was established in October 1949, a mere 12 countries, Communist all, recognized it as legitimate and established formal diplomatic relations.

Over the subsequent decades, Taipei shed ally after ally. In the 1950s, more than a dozen countries switched their diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. More followed in the following decade. In 1971, the United Nations expelled the Taipei government and invited the government in Beijing to represent China, and with it a permanent seat on the Security Council. Taipei was not even granted observer status, a calumny that persists to this day. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter, practicing realpolitik, dealt the harshest blow of all, switching U.S. recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Congress was outraged. And so, with overwhelming majorities and over objections by the Carter administration, enacted the Taiwan Relations Act. This week marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of that seminal law.

The Taiwan Relations Act was a bit of genius. While recognizing reality, the act nevertheless ensured that America would maintain strong ties with Taiwan, a bulwark standing strong against the recognized menace of Chinese communism. The legislation further sent an unmistakable warning to Beijing, to keep its hands off Taiwan.

The Taiwan Relations Act established a de facto diplomatic recognition of the further reality, maintaining a robust diplomatic presence in Taipei through the American Institute of Taiwan, which is an embassy in all but name. The act establishes that “the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities,” and that the United States would “consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.” This strategic ambiguity keeps Beijing on notice and has done so for four decades.

In a time of fierce partisanship — it would be hard to get a bipartisan resolution praising puppies and ice cream through this Congress — Taiwan remains uniquely popular among both Democrats and Republicans. “Forty years later, the [act] still serves as the cornerstone of U.S.-Taiwan relations, says Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican. “It codifies the basis for continued ‘commercial, cultural, and other relations’ between our two countries, (and I emphasize “country”) in the absence of formal, diplomatic recognition.” The Taiwan Travel Act, similar in purpose, was enacted last year to encourage high-level contacts between Taiwanese and American officials, and by unanimous vote for both House and Senate.

Even as Taiwan has grown isolated on the world stage, it has thrived, and serves as a model of democracy and free markets. “In the years since the [act’s] adoption, Taiwan has blossomed into a thriving democracy with three peaceful transfers of power,” says Stanley Kao, the official Taiwanrepresentative in Washington, “[and] with its respect for the rule of law, human rights, a free market economy and a robust civil society, has served as a beacon of democracy in East Asia, and an indispensable strategic partner of the United States, working alongside with Washington and many like-minded countries, most recently in alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, fighting to defeat ISIS and advancing global freedom of religion, to name just a few.”

It is this very success that makes Beijing despise it so. Taiwan is a living rebuke to Beijing’s claim that Chinese people are ill-suited to democratic governance. Taiwan is a jewel of the will and genius of the people, and the anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act is well worth a birthday toast with champagne.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

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