Back in March, I presciently speculated about (and J. Michael Cole pined for) a Taiwanese political uprising that would combine domestic mass resistance to the KMT’s mainland-friendly policies with US institutional support a la Maidan and whip up a political froth that might result in the sidelining of the KMT, the acquisition of political momentum and even political power by a pro-US/pro-independence led by the KMT’s independence-friendly and mainland-averse rival, the Democratic People’s Party, and a gigantic black eye for the People’s Republic of China.
The first salvo occurred a couple days later, with the occupation of the ROC parliament by student demonstrators, the Sunflower Movement, opposed to a cross-strait trade and service pact negotiated between the government and the PRC. At that time, the US government stayed on the sidelines and the semi-official US presence in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan, reviled by many as an enabler of KMT-PRC rapprochement don’t rock the boatism, actually criticized the occupation.
Now it looks like Hillary Clinton has put Taiwan in play as a geopolitical counter in her ongoing confrontation with the People’s Republic of China, which characterized her term as Secretary of State and looks to define, for better or worse, her expected presidency. I don’t believe that Secretary Clinton is just talking up the benefits of the Trans Pacific Partnership and Taiwan’s membership in a U.S.-led trade bloc. She’s referring specifically to the advisability of putting a brake on development of cross-strait integration.
Expect the DPP and the Sunflower Movement to take Clinton’s statements as offering the prospect of US support, as well as encouragement to resist the KMT government’s cross-strait policies and challenge its legitimacy and effectiveness in a multitude of venues beyond the conventional electoral and parliamentary fora (where the DPP is currently trapped in impotent minority status thanks to the black magic of the democratic process). Since the current government is pretty unpopular, there is ample mischief that can be achieved in the name of “national emergency”. Ma Ying-jyeou = Yanukovich, PRC = Russia, KMT = Party of Regions etc.
And since the opposition to the KMT is firmly rooted in the discourse of Taiwan independence, there’s even a World War III vibe over Taiwan that was only fitfully present in the whole US + Maidan v. Russia confrontation.
I guess Clinton is doing Taiwan the favor of warning it to conduct its pro-US political ruckus sooner than later so that, unlike Ukraine, it doesn’t find itself torn in two by the struggle.
Good luck with that! I predict interesting times.
From the June 25 Taipei Times:
Former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said the government’s push for closer cross-strait ties could lead to Taiwan losing its economic and political independence and becoming vulnerable to over-reliance on China, according to an interview in the next edition of the Chinese-language magazine Business Weekly.
Widely expected to make a run in the 2016 US presidential election, Clinton made her position on the Taiwan-China relationship clear in the interview, which was conducted in Los Angeles on Thursday last week.
Citing Ukraine’s relations with Russia as a cautionary tale, she advised Taiwan’s leaders to be careful, or Taiwan might lose its current political independence.
“Economic independence goes with political independence,” she said. “How far can you go before you lose your economic independence? Because it will affect your political independence.”
Economic opportunities mean there are growing cross-strait connections and now Taiwan has arrived at “a turning point,” she said.
“Now you have to decide how dependent economically you become… How … do you handle the [cross-strait] relationship, if you say this far, but no farther?” Clinton said. “That will put pressure on you from China, if they want more, but you have to make these evaluations based on what you think is in the long-term interest of Taiwan.”
It may be difficult for Taiwan to strike a good balance with China, because “it will be harder and harder, because the demands from China will grow, because [China] is growing so much,” she said.
Taiwan should proceed with caution, as decisions made now could have “unintended consequences,” she said, adding, “you have to look five years, 10 years from now on, to see if that’s where you want to end up.”
She reiterated the US’ support for Taiwan.
“We have been willing to support Taiwan in many ways, [even] against China’s objections, and we will continue to do so,” she said.
The interview is reportedly Clinton’s first one-on-one with a Taiwanese media organization, and the first time she has stated her position on cross-strait development.