Taiwanese and American, Democratic or Republican during the 2008 Presidential Election

TaiwaneseAmerican.org recently approached two of the leaders of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs – Young Professional Group to share their perspectives as our nation approaches the 2008 Presidential Elections. As Taiwanese Americans, our views and experiences are multi-faceted, and we must often acknowledge both Taiwanese and American issues. The following is not necessarily comprehensive nor approaches these topics in the depth they deserve, but serves as a starting point for conversation…

PART I: Discovering “- American”
by Godwin Chen

I once heard that if we manage to keep our community intact into the fourth generation, then our future as a community is secured. If we value the Taiwanese-American community, the question that must be asked is, “What is necessary to keep our community intact for four generations?” What are the obstacles that we, as second-generation Taiwanese-Americans, need to overcome to put us on the right track?

After a dinner at the annual Taiwanese-American Conference, I spoke with one of the founding members of the organization. His opinion, perhaps, echoed a thought that has been in the back burners of Taiwan-minded activists since the election of President Ma: What are we fighting for? What is the purpose of fighting when the people to whom we are extending our help turn it away?

In facing this existential crisis, we often look inward to re-evaluate our past. He turned to me and, in awkward English, said, “We have been treating this like an ‘American-Taiwanese’ Conference.” We have been neglecting our American identity.

Most of you reading this article are second generation Taiwanese-Americans. As second generation Taiwanese-Americans, we stand at the cusp of our future for centuries to come. The responsibility lies on us to strike the iron while it is still hot. Will Taiwanese-American come to mean an obscure relic of America’s immigration history, or will it continue to be relevant in enriching the lives of the members of our community. The key to the survival of our community is relevance in its dictionary definition:

Relevance: bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent: a relevant remark.

Our future is in America. As Americans, we have a responsibility to improve on our home. We also owe it to our predecessors that have dedicated their lives in the civil rights movement, and take full advantage of their efforts to participate in democracy. As a people who have fought for this right ourselves, it would be hypocritical now to neglect this duty.

There will come a time when the bonds of being Taiwanese alone will no longer be strong enough to hold us together, and we will dissolve. As a people, we must hold firm the core values that make us proud to be Taiwanese, yet embrace our future with open arms. This will ensure the survival of our Taiwanese-American community. Make yourself count as an American today. Make yourself relevant.

PART II: The Taiwan Issue
by Jonathan Lee

In general, Republicans are more sympathetic to Taiwan for reasons ranging from strong interventionist foreign policy to cold war anti-communist philosophy. Republicans view Taiwan as a strategic ally in the Pacific and an example of a working democratic “Chinese” society. Thus, Republican Presidents have a record of supportive rhetoric and policy such as Presidents Reagan and Bush Senior. However, there are always exceptions to the rule, current President Bush when first elected stated “the US would do anything to defend Taiwan”, but as of late he has been mostly critical of Taiwan’s political moves.

On the other hand, Democrats are less accommodating of Taiwan for reasons ranging from a stronger focus on domestic issues to a support for a policy of engagement with the People’s Republic of China. Democrats tend to view Taiwan as a liability that could drag the United States into an unwanted and catastrophic war with the PRC. Hence, Democratic Presidents have been less accommodating towards Taiwan. But once again, the exception to the rule is President Clinton who sent in the 7th fleet to the Taiwan Strait when China threatened Taiwan with missile tests during Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election.

Current election:
Both presidential candidates have stated support for Taiwan in varying degrees. Although both encourage arms sales in compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act, McCain has a longer record of support for Taiwan. One fact to note is the US has repeatedly stated if Taiwan were to unilaterally declare independence it will not come to Taiwan’s defense, but if Taiwan is attacked without provocation the US may intervene. Moreover, neither President will be able to betray Taiwan due to Congress’s support for the island. From a quick glance at historical behavior, McCain would most likely issue stronger rhetoric endorsing Taiwan, and would more likely intervene in the case of a conflict. Obama will probably stay silent on the issue of Taiwan until need be, and is less likely to intervene considering Biden’s view of Taiwan as a liability.

To see for yourself check out the site below for a more detailed record of each candidates statements on Taiwan:

This November 4th, one of the most historic elections in United States history will take place. Weigh the opinions above, from your civic duty as an American, your identity as a Taiwanese American, and perhaps issues that have been relevant to Taiwan (and our parents) in considering your vote. TaiwaneseAmerican.org takes no official stance on political candidates, but wants you to remain informed and to stay involved in the democratic process.

The mission of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs – Young Professional Group is to promote international recognition of Taiwan’s right to peace, democracy, and self-determination through education and lobbying. Jonathan Lee and Godwin Chen are the current co-coordinators of the FAPA-YPG NJ/NYC Chapter. As an organization, FAPA does not endorse any political candidates.

To learn more about FAPA-YPG, visit their website: ypg.fapa.org or join their Facebook group: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2201517594

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