Another Perspective for Taiwanese America: Ensuring Taiwan’s Security
If you asked me to put money down on whether or not Donald Trump could point Taiwan out on a map, I would say you are out of your mind. However, if you asked me whether or not the Trump presidency has been good for Taiwan, I would be lying if I said it has not. To be clear, I am not talking about what might be better for the United States; I am strictly talking in terms of Taiwan’s geopolitics and from my personal opinion.
Growing up in the U.S. when I was younger, I never really understood why my progressive parents would sometimes vote Republican. But now, after living in Taiwan for more than 19 years, I can see the method behind the madness. The GOP has traditionally been more vocal in their support of Taiwan. And of course, a lot of that has to do with the massive arms purchases, but it is tangible, effective support nonetheless.
It’s difficult for most Americans to comprehend the cruel authoritarianism that is China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Remember the iconic image of the tank standing against the lone pro-democracy activist? This is an apt metaphor for how China continues to deal with its citizens and the world. Think of Tibetans, the Uyghurs, or the courageous pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Many more people will suffer if China is allowed to roll over the world.
Previous administrations believed that diplomatic efforts to work with China and increased integration into international organizations and market-based economic development would somehow magically set Beijing down a path toward democratization. The exact opposite has happened.
Some might argue that the U.S. needs to strengthen its relationships with allies, rather than go it alone against China. My question is, where have these alliances gotten us in the past with respect to Taiwan? Have the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO), or any other international organization for that matter, been able to push back against Beijing?
China claims almost all of the disputed South China Sea as its own with its absurd nine-dash line map. In 2016, a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration dismissed Beijing’s claims to the waters as having no merit. Did this ruling by a multilateral body stop China? No, Beijing refused to accept or recognize the ruling, and since then China has continued its militarization of the area.
Under the Trump administration there has been a fundamental shift in terms of U.S. policy toward China, one that takes into account the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) threat to American interests and values. When country after country has turned a blind eye to Beijing’s treatment of Taipei, Taiwan has welcomed the United States’ newly hardened stance.
Take for example how Trump has decided to deal with Huawei, ZTE, TikTok, and WeChat, some of China’s biggest and most successful global technology brands. He has gone quite authoritarian against them, which is exactly how you have to deal with China. China has never played fairly, so why should we treat them fairly?
Other bold moves were the administration’s decision to shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston on extremely short notice, and the requirement that Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes in the U.S. must register as a foreign mission. The Trump administration has threatened to de-list Chinese firms that fail to comply with accounting standards from U.S. stock exchanges. And, as most Taiwanese and Taiwanese-Americans noticed, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s recent visit to Taiwan was the highest-level visit by a member of the Cabinet since the U.S. cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979.
To their credit, the 2020 Democratic Party Platform has put much more emphasis on China than previous versions and even omits its previous mention of the “One-China policy.” According to their 2020 platform, “We will rally friends and allies across the world to push back against China or any other country’s attempts to undermine international norms.” That sounds great, but how will that be accomplished? And what if allies are not willing to stand up against Beijing? Will the Democrats have the courage to unilaterally take action against China?
When the Global Times — the CCP’s over-the-top propaganda spewing English tabloid — describes Biden as “smoother” to deal with, it is a clear sign that Beijing believes Biden will be easier to manipulate and that Trump’s recent actions have gotten under the CCP’s skin.
Some say the U.S. military has been weakened under the current administration. But with all of China’s stepped-up saber-rattling and almost weekly incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), in addition to their increased naval exercises designed specifically to intimidate the Taiwanese, the strong U.S. military presence in the region has been a key factor in keeping the peace.
In public, China dismisses U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific as nothing but “paper tigers,” but in private, they are reaching out to Washington saying that Beijing has ordered its forces “not to fire the first shot” in hopes of de-escalating tensions in the South China Sea, according to the SCMP. Is this the result of multilateralism or unilateralism?
中國曾公開貶抑美軍在亞太平洋的存在只不過是“紙老虎“，但根據香港南華早報（SCMP, South China Morning Post）的報導，北京當局私底下已跟華盛頓接觸，表明爲了降低逐漸升高的緊張態勢，避免擦槍走火，北京下令解放軍部隊不准在南海”開第一槍“。這是多邊主義還是單邊主義的結果？
While diplomacy and soft power crawl at a snail’s pace, I argue that this administration’s unorthodox and unilateral actions have Beijing extremely concerned, which is why China is now reaching out through various channels.
There will be those who say, “I am more than a one-issue voter.” To those people I say, that is the privilege you have of living in the U.S. You do not have to live with a daily existential threat hanging over your head, only a stone’s throw away. Because that is what is at stake here in Taiwan.
But at the end of the day, it will require U.S. politicians from both sides of the aisle to keep the full-court press on China. As Taiwanese Americans, if we care about the welfare and freedoms that Taiwan exercises, we need to let our voices and concerns be heard by those in Washington loud and clear, especially by Democrats who have historically been way too soft on China.
And pay attention to what is going on in Taiwan. Yes, be proud of bubble tea and Taiwanese food, but be prouder of our democracy, our woman president, our freedom of press, our freedom of speech, our respect for human rights, our universal healthcare, our complicated history, and our absolute unwillingness to bend in the face of authoritarian threats from China.
Our most apparent, unifying takeaway should be this: that our citizenship and political allegiances ground us as a community deeply protective of and concerned with Taiwanese sovereignty and security. It matters little whether we identify as liberal, conservative, or somewhere in the middle. There is a place for us all to be strong, critical advocates for Taiwan.
Written by Eric Chang 張浩明 (aka Ahbying – 阿明)
The views and opinions expressed in all perspectives pieces are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TaiwaneseAmerican.org as a non-profit organization.
Related: [中英版] An Open Letter to the Taiwanese American Community: Securing Taiwan’s Democracy 給台美人的一封公開信：守護台灣民主 (Guest Contributors)
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