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2007/05/30

[轉載] Underlying Strains in Taiwan-U.S. Political Relations


Underlying Strains in Taiwan-U.S. Political Relations
Kerry Dumbaugh
Specialist in Asian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33684.pdf

Summary
The status of Taiwan is a key issue for U.S. foreign policy and a critical point
of contention in U.S. relations with China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan.
The U.S. policy framework for Taiwan was laid down in 1979 when Washington
severed official relations with the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan and instead
recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate Chinese
government. The basics of that policy shift — the Taiwan Relations Act, the 3 U.S.-
China communiques, and the so-called “six assurances” toward Taiwan — remain
in place today. But many other factors have changed dramatically. The PRC itself
is a rising global economic power scarcely resembling the country it was at the Nixon
opening in the 1970’s. U.S. economic and political relations with the PRC have
expanded and become more diverse, playing a more complex role now than they did
then in U.S. calculations of its own interests. China’s military has grown as well,
with much of its strategic planning focusing on a Taiwan contingency that may lead
to conflict with U.S. military forces.
Taiwan, once an authoritarian one-party government under martial law, has
become a fully functioning democracy. In Taiwan’s 2000 presidential election, Chen
Shui-bian’s upset of the long dominant ruling party in a true democratic contest was
a resounding validation of U.S. ideals and hopes for global democratic development.
But other aspects of the new government’s pro-independence views conflict with
U.S. policies that support the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait and are unwilling to
support Taiwan independence. Taiwan-U.S. relations in recent years also have been
plagued by other factors, including mistrust between the Bush and Chen
Administrations; mixed bilateral messages; a decline in the extent to which Taiwan
is willing to fulfill U.S. expectations about its own self-defense; the fragmentation
of the once-powerful “Taiwan lobby” in the United States; a perceived declining role
for Congress; and the sheer volatility in Taiwan’s domestic political environment.
These changes are posing challenges to U.S. policy. Some observers suggest that
as the PRC and Taiwan have evolved, the original U.S. policy framework has grown
increasingly irrelevant; they argue it needs to be reassessed or scrapped. Others hold
that the very constancy of the U.S. policy framework is crucial in managing U.S.
relations with both governments; they argue it needs to be maintained. Bracketed by
these two options is a quiet flow of alternative policy suggestions. These tend to
advocate various substantive changes in day-to-day U.S. relations with Taiwan and
China that appear defensible within the existing U.S. policy framework. These
alternative views include a more transparent U.S. policy and more open interactions
with senior Taiwan leaders; greater U.S. support for Taiwan’s participation in
international organizations; a more active U.S. role in cross-strait relations; more
pressure on the PRC to talk to the elected Taiwan government, withdraw its missiles
opposite Taiwan, and renounce the use of force; and more overt support for Taiwan
democratic institutions.
This report, originally released in October 2006, reflects trends as of spring
2007. It is not routinely updated. For ongoing issues in U.S.-Taiwan relations, see
CRS Report RL33510, Taiwan: Recent Developments and U.S. Policy Choices.
Contents
Importance of Taiwan for U.S. Interests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Possibility of Cross-Strait Confrontation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Taiwan’s Importance as a Viable Democracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Taiwan’s Importance for U.S. Leadership in Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Changing Environment for U.S. Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
New Factors Affecting U.S. Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Problems Between Bush and Chen Administrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The “Credibility” Issue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Perception of Mixed Messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Other Communication Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Differing Definitions of the “Status Quo” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
PRC Military Buildup and Taiwan Self-Defense Commitment . . . . . 14
Taiwan Corruption Scandals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
The Constitutional Reform Question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Fragmentation of the “Taiwan Lobby” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
TECRO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
DPP and KMT Representatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
FAPA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Factors Within the U.S. Government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Disagreements Over the Low Transparency in U.S. Policy . . . . . . . . . 19
Reduced Congressional Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
PRC/Taiwan Receptivity to Enhanced U.S. Role . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Volatility in Taiwan’s Democratic Environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Deep Political Partisanship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Divisions in the Ruling DPP/TSU Coalition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Divisions in the Opposition KMT/PFP Coalition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Policy Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Maintain and Reaffirm the Current “One-China” Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Abandon the Current “One China” Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
A More Transparent Policy Within the Current Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Another “Taiwan Policy Review” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
More Active U.S. Role on Cross-Strait Relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
More Pressure on the PRC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
More Overt U.S. Support for Taiwan Democracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Underlying Strains in
Taiwan-U.S. Political Relations
Importance of Taiwan for U.S. Interests
Taiwan has importance for U.S. political and security interests that is greater
than might be expected given its lack of official relations with the United States. The
political and international status of Taiwan has remained a key issue for U.S. foreign
policy and a critical point of contention in U.S.-China relations. In important
respects, what happens in Taiwan and between Taiwan and the PRC has direct
impact on U.S. policy decisions and on U.S. security interests.
The fundamental framework of U.S. policy toward Taiwan was laid down
decades ago, beginning with the Nixon opening to the communist People’s Republic
of China (PRC) in 1971 that resulted in the severing of official relations with the
Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1979. U.S. policy toward Taiwan since then has been
defined by four primary documents: the Taiwan Relations Act (P.L. 96-8, enacted in
1979); and three U.S. communiques with the PRC: the Shanghai Communique
(1972); the Communique on Normalization of Relations with the PRC (1979); and
the August 17 Communique on Arms Sales to Taiwan (1982). In addition, U.S.
policy has been shaped during these decades by a combination of other factors.
Among these are a set of six policy assurances the United States gave Taiwan in the
1980s; the precedents set by a collection of sensitive “guidelines on Taiwan” that the
executive branch has adopted to define and constrain its actions; a variety of
statements by successive U.S. Administrations about the nature of U.S. policy toward
Taiwan and the PRC; and periodic initiatives by Members of Congress intended to
affect U.S. policy in some way.
But while this fundamental framework remains the basis of U.S. policy today,
many other aspects of the relationships have changed dramatically. U.S. economic
and political relations with the PRC have grown more sophisticated and more
strategically complex. The PRC itself is a rising global economic power that scarcely
resembles the country it was at the Nixon opening in the 1970s. Taiwan, once an
authoritarian government under martial law and one-party rule, has become a fully
functioning democracy with political pluralism.
The dramatic evolutions in China and Taiwan are posing challenges to the longstanding
precepts that still serve as the bedrock of U.S. policy toward both
governments. Many hold that the very constancy of the U.S. policy framework itself
is crucial in managing the increasingly complex U.S. relations with both
governments; they argue it needs to be maintained. Others have suggested that as the
PRC and Taiwan have evolved, the original U.S. policy framework has stultified and
grown increasingly irrelevant; they argue it needs to be reassessed.
CRS-2
1 Other aspects of Taiwan as a political issue are covered in other CRS reports: current
developments in Taiwan in CRS Report RL33510, Taiwan: Recent Developments and U.S.
Policy Choices; the political history of Taiwan’s situation in CRS Report RS22388,
Taiwan’s Political Status: Historical Background and Ongoing Implications; and the
evolution of the “one China” policy among all three governments in CRS Report RL30341,
China/Taiwan: Evolution of the ‘One China’ Policy — Key Statements from Washington,
Beijing, and Taipei.
2 Discussions for this report included meetings in Taiwan with members of the Legislative
Yuan, with senior government officials at the highest levels, and with U.S. officials at the
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in Taipei. Meetings and other input from sources in the
United States included: Jeff Bader, Richard Bush, Nat Bellocchi, Coen Blaauw, Michael
Fonte, Bonnie Glaser, Mike Lampton, Randy Schriver, Robert Sutter, John Tkacik, Steve
Yates, Jason Yuan, current U.S. government officials, and current House and Senate staff.
3 In an interview with the Washington Post on November 23, 2003, Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabao was quoted as saying of the Taiwan sovereignty issue, “The Chinese people will pay
any price to safeguard the unity of the motherland.” “Interview with Wen Jiabao,”
Washington Post, November 23, 2003, p. A27.
This report will examine U.S. policy toward Taiwan within the context of the
challenges now confronting it.1 The resources used in this analysis include news
media reports within Taiwan, the United States, and the PRC; official U.S.
government reports and press statements; and studies from think tanks and other
policy analysts. Additional analysis was obtained from a series of discussions with
senior government officials in Taiwan at the highest levels and a series of discussions
with relevant parties in the United States. The latter included meetings with current
and former U.S. government officials with direct responsibility for Taiwan policy;
with various political representatives of Taiwan in Washington; and with noted
experts at Washington think tanks and in academia.2
The Taiwan issue in U.S. policy is extraordinarily complex and nuanced, and
the analysis in this report may not portray the entire range of views, variables, or
options that exist about Taiwan and its relations with the United States.
Nevertheless, this report does convey important findings of direct relevance to U.S.
policy interests and to congressional concerns.
Possibility of Cross-Strait Confrontation
Although the PRC frequently iterates that its intentions are to assure a peaceful
resolution to the ultimate status of Taiwan, Chinese leaders have not foresworn the
possibility of using force to unify Taiwan with mainland China.3 To drive home this
point, the PRC on March 14, 2005, adopted an anti-secession law to bolster its
assertion with statutory authority. Moreover, PRC anxieties over Taiwan’s status
increase whenever either the Taiwan or U.S. government takes an action that Beijing
feels impinges on its sovereignty claims over Taiwan. This dynamic, combined with
China’s threat to use force against Taiwan, the growing economic and strategic
importance of the U.S.-China relationship, and continuing U.S. security interests in
CRS-3
4 Reportedly former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage stated that the
decision on whether to commit U.S. forces to the defense of Taiwan will rest with Congress.
“U.S. defense of Taiwan would be Congress’ decision,” Taipei Times, December 22, 2004,
p. 1.
5 The goal of peaceful resolutions in both the Taiwan Strait and on the Korean Peninsula
was mentioned as joint U.S.-Japan objectives at the “2 + 2” meeting in February 2005. See
CRS Report RL33436, Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, by Emma
Chanlett-Avery, Mark E. Manyin, and William H. Cooper.
6 Such speculation, for instance, has been voiced in Senate Armed Services Committee
hearings, March 7, 2006; House International Relations Committee (HIRC) Asia
Subcommittee hearings, March 8, 2006; and HIRC hearings on May 10, 2006.
7 “Perhaps because America has moved with speed to meet the new [PRC military]
challenge, many of Taiwan’s friends in the United States regret that Taipei has failed to
respond in kind.” Statement by Clifford Hart, Jr., Director, Office of Taiwan Coordination,
(continued...)
Taiwan under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), make cross-strait conflict
between Taiwan and the PRC a dangerous possibility for U.S. and global interests.4
While the TRA does not mandate the U.S. defense of Taiwan, it does specify
that an attack on Taiwan would be of “grave concern” to the United States, and it
provides for continuing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan for its own defense. In addition,
Japan’s growing security concerns have prompted it to join the United States in
outlining a more comprehensive vision of the U.S.-Japan alliance that for the first
time includes peace in the Taiwan Strait as a “common strategic objective.”5 This
suggests that a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait could expand to include not
only the United States but other regional powers.
Two further uncertainties are now complicating U.S. policy on the cross-strait
stability issue: the matter of where a provocation to cross-strait hostility may come
from, and questions about Taiwan’s commitment to its own self-defense. In terms
of the former, the traditional focus — one that is implied in the provisions of the
Taiwan Relations Act and in Department of Defense reports on cross-strait stability
— is on hostile PRC intent that culminates in unanticipated and unprovoked PRC
military operations against Taiwan. Under this scenario, many observers anticipate
that U.S. military involvement at some level would be likely. But in recent years,
Bush Administration officials increasingly have been willing to shift part of the
burden for maintaining cross-strait stability to Taiwan, warning both the PRC and the
Taiwan governments against taking unilateral provocative acts. This shift has led
some to question potential U.S. military involvement in a cross-strait crisis that is
perceived to be caused by Taiwan’s own political processes.6
The second uncertainty — Taiwan’s commitment to its own defense — arises
from Taiwan’s inability so far to pass a defense budget that accommodates the
sizeable weapons sale President Bush authorized in April 2001. Many U.S.
observers have come to see passage of the defense budget as a test to prove Taiwan
is sufficiently committed to self-defense. Some U.S. officials have expressed
disappointment that the U.S. desire to help Taiwan defend itself appears to be
outstripping Taiwan’s own.7 In addition, U.S. military experts have grown more
CRS-4
7 (...continued)
Department of State, in remarks to the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council Defense Industry
Conference, September 12, 2006.
8 Interview with former U.S. government official, July 5, 2006.
9 Interviews with Taiwan officials in 2006; “Security through procurement: The debate over
Taiwan’s defense spending,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 27,
2005.
10 The U.S. “hedging strategy” is commonly defined as the cultivation of a middle position
to avoid having to choose between one side or the other.
11 Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association of Public Affairs (FAPA), September 20, 2006.
concerned about the prospect of conflict scenarios in the Taiwan Strait that unfold
faster than the United States’ ability to respond — scenarios that place further
importance on the preparedness of Taiwan’s own military forces.8
Many Taiwan observers, on the other hand, stress that the defense spending
budget has become caught up in Taiwan’s internal politics, held hostage to political
in-fighting between the ruling and opposition party coalitions. Some in Taiwan
question the appropriateness and cost-benefits of the U.S. weapons systems offered,
and appear to view positive action on the proffered package as a political necessity
to ensure good relations with the United States.9
Taiwan’s Importance as a Viable Democracy
Some U.S. and Taiwan observers also cite more strategic policy reasons for the
United States to support Taiwan’s importance and viability as a distinct political and
democratic entity. A failure of the Taiwan polity or the effective absorption of
Taiwan by the giant PRC economy would mean the loss of U.S. military contacts
with Taiwan. It might also lead to a loss of the leverage the United States now enjoys
with the PRC because of the Taiwan issue, and would complicate the U.S. “hedging
strategy” with Beijing.10
Many U.S. and Taiwan observers also emphasize the political importance for
the United States of Taiwan as an Asian model for democratic development,
particularly as a model for future PRC governance. For this reason alone, they say,
the Taiwan democratic state cannot be allowed to fail, nor can the United States
afford to allow the PRC to denigrate Taiwan’s democratic government into mere
populism. In this view, such an event would undermine U.S. credibility about its
commitment to democratic principles.11 Taiwan officials themselves profess
bewilderment that the United States does not more assertively defend Taiwan
democracy, given the emphasis of and the resources committed by the Bush
Administration to other “global democratization” efforts.
Taiwan’s Importance for U.S. Leadership in Asia
Relatedly, how effectively the United States handles the Taiwan issue with the
PRC could have important consequences for continued U.S. leadership in Asia and
possibly around the world. The U.S. commitment to democracy, its history of
CRS-5
12 Tkacik, John, “Strategy Deficit: America’s Security in the Pacific and the Future of
Taiwan,” in Reshaping the Taiwan Strait, ed. John Tkacik, The Heritage Foundation, 2007.
13 Ibid.
relations with and support for Taiwan, and Taiwan’s importance as a U.S. “defense
and intelligence partner,”12 according to some, significantly raise the stakes of a U.S.
policy “failure.” If U.S. officials are seen as unable to manage the cross-strait issue
in a way that avoids a coercive PRC approach to Taiwan, then U.S. regional
leadership might be questioned and support for it undermined.
Likewise, if the United States is seen to be accommodating to PRC interests in
absorbing democratic Taiwan, U.S. friends and allies in Asia could view the United
States as a weaker power and less reliable than in the past. Asian democracies and
smaller Asian nations could decide that the United States is not likely to be there for
them in the event of hostile action from China. They and American Asian allies may
be inclined to recalculate their own political and economic alignments in such a way
that would give more weight to PRC concerns, creating a “geopolitical realignment
in the Western Pacific.”13
For instance, PRC absorption of Taiwan might well spur Japan’s military
rearmament — possibly including the consideration of building nuclear weapons —
and possibly raise other questions in Japan about the reliability of the U.S. shield.
Taiwan’s absorption into the PRC also would expand the PRC’s naval-air projection
into the Western Pacific and potentially key sea-lanes important to Japan.
Changing Environment for U.S. Policy
The basic components of the U.S. policy framework regarding Taiwan,
described earlier in this report, were in place by 1982, adopted during a time when
Taiwan was still under martial law and the Taiwan government remained a one-party
system that permitted no political opposition and held no democratic elections. But
Taiwan’s situation began to change in the late 1980s when the government ended
martial law and legalized opposition political parties. In 1996, Taiwan held its first
direct presidential election, a contest won by Lee Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese and
the leader of the long dominant Nationalist or “Kuomintang” (KMT) Party. But the
real change in Taiwan politics occurred in 2000, when a hotly contested three-way
presidential race ended in the election of Chen Shui-bian, a member of a new
opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). President Chen was
reelected to a second four-year term in 2004, making his two-term tenure roughly
parallel with that of U.S. President George W. Bush.
The DPP’s electoral success in Taiwan has presented the Bush Administration
with some unique challenges. President Chen’s stunning upset of the long dominant
KMT in a true democratic contest is viewed by many as a resounding validation of
the U.S. Administration’s ideals and hopes for democratic development in Asia and
elsewhere around the world. On the other hand, as the DPP is a party that supports
Taiwan’s independence from the PRC, key aspects of its political platform conflict
CRS-6
14 The history of interpretation of the U.S. “one-China” policy is a nuanced and complex one
not easily described here. For details, see CRS Report RL30341, China/Taiwan: Evolution
of the ‘One China’ Policy — Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei, by
Shirley Kan.
15 President Chen Shui-bian’s Inaugural Speech, May 20, 2000. The so-called “five noes”
pledge is the following: “Therefore, as long as the CCP regime has no intention to use
military force against Taiwan, I pledge that during my term in office, I will not declare
(continued...)
with long-standing U.S. policy statements in the three U.S.-PRC communiques and
elsewhere — policy statements that oppose unilateral changes in the “status quo” in
the Taiwan Strait, that appear unwilling to support Taiwan independence aspirations,
and that base the U.S. “one-China” policy on the “acknowledgment” of Chinese
claims that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of it.14 As such, the
positions and actions of the DPP at times have complicated U.S. policy toward both
Taiwan and the PRC.
Along with these changes in Taiwan have been equally important changes in the
PRC that have further complicated U.S. policy. While in 1979 the Chinese military
had little capacity to threaten or attack Taiwan, its military modernization since then
has given it a range of new coercive options, any of which might lead to military
confrontation between U.S. and PRC forces. The PRC’s growing global role and
increased importance for U.S. interests suggest to many Americans that the U.S.
future will be tied to the PRC economy, for good or ill, and affected deeply by PRC
economic, political, and strategic interests. This also represents a significant
difference from the dynamics of U.S.-PRC relations at the outset of their official
relationship in 1979. But while Taiwan has democratized and embraced political
pluralism and open discourse, the PRC has remained an authoritarian, one-party state
unwilling to brook criticism or permit political opposition. The developments on
both sides of the Taiwan Strait have contributed to complications for U.S. policy.
New Factors Affecting U.S. Policy
While the rise of China and its growing importance for U.S. interests has clearly
presented a challenge for U.S. policy toward Taiwan, it is not the only factor doing
so. Many factors now vexing U.S.-Taiwan relations are a consequence of political
developments in Taiwan, while others are the result of changes in the United States.
Problems Between Bush and Chen Administrations
For U.S. policymakers in the Bush Administration, what they view as President
Chen Shui-bian’s unpredictable political style reportedly has become somewhat
problematic for U.S.-Taiwan relations and for the White House’s view of the Taiwan
government. This represents a change from the early months of the Chen
Administration in 2000, when initial U.S. concern over the new government’s
independence aspirations was eased by President Chen’s moderate tone, his apparent
openness to engagement with the PRC, and his embrace of the “five noes” to
encompass Taiwan’s policy toward the PRC.15 These early steps by the Chen
CRS-7
15 (...continued)
independence, I will not change the national title, I will not push forth the inclusion of the
so-called “state-to-state” description in the Constitution, and I will not promote a
referendum to change the status quo in regards to the question of independence or
unification. Furthermore, the abolition of the National Reunification Council or the National
Reunification Guidelines will not be an issue.”
16 See CRS Report RL30957, Taiwan: Major Arms Sales Since 1990, by Shirley Kan.
17 In addition to the “five noes,” President Chen in his initial months appeared to seek policy
continuity through appointment of KMT members to high offices, spoke of reaching out to
the PRC to improve cross-strait cooperation, and said the two sides should “work
together...to resolve the future ‘one-China’ problem.” Press conference, June 20, 2000,
GIO.
18 Interview with former U.S. government official on June 7, 2006.
government were appreciated by the Clinton White House. The next U.S.
Administration of George W. Bush took an initial approach toward Taiwan that was
more favorable than that of any U.S. Administration since 1979. In April 2001,
President Bush was quoted saying the United States would do “whatever it took” to
help defend Taiwan, and the same month the President approved a substantial U.S.
arms sales package for Taiwan.16
The following month, in May 2001, the White House approved transit stops for
President Chen during which he visited both New York (previously off-limits) and
Houston, attended public functions and meetings, and met with nearly two dozen
Members of Congress. Similar U.S. visits were approved for Taiwan’s Vice-
President, Annette Lu (in early January 2002), and for Taiwan’s Defense Minister,
Tang Yao-ming (March 2002), who attended a defense conference in Florida and
while there met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly. In October-November 2003, the Bush
Administration accommodated President Chen with an even higher-profile transit
visit to New York City — a visit that received wide press coverage in Taiwan.
The “Credibility” Issue. But according to U.S. experts interviewed for this
report, the initially positive atmosphere in Bush-Chen Administration relations began
to melt away in August 2002 when President Chen gave a video conference in which
he stated that there was one country on either side of the Taiwan Strait — or “yi bian,
yi guo,” (“one side, one country”). The Bush White House at this juncture reportedly
began to see the Taiwan leadership as more inclined to put personal political interests
ahead of more strategic objectives and U.S. concerns. By the summer of 2002,
having seen his initial overtures to the PRC rejected, President Chen appeared to
have changed his priorities.17 He became, in the view of one former U.S. official, a
“single-minded domestic politician” — less inclined, according to this official, to talk
to the United States or to listen to officials in the Taiwan government charged with
administering U.S.-Taiwan relations.18
For U.S. government officials, President Chen’s “yi bian, yi guo”statement of
August 2002 was only the first in a continuing series of Taiwan statements and
CRS-8
19 Ibid.
20 Under the “one China” scenario, the claimed territory and jurisdiction of the ROC on
Taiwan includes all of mainland China and its 1.3 billion residents. Suggesting that
Taiwan’s boundaries and authority instead are limited to the island’s territory itself and its
23 million residents suggests Taiwan independence under a “one China, one Taiwan”
scenario.
21 Interviews on May 22, 2006 and on June 7, 2006 with former U.S. government officials.
22 Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick emphasized the “trust” issue in hearings before
the House International Relations Committee on May 10, 2006, saying about Taiwan, “...
when some political figures who’ve got their own competitive politics just like we have in
this country decide they want to either change their word or go back from something or push
the edge of an envelope that could lead to conflict, well, then, yes, our government will
respond.”
23 For further details on the NUC case, see CRS Report RL33510, Taiwan: Recent
Developments and U.S. Policy Choices, by Kerry Dumbaugh.
24 “Senior Taiwan officials’ comments on National Unification Council,” State Department
press statement, March 2, 2006. [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/62488.htm]
decisions issued unexpectedly and without apparent regard for U.S. interests.19 The
surprises included President Chen’s announcement on September 28, 2003, that he
planned to hold a referendum on a new constitution for Taiwan; a 2004 New Year’s
Day speech in which the President defined the territory of the ROC as encompassing
only 36,000 square kilometers and including only its 23 million residents;20 the
holding of an island-wide referendum in March 2004 on aspects of Taiwan’s
defensive strategy against the PRC; a 2005 New Year’s Day speech in which the
President toughened the Taiwan position on cross-strait contacts; and the President’s
January 2006 decision (and its subsequent implementation) that the symbolically
important National Unification Council (NUC) would be abolished or would “cease
to function.” According to several former U.S. government officials, the Chen
Administration’s relationship with the Bush White House was “fatally hurt” by
Chen’s “yi bian, yi guo” statement and his subsequent statements and actions.21 As
a consequence, according to some observers, the White House began pulling back
from its earlier receptiveness to the Chen Administration.22
The NUC cessation case appeared to spark additional concern for U.S. officials,
who had worked to persuade Chen to scrap or modify his proposal.23 The softer
formulation of the language in Chen’s final February 27, 2006 decision — that the
NUC would “cease to function” instead of being abolished — was regarded as
President Chen’s compromise with U.S. concern about the decision’s cross-strait
implications. But when press accounts quoted some Taiwan officials as saying there
was no difference between the NUC being “abolished” and its “ceasing to function,”
the State Department issued a rare written statement (March 2, 2006) saying it
expected Taiwan authorities to “unambiguously” and publicly clarify that the NUC
had not been abolished but that it continued to exist. The State Department written
statement also reiterated that the United States expected President Chen to reaffirm
publicly his repeated assurances to maintain the status quo.24 These assurances were
not given until June 8, 2006, when President Chen issued them publicly to Raymond
CRS-9
25 In a television interview broadcast January 27, 2007, President Chen again asserted that
Taiwan was “an independent, sovereign country” with a territory of 36,000 square
kilometers and a population of 23 million. “Talk Asia,” on CNN International.
26 President Chen publicly took a contrary position to this DPP view at an event in Taiwan
in May 2006, singing the current national anthem and bowing to the national flag. Ko Shuling,
“Chen comes out in support of anthem...”, Taipei Times, May 14, 2006.
27 The remark was reported on widely at the time and was addressed in at least one State
Department press briefing. See, for instance: Brown, David G., “Illusions and political spin
in Taiwan,” online Asia Times, December 11, 2003; Foreign Press Center Briefing by
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randy Schriver,
“U.S.-Taiwan-China issues,” November 20, 2003.
28 In October 2003, the AIT director also was quoted as telling a group of students in Taiwan
that President Chen’s push to hold public referenda sounded “reasonable and logical.”
Lawrence, Susan V., “U.S.-Taiwan Relations: the guardian angel finally had enough,” Far
Eastern Economic Review, April 22, 2004.
29 Among other sources, references to the trip can be found in: Dinmore, Guy and Hille,
Kathrin, “Taiwan mission shows up differences in U.S. administration,” in Financial Times,
(continued...)
Burghardt, the chairman of the de facto U.S. office for Taiwan, the American
Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
Despite President Chen’s and other Taiwan officials’ assurances in the wake of
the NUC decision to adhere to Taiwan’s status quo pledges of 2000 (see footnote
#17) some observers perceive some subsequent statements and actions of the DPP
and President Chen himself to be outside the spirit of the status quo pledges. These
statements and actions include: repeated public references that Taiwan is an
independent sovereign country totally separate from the PRC;25 the DPP’s support
for a new Taiwan national anthem and national flag, which would change the current
anthem and flag from those of the Republic of China; and the government’s April 12,
2007 announcement that it would apply to the World Health Organization (WHO)
as a full member under the name “Taiwan.”26 (In the past, Taiwan has sought
observer status only and has used its formal name, “The Republic of China.”)
Perception of Mixed Messages. According to officials in Taiwan,
relations between the Chen and Bush Administrations at this juncture also were
plagued by what many in the Chen Administration saw as confusing and mixed U.S.
messages to Taiwan that included both words of caution and expressions of support.
The prime example of the latter is the now-famous public comment in 2003 that
George Bush was President Chen Shui-bian’s “secret guardian angel” — a comment
made by Therese Shaheen, who as Chair of the Washington office of the American
Institute in Taiwan (AIT) was then America’s highest-ranking representative on
Taiwan.27 President Chen and many others in Taiwan reportedly interpreted this
statement as an expression of unconditional U.S. support, even while the White
House reportedly was becoming less sure of Taiwan government intentions.28
Further mixed messages grew out of the “secret” trip (widely speculated on in
print at the time) to the region in early December 2003, by James Moriarty, then the
senior director of Asian affairs at the National Security Council.29 Moriarty
CRS-10
29 (...continued)
December 6, 2003, p. 2; “China asks U.S. to oppose steps toward Taiwan independence,”
The Star-Ledger (citing Reuters), December 8, 2006, p. 13; and “Bush writes to Taiwan’s
Chen to warn against referendum,” Nikkei Report, December 11, 2003.
30 Snyder, Charles, “Rice expected to push for cross-strait talks...”, Taipei Times, November
18, 2004.
31 There are varying accounts of the failure of the Moriarty trip to dissuade President Chen
from holding the referendum. One press account refers to an “unusually blunt” letter that
Moriarty hand-delivered to Chen from President Bush that sent an “unmistakable message”
warning against a referendum, suggesting that Chen chose to ignore the White House
missive. Others hold that Moriarty’s verbal message to Chen was tougher than either the
Bush letter or than private signals from other U.S. officials that certain types of referenda
would be acceptable. “Bush writes to Taiwan’s Chen to warn against referendum,” Nihon
Keizai Shimbun, Inc., December 11, 2003.
32 The referendum failed when only about 40% of the Taiwan electorate participated in the
vote, a rate insufficient to meet the 50% requirement for passage under Taiwan law.
33 Interview with a former U.S. government official, June 7, 2006.
reportedly visited both Taiwan and the PRC at the height of a controversial debate
over President Chen’s proposal to initiate an island-wide referendum to gauge public
opinion in Taiwan. According to former U.S. officials, Moriarty delivered a message
from President Bush to President Chen warning Taiwan “in no uncertain terms”30
against holding a referendum that could provoke the PRC and expressing U.S.
opposition to any unilateral effort to change the status quo.31
According to some, President Chen interpreted the message Moriarty delivered
explicitly to mean that only a referendum that touched on Taiwan’s sovereignty or
other provocative issues would be of grave concern to the United States; referenda
on other, “non-provocative” subjects, according to Chen’s interpretation, would be
acceptable. After the Moriarty mission, on March 20, 2004, the Taiwan government
held a referendum on what it said was a non-provocative topic — whether Taiwan
should acquire more advanced weapons to defend against PRC missiles and whether
the Taiwan government should engage in negotiations with the PRC concerning a
“peace and stability” framework for cross-strait interactions.32
A number of observers tend to agree that U.S. policy toward Taiwan was not as
well served in 2002-2003 as it might have been by the series of mixed or ambiguous
U.S. messages. Some also say that Taiwan shares the blame during this period for
emphasizing the more favorable parts of the U.S. message and downplaying the less
favorable parts.33 Still, after the “yi bian, yi guo” statement, many of the public
messages that U.S. officials were conveying to Taiwan turned decidedly cautionary,
a change in tone that Taiwan officials apparently either missed or chose to ignore.
Days after the reported Moriarty trip, standing next to visiting PRC Premier Wen
Jiabao in Washington on December 9, 2003, President Bush used unusually blunt
public language to criticize Chen Shui-bian, saying “....the comments and actions
CRS-11
34 According to one former U.S. government official, Chen felt “betrayed” by President
Bush’s December 2003 comment in light of the positive messages he felt he had been
getting from other U.S. sources.
35 The Vice President’s comments were in response to a question about Taiwan during a
speech he gave at the PRC’s Fudan University in Shanghai on April 15, 2004.
36 Testimony by James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, in
hearings before the House International Relations Committee, April 21, 2004.
37 This was the case, for instance, over the March 2006 visit to Washington by KMT head
and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou. According to the Chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs
Council, Joseph Jaushieh Wu, many in the Taiwan government thought Ma had been given
a higher level reception than President Chen or other Taiwan government officials, implying
that the United States favored the KMT head over the DPP government. Deputy Secretary
of State Bob Zoellick, refuted this charge in congressional hearings, saying that under the
“one China” policy the United States can work more easily with Taiwan citizens who are
not government officials.
made by the leader of Taiwan indicate he may be willing to make decisions
unilaterally that change the status quo, which we oppose.”34
After President Chen’s re-election in March 2004, the tough U.S. statements
continued with comments in April 2004 by Vice President Dick Cheney, who while
visiting the PRC stated, “We oppose unilateral efforts on either side to try to alter the
current set of circumstances...”35 Also in April 2004, pointed language on Taiwan
was delivered in congressional testimony by Assistant Secretary of State for East
Asia James Kelly in April 2004, aimed at both Taiwan and China:
...any unilateral move towards independence will, in our view, avail Taiwan of
nothing it does not already enjoy in terms of freedom, autonomy, prosperity and
security. Such measures could carry the potential for a military response from
the PRC, a dangerous, objectionable, and foolish response, if such a thing were
done by China, that could destroy much of what Taiwan has built, and it would
damage China, too, of course. We in the United States see these risks clearly and
trust they are well understood by President Chen Shui-bian and others in
Taiwan.36
By most accounts, in recent years the mixed signals have stopped and Bush
Administration officials have regained control and consistency of the U.S. message
being communicated to Taiwan. Despite the new clarity in the U.S. message,
however, some observers see Taiwan as continuing to ignore U.S. concerns.
Other Communication Problems. A related theme affecting U.S.-Taiwan
relations is the broader issue of the level, extent, and content of bilateral
communications, an issue on which Taiwan and the U.S. executive branch appear to
disagree sharply. Officials of the Chen and Bush Administrations also have differing
views of the symbolic implications of some communications with Taiwan.37
The Taiwan View. Senior officials in the Taiwan government believe that the
United States needs to establish more routine higher-level contacts with Taiwan,
along the order of the visits of Mike Green (a National Security Council, or NSC,
specialist who met with a Taiwan official in Washington in January 2006) and
CRS-12
38 One Taiwan official referred to the Green and Wilder talks in positive terms, saying the
two had been “happy” with the official explanation of President Chen’s policies. This view
was not shared by an AIT official. In 2006, the State Department Director for the Office of
Taiwan Coordination is Clifford Hart.
39 From the author’s meetings in Taiwan in April 2006, and other discussions with Taiwan
representatives in the United States. Some former U.S. government officials appear to echo
these Taiwan sentiments, suggesting that higher-level or more frequent U.S. contacts with
Taiwan would be helpful.
40 Wu, Sofia, New envy to U.S. vows to seek fair treatment for Taiwan,” Central News
Agency English News, April 4, 2007.
Dennis Wilder (an NSC Asia specialist who reportedly made a secret visit to Taiwan
in mid-February 2006). U.S. visits, according to Taiwan officials, should be
conducted at a level higher than that of the Director of the State Department’s Office
of Taiwan Coordination.38 Taiwan officials say that Washington needs to establish
better and more direct channels specifically with President Chen, although Steve
Young, the U.S. AIT director in Taipei who assumed his post in 2006, appears to
have been given high early marks for establishing such contact. Many on the Taiwan
side appear anxious that U.S.-Taiwan communications have eroded in some ways
through a combination of circumstances; they are concerned that Taiwan now has an
“image problem” in the United States.
Some Taiwan government officials are more directly critical of the United
States, describing U.S. officials as being unappreciative of the heavy domestic
pressures on President Chen that help form his actions. They suggested U.S. officials
are being too careless of Taiwan’s democracy and either overly solicitous of the PRC
or “afraid of Beijing.” According to one Taiwan official, it is difficult to understand
why Taiwan, as a democracy, does not seem to be a higher priority for the United
States when democratization is a chief preoccupation of the George W. Bush
Administration. According to another, people in Taiwan wonder why, when China
pressures other countries to accept the “one China” principle, the United States does
not criticize China for defining Taiwan as an inalienable part of Chinese territory.
This theme of problems in U.S.-Taiwan communication has been frequently
repeated in recent years in discussions with Taiwan officials.39 Taiwan’s new
representative to the United States in 2007, Joseph Wu (formerly head of Taiwan’s
Mainland Affairs Council), stressed this point to journalists prior to his departure for
Washington, saying that many in Taiwan felt Taiwan had not been treated fairly by
the United States and vowing to try to change this.40
The U.S. View. U.S. officials, on the other hand, paint a very different
picture with respect to U.S.-Taiwan communications. They maintain that Taiwan’s
assertions that the United States does not communicate regularly and clearly are
disingenuous at best. U.S. officials see themselves as communicating with Taiwan
constantly, at every level of government but the very highest — a view seconded also
by some U.S. experts not affiliated with the U.S. government. According to a U.S.
State Department official, U.S. communication with Taiwan, including the U.S.
military-to-military dialogue with Taiwan, compares favorably with — and in some
CRS-13
41 The “Wilder/Hart” visit has been referred to in private conversations by both Taiwan and
U.S. government officials and was widely reported in the press. (See, for instance, Cody,
Edward and Culpan, Tim, “Taiwan scraps council on unity with China,” Washington Post,
February 28, 2006, p. A16; Tkacik, John, “Chen lets off steam,” Wall Street Journal Asia,
March 1, 2006, p. 13; and Ko Shu-ling, “Chen to chair NSC meeting over NUC...” Taipei
Times, February 27, 2006.) Despite the press reports, the “Wilder/Hart” visit has never
been confirmed by the U.S. government, nor has mention been made of the reported
participation on the delegation of other U.S. government officials.
42 Former U.S. government official interviewed on June 22, 2006.
43 President Chen is not the first Taiwan president to make this assertion. His predecessor,
(continued...)
cases is better than — U.S. diplomatic and military communications with its own
formal regional allies.
Moreover, say U.S. officials, U.S. messages to Taiwan officials are portrayed
clearly as being from the “very highest level” of the U.S. government — above the
Cabinet Secretary level — and are conveyed “unambiguously.” For instance,
according to one U.S. official, “there is no possibility — none” that the Taiwan
government missed the content or the level of the U.S. message of concern about
President Chen’s National Unification Council decision. That message reportedly
was conveyed clearly early in 2006 — not under the auspices of the U.S. AIT office,
but by a delegation of U.S. government officials sent to Taiwan by the White House.
This delegation reportedly included Dennis Wilder (National Security Council),
Clifford Hart (Department of State), and according to one account, two other senior
U.S. officials from other U.S. government departments.41
The problem, according to some U.S. officials, is not that Taiwan officials are
not hearing the U.S. message, it is that they do not like the message they are hearing.
The problem is further compounded, some former U.S. officials say, by other
American sources not part of the U.S. government who in meetings with Taiwan
audiences are sometimes said to be discrediting the official U.S. message.42
Differing Definitions of the “Status Quo”. Additional communication
problems involve terminology. U.S. and Taiwan officials routinely and publicly state
that their primary interest is to maintain the status quo between Taiwan and the PRC.
But the Taiwan and U.S. governments have fundamentally different interpretations
of what the status quo is, making mutual reassurances on the subject of questionable
significance. U.S. official statements are interpreted as maintaining that the “status
quo” means Taiwan’s political status remains unresolved pending a solution mutually
reached by Taiwan and the PRC; that the PRC will not use force against Taiwan;
that the United States will continue arms sales and military contacts with Taiwan;
and that neither the PRC nor Taiwan will make unilateral changes that could
destabilize the situation in the Taiwan strait. When U.S. officials warn Taiwan
against changing the status quo, it is this set of factors to which they are referring.
But to the Chen Administration in Taiwan, the “status quo” is that Taiwan is already
an independent, sovereign state. The Chen government’s assurances that it is indeed
adhering to the status quo are based on an assumption that the issue of Taiwan’s
political status is already settled.43
CRS-14
43 (...continued)
President Lee Teng-hui, now head of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the DPP’s coalition
partner, also asserted that Taiwan was a de facto independent sovereign state. President
Chen has continued and elaborated on this assertion during his tenure.
44 In 2003, Taiwan’s legislature did approve $800 million for the purchase of the four Kiddclass
destroyers. On December 8, 2005, the first two of these (now designated Keelung
class) arrived at the Suao naval base in northeastern Taiwan after having been refurbished
in South Carolina, reportedly by a Taiwanese work crew. The two destroyers were
commissioned in a December 17, 2005 ceremony in Keelung. Taipei Times, December 19,
2005, p. 3.
45 The text of the 2003 DOD report can be found at [http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/
20030730chinaex.pdf].
46 In a 2005 speech to the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council-Defense Industry Conference 2005,
Ed Ross, Director of DOD’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, strongly criticized
Taiwan’s foot-dragging on passage of the defense budget, saying it was reasonable in such
a situation to question the level of U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s self-defense. Agence
France-Presse, “Pentagon official warns Taiwan on defense spending,” September 21, 2005.
47 Minnick, Wendell, “Taiwan claims U.S. Navy is sabotaging SSK plans,” in Jane’s
Defence Weekly, February 15, 2005.
PRC Military Buildup and Taiwan Self-Defense Commitment. The
inability so far of Taiwan to take full advantage of a substantial U.S. military support
package approved for sale in 2001 has become another increasing irritant in Taiwan-
U.S. relations. To date, political infighting and finger-pointing has blocked
legislative consideration of the arms procurement budget for purchasing much of the
U.S. arms package.44 In 2002, U.S. officials began voicing concerns over what they
described as weaknesses in Taiwan’s self-defense and a lagging pace to Taiwan’s
arms purchases. According to a DOD report, Taiwan’s self-defense deficiencies
include an “opaque military policymaking system; a ground force-centric orientation;
and a conservative military leadership culture.”45 As the defense budget stalemate in
Taiwan has continued, some U.S. officials have begun to question Taiwan’s level of
commitment to its own defense, implying that perhaps U.S. policy should be
reassessed accordingly.46 Criticism also has come from the Taiwan side, as Taiwan
officials periodically have accused the U.S. Navy of deliberately trying to subvert
progress on the 2001 diesel-electric submarine sale by over-inflation of estimated
construction costs and onerous funding requirements.47
U.S. defense officials appear profoundly concerned about Taiwan’s delay in
acting on the U.S. weapons package given the extraordinary and continuing PRC
military buildup opposite the coast of Taiwan. In a May 2006 annual Department of
Defense (DOD) report on PRC military power, Pentagon officials warned that the
PRC’s continued military buildup created a “sense of urgency” that Taiwan military
efforts did not seem to appreciate. The U.S. arms package, according to the report,
had been specifically designed to “correct imbalances” in cross-strait military power.
Given U.S. security interests in the defense of Taiwan and the possibility of U.S.
military involvement in event of a PRC attack, Taiwan’s own stalling on the military
CRS-15
48 The text of the latest report, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2006, is
at [http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/China%20Report%202006.pdf].
49 Agence France-Presse, “Taiwan president questioned in August over misuse of funds,”
September 7, 2006; Lu Chia-ying, “Chen said using part of state fund for covert intelligence
operations,” Taiwan News, August 22, 2006. China Post, “First lady questioned in graft
probe,” July 12, 2006.
50 This result was obtained in a survey by Shih Hsin University. According to two separate
polls conducted by the Chinese language daily the China Times and by Taipei’s United
Daily News in late June 2006, Chen’s approval rating hovered in a 19%-22% range.
51 Peng, James and Sun Yu-huay, “Taiwan’s Chen survives second attempt to oust him,”
Bloomberg, October 13, 2006.
budget appears to have become a significant problem for Bush Administration
officials. According to the DOD report,48
Chinese air, naval, and missile force modernization is making it increasingly
critical that Taiwan strengthen its defenses with a sense of urgency. Despite this
need, Taiwan defense spending has steadily declined in real terms over the past
decade. Taiwan has traditionally acquired capabilities, some asymmetric, to
deter an attack by making it too costly, while buying time for international
intervention. The growth of PLA capabilities is outpacing these acquisitions.
Taiwan Corruption Scandals. Another problem affecting Taiwan’s
political processes since 2006 is a number of corruption scandals enveloping both the
Chen Administration and the former head of the KMT, Ma Ying-jeou, in the past
widely seen as his party’s best hope for regaining the presidency in 2008. Both men
have been tarnished by charges that they misappropriated government funds in
various ways. President Chen is seen to have been grievously wounded by
allegations of corruption, including allegations about his wife and other members of
his family and instances of malfeasance by government officials close to the
President. While President Chen cannot be indicted as a sitting president, Ma Yingjeou
can be and was on February 13, 2007. His trial began April 3, 2007.
For President Chen, the trouble began in early May 2006, when the Taipei
district prosecutor’s office started investigating allegations that President Chen’s sonin-
law, Chao Chien-min, had profited in an insider trading scheme involving the
Taiwan Development Corporation. Chao was arrested on May 24, 2006. In addition,
Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-chen, is suspected of accepting vouchers from a Taiwan
department store in exchange for lobbying, and Chen reportedly has been accused of
spending money inappropriately from secret government accounts and then falsifying
receipts to justify the expenditures.49 The scandals have helped worsen Chen’s
abysmally low approval rating, put at 16% in one survey on May 19, 2006.50 In an
effort to limit the damage, Chen on June 1, 2006, delegated authority for “day-to-day
control” of the government to Premier Su Tseng-chang and accepted the resignations
of a number of his key advisors. Taiwan’s opposition parties, however, called for
Chen’s resignation and, on June 27, 2006, held a vote on a recall initiative in the
legislature. Chen survived that recall effort and a second on October 13, 2006.51
CRS-16
52 This appears particularly to be the view in the presidential office and the Mainland Affairs
Council.
53 On March 18, 2007, the pro-independence Taiwan Thinktank revealed a constitutional
proposal it called the “second republic” constitution suggesting that Taiwan and China are
separate entities. According to the constitution draft’s author, Chen Ming-tong, more than
15 different constitutional proposals or amendments are currently being proposed by
different groups in Taiwan. Ko Shu-ling, “Group pushes new constitution,” Taipei Times,
March 19, 2007, p. 3.
54 Such concern was expressed in a State Department briefing on September 25, 2006.
55 “Some people say that the territorial boundaries must cover Outer Mongolia and mainland
China... the People’s Republic of Mongolia and People’s Republic of China both have UN
seats; they are two different countries that do not have any affiliation with Taiwan.” (Quote
attributed to President Chen Shui-bian) in Ko Shu-ling, “Chen proposes change of
constitution,” Taipei Times, September 25, 2006.
The Constitutional Reform Question. Constitutional reform has also
proven a difficulty in recent years for Bush-Chen Administration relations.
Reforming or amending the constitution is also controversial in Taiwan, with some
defending it as a critical necessity to improve Taiwan governmental structures and
others seeing it as a vehicle for consideration of sovereignty issues.
For some senior Taiwan officials, constitutional reform is a top priority, an
absolute right of a democratic people; and a document whose subject matter is in
Taiwan’s purview alone.52 As of April 2007, several think-tanks and scholars around
Taiwan who had been encouraged to work on constitutional revision had begun to
publish their draft proposals for Taiwan’s legislature to consider.53 Proposed changes
include: the efficacies of a presidential versus a cabinet system; how many levels of
government are desirable; the appropriate voting age (21 or 18); and gender
discrimination issues. Any proposed constitutional draft faces a series of legislative
hurdles and must be approved by two-thirds of the Taiwan legislature.
While U.S. officials have expressed support for constitutional reform that would
make Taiwan’s government processes work more effectively, they are concerned
more broadly about the direction that constitutional reform in Taiwan may take. In
particular, U.S. officials are concerned that constitutional reform may be used as a
vehicle unilaterally to address issues relating to sovereignty, Taiwan’s political status,
and other such political aspirations.54 In a development on September 24, 2006, that
further concerned U.S. officials, President Chen suggested that it was time to
consider whether constitutional reform should address the territorial boundaries of
Taiwan.55 In a press briefing the following day addressing the constitutional issue, 發表於 2007/05/30 03:58 PM
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