If the Bush
Administration is truly concerned about maintaining the "status
quo" in the Taiwan Strait, it must treat China's new propaganda
campaign for an "anti-secession law" as a dangerous escalation of
tensions. Washington must take just as firm a stand against the
proposed law as it did last year against Taiwan President Chen
Shui-bian's "referendum of protest" against China's missile threat.
Moreover, the Administration must cease justifying the continued
U.S.-Taiwan defense relationship solely on the basis of the Taiwan
Relations Act. Congress should display its concern with a
resolution or by contacting the Administration and the Chinese
Embassy to register protest.
Standing idly by
while a large one-party authoritarian state declares its intention
to invade and capture one of the Asia's most vibrant and dynamic
democracies would signal to Asia that China's brand of
authoritarianism is the wave of the future and the United States
can no longer be counted on to defend political pluralism in the
region. The Bush Administration has said that its policy is to
inspire and encourage the growth of democracy. If that has not
changed, the Administration must register its displeasure with
China's proposed law.
What Is the "Anti-Secession
December 17, 2004, the Standing Committee of the Chinese National
People's Congress (NPC) announced its intention to include a new
"anti-secession law" in its legislative agenda for the March
session. Draft language for the law will likely be published in
time for consideration at the upcoming December 25-29 NPC Standing
But this law
should not be treated as legislation so much as propaganda. Press
reports indicate that the law will oblige the Chinese military to
invade Taiwan immediately upon some future Taiwanese "declaration
of independence," but China's existing National Defense Law and its
legislation governing national territory already require that the
military defend China's homeland. One draft of a "unification law"
(a precursor to this "anti-secession law") touted by professor Yu
Yuanzhou at Wuhan University even mandates that the People's
Liberation Army immediately attack the Taiwan-held offshore islands
of Quemoy and Matsu as soon as the Army is able to do so-and the
attack "would not be limited to conventional weapons." This kind of
nonsense passes for rational legislative discourse in China but
should not be humored by either the Administration or Congress.
"anti-secession law" has only two purposes: to serve as propaganda
and as diplomatic leverage against the U.S. relationship with
As propaganda, the
legislation readies the Chinese people for war with Taiwan, and as
a diplomatic lever it is to be trotted out and exhibited to
Americans whenever the United States points to its obligation under
the Taiwan Relations Act to "maintain the capacity to resist any
resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize
the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on
leadership believes that its bellicosity has already prepared
Washington for a military move. In December 2003, according to
CNN's respected China analyst Willy Lam, a senior Politburo member
said that President George W. Bush's "unambiguous opposition to
attempts by Taipei to change the status quo" was such that if "we
were to respond militarily, the U.S. can't raise objections let
alone interfere." In May, another noted China Scholar, Bonnie
Glaser, warned that the U.S. was sending a dangerous message to
Beijing. "Some Chinese even believe," she reported, "that there is
sufficient concern in Washington about Chen's actions and his
future agenda that the U.S. may acquiesce in a limited use of force
by the PLA-for example, to seize an offshore island, temporarily
impose a limited blockade, or fire a lone missile at a military
target on Taiwan."
response to China's increasingly strident threats to launch a
military attack against Taiwan has been defensive. As recently as
October 25, Secretary of State Colin Powell stammered that "the
Chinese leaders who I spoke to today said that [Taiwan] is an
internal matter for us to determine, us to decide, and I appreciate
their position, but nevertheless, that build-up creates a degree of
tension and instability across the Straits and puts pressure on the
Taiwanese side to seek additional weaponry. And under our law, we
have an obligation to see to their self-defense needs."
Powell should have
pointed out that the United States does not agree that this is
simply a domestic affair. As the Taiwan Relations Act states, any
attempt to coerce Taiwan militarily would be regarded as a threat
to the peace and security of the region and therefore comes within
the ambit of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
State Department's response to China's latest announcement has been
equally defensive. On December 17, the State Department Spokesman
begged the question, saying, "We have not seen the legislation, had
a chance to study it, so we are not in a position to comment in any
detail," adding only that "both sides should really focus on
engaging in dialogue, try to peacefully resolve their differences."
This is in marked contrast to the State Department's rather pointed
complaints in 2003 about Taiwan's referendum against China's
missile threat-despite having no text then either.
Steps for the Administration
declare U.S. opposition to any unilateral attempt to change the
status quo in the Taiwan Strait. President Bush should declare
explicitly that China's 'anti-secession legislation' indicates that
China may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the
status quo, which the United States opposes. This would be a mirror
image of the comments President Bush made in December 2003 about
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's referendum protesting China's
2. Be candid
about U.S. interests in Taiwan and the American commitment to help
Taiwan defend itself. Although the State Department seems
abashed that the U.S. helps defend democratic Taiwan, the Defense
Department is eloquent. The formal U.S. position on Taiwan should
echo Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman's statement to the
House International Relations Committee on April 21, 2004:
National Security Strategy, published in September 2002,
calls for "building a balance of power that favors freedom."
Taiwan's evolution into a true multi-party democracy over the past
decade is proof of the importance of America's commitment to
Taiwan's defense. It strengthens American resolve to see Taiwan's
democracy grow and prosper.
that U.S. policy requires, to quote the Taiwan Relations Act, "that
the issues between Beijing and Taiwan be resolved peacefully and
with the assent of the people of Taiwan."
joint or separate resolutions condemning China's proposed
legislation as a provocation that will heighten tensions in the
region. In addition, such resolutions should note that, as stated
in the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States would consider
aggression against Taiwan a threat to international peace and
security within the meaning of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.
2. Members or
their senior staff should meet with PRC embassy representatives
to convey these concerns and caution against the contemplated
3. Members or
their senior staff should emphasize their concerns to senior levels
of the State Department and NSC. They should insist that the
executive branch convey these concerns forcefully to senior levels
of the PRC.
should inform "TECRO," Taiwan's proto-embassy in Washington, of
the action being taken in order to calm reactions on Taiwan.
Tkacik, Jr., is Research Fellow in China Policy in the Asian
Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.