Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Chinese Response on Kosovo/Taiwan

The following is a Chinese response to some of the things that I (along with Drew Thompson) have been writing about the Kosovo/Taiwan issue:

The Real Lesson for China

Wu Yun

BEIJING -- Despite the reiterated warnings from Russia, grave concerns from China, and outright opposition from Serbia, Kosovo finally declared independence unilaterally and was recognized by all the major Western powers. The world has one more new independent sovereign state. Until today Serbia still vowed to fight tooth and nail to have it overturned, though the chances are very, very slim.

Europe and the US declared on different occasions that the independence of Kosovo was a sui generis case and set no precedent for any other country in the world, trying to discourage other secessionists to follow suit and downplay its implications, although the actual effect is waiting to been seen. What can be easily determined now, however, is that the pro-independence community in Taiwan at least is greatly excited and encouraged by the newly independent Kosovo.

Dr. Trong R. Chai, a legislator of the pro-independence Democratic Progress Party in the Taiwanese parliament, claimed that Kosovo’s independence is an exemplary model for Taiwan and adds more legitimacy for Taiwan’s referendum on UN membership. Mr. Shieh Jhy-wei, the spokesman for Taiwan’s cabinet, while expressing his blessings for Kosovo, also called for “the nations of the world to support the wish of 23 million people of Taiwan to have its own state.” One Editorial in the Liberty Times hoped that the people of Taiwan can gain more wisdom, encouragement and determination from Kosovo.

If Taiwan learns from the successful declaration of independence by Kosovo, what are the lessons of Serbia’s failed policy for China?

Contrary to the lesson advocated by Drew Thompson and Nikolas Gvosdev in their Op-ed piece published in the International Herald Tribune on the 18th of this month, which called for China to follow Serbia’s example by renouncing the use of force, the real lesson for China is that China must maintain its determination to keep all options available, particularly the military one, at its disposal as the last resort to prevent Taiwan from declaring independence unilaterally.

The final outcome of Serbia’s willing or unwilling renunciation of the use of force to keep Kosovo part of its territory is now apparent. It is hard to predict with certainty whether Kosovo would have unilaterally declared independence if Serbia had pledged to use all means necessary to prevent it. It may or may not have served to postpone Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. But what can be concluded with certainty from the Kosovo case is all other measures short of the military one that Serbia vowed to use to prevent Kosovo from becoming independent did not work. If there is one single lesson that China can learn from the Kosovo case, it is this.

In retrospect, it is probably true to assert that given "the usual combinations of factors found in the Kosovo situation,” as US Secretary of State Rice put it, whatever Serbia chooses to do may make no difference to Kosovo’s final status as an independent sovereign state in the end.

But that is not the scenario that China has faced over time with Taiwan. As the history of the past 20 years has shown, the threat to use force is the only deterrent ruling out the possibility of Taiwan acquiring de jure independence. If China were to renounce the use of force in its Taiwan policy today, what is certain is that there would be another independent sovereign state in the world tomorrow. The sad truth is there is no hope of any chance for successful resolution for Taiwan for what has failed in Kosovo. If the threat to use force has failed to serve to prevent Taiwan’s steady press for independence, as Drew Thompson and Nikolas Gvosdev rightly points out, it will be impossible for China to do so with weaker options.

For China, by keeping the option of using everything at China’s disposal to crush any of Taiwan’s unilateral moves to change the current status quo, China has left Taiwan with only two choices: maintaining the status quo or becoming independent and causing a war. It is not hard for Taiwan to figure out which scenario better suits its interests.

In the end the independence of Kosovo illustrates once again what fails for anti-secessionists and what works for secessionists. It is those failures which China needs to pay particular to attention and from which China needs to learn.

Wu Yun is an editor for international news at the People’s Daily in Beijing.

If China were to renounce the use of force in its Taiwan policy today, what is certain is that there would be another independent sovereign state in the world tomorrow.

This is questionable. The DPP, the party pushing for independence, is poised to lose the presidency of Taiwan pretty convincingly in two weeks. Taiwan's and China's economies will become even more entwined because of this. And even if the threat of military action were to be taken off the table, Taiwan would not want to hurt their own economy by declaring independence.
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