• Directory of Taiwan

Taiwan should stop groveling

Taiwan should avoid mincing words and take more cues from Israel on how to engage with US

In this photo released by Xinhua, News Agency Chinese President Xi Jinping, right and U.S. President Joe Biden appear on a screen as they hold a meeti...

In this photo released by Xinhua, News Agency Chinese President Xi Jinping, right and U.S. President Joe Biden appear on a screen as they hold a meeti... (AP photo)

Anyone who wonders where Taiwan stands in Washington need look no further than President Biden’s assurance to Chinese Communist Party boss Xi Jinping (習近平) that, in effect, nothing has changed.

A White House spokesperson claimed that during their Nov. 16 call, Biden repeated the catechism that has marked 40 years of foreign policy establishment make-believe over China.

The White House said that Biden told Xi, “The United States remains committed to the ‘One China’ policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. And (Biden) highlighted the U.S. strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

This is of course the failed recipe that has brought us to the point where an empowered China threatens on a daily basis to attack the peaceful, independent democracy off its coast. The "One China" policy is an obvious lie; successive U.S. administrations have ignored the Taiwan Relations Act; the three things and the six other things are diplomatic foofaraw from a bygone time; and the Taiwan Strait is anything but secure.

Shockingly, Taiwan thanked Biden for reviving this fundamental betrayal. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) expressed the government’s gratitude for Biden supposedly affirming his commitment to Taiwan.

There is a famous scene in the movie "Animal House" in which a college student preparing to join a fraternity is being paddled as a rite of initiation. After each blow falls on his buttocks, he exclaims, “Thank you, Sir, may I have another!” This could be Taiwan’s mantra in dealing with Washington.

Joe Biden breaks with his predecessor and doesn’t even return a courtesy call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) congratulating Biden on his election?

“Thank you, Sir, may I have another!”

Washington ignores Taiwan’s pleas for a modest trade agreement, even after Taiwan unilaterally concedes a contentious point on an agricultural additive?

“Thank you, Sir, may I have another!”

Washington arranges a “Summit for Democracy” next month and doesn’t even invite Taiwan?

“Thank you, Sir, may I have another!”

Taiwan must informally get permission from bureaucrats at the State Department and the unknown and unaccountable American Institute in Taiwan (in Rosslyn, Virginia) before it can formally ask to buy the arms to which it is supposedly guaranteed access by the Taiwan Relations Act?

“Thank you, Sir, may I have another!”

America holds an annual Rim of the Pacific war game and never invites participation from Taiwan, the most threatened country of the Pacific, but sometimes invites participation from China.

“Thank you, Sir, may I have another!”

The list goes on. In "Animal House," at least the guy getting paddled is allowed to join the fraternity. There is no such happy outcome for Taiwan and for its countenance of indignities that make the Pacific more dangerous for all of us.

There is a Chinese proverb, tiān dào choú qín (天道酬勤) — “Heaven rewards the diligent.” A similar phrase runs through the minds of many Americans: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

Taiwan needs to stand up for itself. In so doing, it will help convince more Americans that the country will defend itself from a Chinese attack. That in turn will increase the odds of American support and decrease the chances of an assault from Beijing ever occurring.

Taiwan should also be more like Israel, a strong ally of the United States that nonetheless seldom fails to speak up when Washington does something Israel deems adverse to its national security. Israel can rely on strong congressional support from both political parties, even though its support from left-wing Democrats has waned.

Taiwan supposedly has many friends in Congress, including dozens of members of Taiwan caucuses in both houses who seem to do little other than agree to be members. Taiwan’s presumed numerous allies on Capitol Hill seem never to succeed in pushing the executive branch to do more for Taiwan. Many left-leaning human rights and democracy NGOs have been cultivated to no real effect.

A smarter plan would focus on U.S. states that have strong economic ties to Taiwan and cultural ties through Taiwanese-Americans. These states — their governors, legislatures, and representatives in Washington — would be more useful than a greater number of vague well-wishers who do little in practice.

Taiwan also needs to reopen to the world and showcase its democracy and culture, not just its semiconductor companies. But most important is for Taiwan to start standing up for itself and speaking the plain truth in Washington. Americans will respect that more than being a good student who doesn’t say much and pretends that abuse is something good.

Christian Whiton was a State Department senior advisor in the George W. Bush and Trump administrations.