Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ghosts of Kissinger and Brzezinski

Feuds pitting the NSC against the Department of State over Taiwan and China are nothing new. We are just witnessing the latest round in a long, ugly battle for influence over policy

Last week’s comments in the Financial Times by an unnamed “senior” official in the administration of US President Barack Obama expressing “distinct concerns” about stability in the Taiwan Strait if Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is elected president in January caused a storm of indignation among DPP supporters.

The race between Tsai and her main opponent, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), is a very close one, with the implication that any outside interference could tilt the game. It is one thing for authoritarian and undemocratic Beijing to meddle in Taiwan’s elections with money, political pressure and statements on its preference for Ma. It is another one for Taiwan’s principal ally, the democratic US, to do so.

Leaving aside the questionable decision by the FT to run an article based on the comments of an unnamed US official — knowing that doing so would play into the hands of individuals who want to influence Taiwan’s democratic process — the incident confirms yet again the institutional bias that faces Tsai as she enters the election.

The US Department of State has denied any involvement in the “leak” and reaffirmed its position that the Obama administration is neutral in the election. However, history shows us that Washington’s policy on Taiwan and China has often been marked by personal feuds, turf wars, secrecy — and yes, leaks to the press.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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