The Anti-Secession Law
March 28, 2005
Redundant, Ill-timed, but Necessary
Some of my Pan Blue comrades have criticized Beijing’s newly ratified Anti-Secession Law as redundant, ill-timed, and potentially counterproductive. Therefore they consider it unnecessary and ill-advised. I understand their concerns, but would submit that given the circumstances, Beijing had little choice.
The Anti-Secession Law is redundant. But so is the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights merely makes explicit what was already implicit in the US Constitution. Some of America’s Founding Fathers, including James Madison, were convinced that specifying which rights were protected would, by implication, leave any rights not specified unprotected. Other Founders, including Thomas Jefferson, were convinced that failure to specify which rights were protected would leave those rights unprotected. Who was right is still being debated today.
The Anti-Secession Law is ill-timed. The timing however is not Beijing’s fault. Beijing, along with everyone else, was surprised by the December 2004 Pan Blue legislative election victory. Beijing was responding to Chen Shui-bian’s string of unilateral provocations, to his “One Country each Side” assertion, to his threat to hold a public referendum and constitutional convention in 2006, and to his threat to declare formal independence in 2008. The machinery was in motion. It could not be shut down. Therefore its language was moderated in response to the Pan Blue camp’s “December Surprise.”
To pronounce sentence on the Anti-Secession Law based on short-term consequences such as European Union hesitation on lifting its 15 year old arms embargo would be premature. In the long term, the Anti-Secession Law should prove to be an effective counter to the Taiwan Relations Act.
Counter, not Counterpart to the Taiwan Relations Act
Notice I said “counter” not “counterpart.” Some China watchers have characterized the Anti-Secession Law as a “counterpart” to the Taiwan Relations Act. It is no such thing.
The Taiwan Relations Act is a legal absurdity. It is domestic US legislation that “authorizes” the US government to meddle in another nation’s internal affairs. It is an outrage against national sovereignty, something the US insists is sacrosanct, at least for itself.
The Anti-Secession Law, by contrast, is a perfectly normal piece of legislation. It is domestic Chinese law that applies solely to China’s internal affairs. It does not presume to meddle in America’s internal affairs. The Anti-Secession Law is nothing like the Taiwan Relations Act.
A Chinese counterpart to the Taiwan Relations Act would be a domestic Chinese law that “authorizes” the Chinese government to meddle in America’s internal affairs.
A Chinese counterpart to the Taiwan Relations Act would be a “Confederate Relations Act” authorizing China to provide military weaponry to the Confederate States of America in the event the Union used force to prevent southern secession in 1861.
A Chinese counterpart to the Taiwan Relations Act would be an “Aztlan Relations Act” authorizing China to provide military weaponry to Republica del Norte secessionists in the event the US government used force to prevent Mexico from recovering territory lost in 1842.
A Chinese counterpart to the Taiwan Relations Act would be a “Hawaiian Relations Act” authorizing China to provide military weaponry to the Hawaiian independence movement in the event the US government used force to prevent the restoration of the pre 1893 Kingdom of Hawaii.
These examples, which could be multiplied indefinitely, illustrate just how presumptuous the Taiwan Relations Act is. How would Americans who consider the Taiwan Relations Act perfectly normal and reasonable feel if China, Russia, or the EU reciprocated by passing all sorts of acts that meddled in internal US affairs?
Battered Woman Syndrome
Much of the world community is like a battered wife accustomed to being mistreated by her abusive husband. Many nations are so accustomed to chronic bullying by the American Hegemon, the abuse feels normal and any departure from that norm feels unfamiliar hence uncomfortable.
Therefore when France or Germany defies the US over its invasion of Iraq, or when mainland China defies the US over its abetting of Taiwan secession, their unexpected defiance is greeted in some quarters not with relief, but with anxiety. Someone is committing the mortal sin of “changing the status quo,” or “threatening regional stability,” or the one that always makes me laugh, “challenging American hegemony in the Western [sic] Pacific.”
The fact that some China watchers could characterize the Anti-Secession Law as a “counterpart” to the Taiwan Relations Act or worse, as “trouble-making,” reveals the extent to which much of the world community suffers from the geopolitical equivalent of Battered Woman Syndrome. Fortunately, this victim mentality can be overcome. Unfortunately, as EU hesitation over lifting its obsolete arms embargo reveals, it may take some time.
No Reason to Complain
If one examines the language of the Anti-Secession Law closely, one is immediately struck by an intriguing fact. Beijing is not demanding that Taiwan adhere to the People’s Republic of China’s “One China” Constitution. Beijing is demanding that Taiwan adhere to the Republic of China’s “One China” Constitution. Beijing has no beef with patriotic Chinese defenders of the venerable Republic of China Constitution. Beijing only has a beef with treasonous “Taiwanese” defenders of a would-be “Republic of Taiwan” constitution.
Beijing’s oft repeated insistence that “Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic of China” is for foreign consumption. Within a domestic, cross-straits framework Beijing is perfectly willing to accept the Pan Blue camp’s alternative formulation: “Both Taiwan and the mainland are part of one indivisible China. Taipei refers to that China as the ROC. Beijing refers to that China as the PRC.” What more can Pan Blue leaders or followers reasonably ask for?
Patriotic defenders of the Republic of China Constitution have no legitimate reason to condemn the Anti-Secession Law. According to the Republic of China Constitution, mainland Chinese are also citizens of the Republic of China. Since mainland Chinese are also citizens of the Republic of China, what’s wrong with them demanding that Chinese on Taiwan adhere to the Republic of China Constitution? Not only do they have a right to make such demands, they have a patriotic duty.
The only reason Pan Blue political leaders on Taiwan might want to distance themselves from the Anti-Secession Law is timidity in the face of McCarthyite political persecution.
The only solution to this problem is to get a spine.