The Taiwan Independence Movement’s Journey to Nowhere
May 05, 2006
By now everyone who follows cross-Straits and Sino-US relations has read about how “president” Chen Shui-bian’s state visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica degenerated into a real life version of National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983, directed by Harold Ramis, written by John Hughes, starring Chevy Chase).
A May 6, 2006 China Daily article entitled “Taiwan leader’s ‘transit diplomacy’ snubbed” summed up the fiasco:
Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian’s new attempt to promote “transit diplomacy” has suffered as his trip to Latin America turned out to be what the island’s media dubbed “a journey to nowhere” (mi hang zhi luu). The start of Chen’s eight-day visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica, two of just 25 countries that recognize Taipei, was marred by his plane changing its flight plan in mid-air and making an unscheduled landing in the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. Taiwan’s TVBS television reported on Friday that Chen’s plane left Taipei early Thursday morning with the intention of landing in Beirut, Lebanon, on its way to Asuncion, Paraguay. But it landed in Abu Dhabi instead after Lebanese authorities denied it permission to land. The plane was then forced to land in Amsterdam on Friday for a second refuelling stop although it had planned to head to the Dominican Republic, another country that recognizes Taipei. The TVBS report said that the plane was unable to take on enough fuel in Abu Dhabi to allow for a flight to the Dominican Republic due to technical reasons, forcing the plane to land in Amsterdam. The unusual moves came after Chen unexpectedly dropped plans to stop in the United States only hours before starting his visit on Thursday.
“President” Chen Shui-bian
Comment: As the setbacks began to pile up, like cars in a freeway chain collision, an increasingly petulant Chen Shui-bian ordered a total news blackout. Reporters assigned the thankless task of covering Chen’s “journey to nowhere” were denied the right to communicate with the outside world, and even kept in the dark about their next transit stop. They had to guess where they would land next by checking pocket compasses and world maps. Their ordeal lasted for 37 hours. Thirty hours in the air, plus seven hours on the ground. The reporters said they felt like victims of a hijacking. The justification given for such treatment? You guessed it, “For reasons of national security.” Yet another example of Chen’s much touted “100% press freedom.”
Arrival Times for Chen’s “Journey to Nowhere”
On second thought, Chen’s “journey to nowhere” might better be compared to ABC’s hit TV series Lost (2004, created by Damon Lindelof, Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams). Can anyone think of a more succinct description of the Taiwan independence movement’s current plight than “Lost?”
TV Series Lost
Most western news accounts however, fail to explain why Chen’s trip went so terribly wrong. Many parrot the DPP’s predictable accusation that Beijing “blackmailed” Washington into humiliating Chen Shui-bian.
The DPP knows that its kneejerk accusation is nonsense. Beijing only wishes it was that powerful. After all, the Bush administration just got through insulting Hu Jintao during his recent US visit by deliberately referring to the “People’s Republic of China” government as the “Republic of China” government, and by deliberately allowing a known Falungong agent provocateur to obtain a press pass and heckle Hu Jintao for three minutes before leading her away.
These incidents were no accidents, any more than the May 7, 1999 US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was an accident. These incidents were, as the vernacular expression puts it, “accidentally on purpose.”
The Bush administration deliberately staged these incidents to reassert, in the face of all the strategic analysts’ irksome predictions of a future 21st Century Chinese superpower, that the US hegemon was still the current 21st Century superpower, and Hu Jintao had better not forget it.
The Bush administration deliberately shunted Chen off to Alaska to remind Chen that for all the democratic universalist/democratic pacifist eyewash about “mutual respect between democratic allies,” Uncle Sam is the puppetmaster, the Pan Green Quisling regime on Taiwan is the puppet, and Chen Shui-bian had better not forget it.
Pan Green Quislings in Taipei would make trouble for Beijing only when Benevolent Global Hegemonists in Washington determined it would advance US hegemony, not when Pan Green Quislings determined it would advance Taiwan independence.
Chen reacted to the humiliating offer of transit through Anchorage, Alaska, by throwing an infantile temper tantrum and ordering a last minute alteration to his flight plan. This impromptu change in his flight plan was what led to the now infamous comedy of errors.
China scholar Alan Romberg, as the following news report reveals, is among the few observers who actually got the story right.
Expert says ‘breach of faith’ spurred U.S. decision
A breach of faith by Taiwan could have been responsible for Washington’s decision to limit President Chen Shui-bian’s planned transit stops in the United States during his latest Latin American visit, an American expert in cross-Taiwan Strait issues said Wednesday.
Alan Romberg, director of East Asian studies at the Henry L. Stimson Center, said he does not think the decision was taken to satisfy Chinese President Hu Jintao or in response to Beijing’s threats, as pan-green commentators in Taiwan have suggested. Instead, the limitations “seem clearly related to deep American concern over statements he (Chen) has made and actions he has taken since the beginning of this year,” Romberg said.
“While Chen would like the U.S. to see his various steps as appropriate in the course of building democracy, when viewed from an American perspective, they appear as a breach of faith and a violation of various pledges,” Romberg observed.
These include the differences between Taipei and Washington over maintaining Chen’s “five noes” pledges and the handling of the National Unification Council and National Unification Guidelines, according to Romberg.
Also related is Chen’s advocacy of a constitutional revision process that runs counter to earlier pledges, Romberg said.
While Chen said in his inaugural address that sensitive issues regarding national territory and sovereignty and the subject of unification and independence would be excluded from his proposed constitutional re-engineering effort, the president now says that he “does not have the right” to prohibit the expression of people’s opinions, Romberg pointed out.