As George W. Bush campaigned for the presidency during the year 2000, and as he settled into office in the first months of 2001, he and his team sought to distinguish themselves from Clinton Administration policies in a variety of areas. Nowhere was this more evident than with respect to China policy, where, while, on the one hand, he was generally careful to make clear he favored good relations with the PRC, on the other, Mr. Bush was at pains to contrast his view of China as a “competitorwith what he characterized as Mr. Clinton’s embrace of China as a “strategic partner.” At least prior to September 11th, Bush tried to draw the sharpest lines in the military or broader security area, with implications not only for overall Sino-American strategic relations, but also specifically for Taiwan policy.
While the United States has an important role in the Taiwan issue, even now, 20+ years after normalization with Beijing, the questions of how cross-Strait relations proceed, whether and how we continue our close support for Taiwan, and whether cooperative and constructive U.S.-PRC relations are possible, are primarily in the hands of those most intimately involved – those on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. At the same time, Americans will neither take well to cross-Strait bullying from Beijing nor respond positively to actions that could potentially place our children and grandchildren in harm’s way because of political intemperance or indiscipline on the part of Taiwan.
Although it is American policy not to mediate between the two sides or to force negotiations, it is profoundly in American interest for the United States to encourage and facilitate cross-Strait dialogue in any way it reasonably can. To the extent that we demonstrate that it is in the interest of both parties to adopt creative, flexible positions that can get them back to the table rather than focusing on issues that keep them apart, we can hope to see the emergence of relationships that will consolidate a stable situation in the Strait rather than the recent pattern of ups and downs. twists and turns, as the Chinese would say, that contain within them the threat of conflict.
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