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December 7, 2006

Vatican— Are They Fueling The Flames?

by Brad Warbiany

Since my employer is a Taiwanese corporation, and we have manufacturing in both Taiwan and on the mainland, I try to keep abreast of what’s going on between the two countries. It’s a fairly odd situation, and one that I didn’t really understand until I had met and talked it over with a number of Taiwanese ex-pats I work with. A few years ago, I was reflexively in favor of Taiwan declaring independence. Now I’ve learned enough to change my tune.

So I greet this news with caution:

TAIPEI – The Vatican will move to resume relations with China after more than half a century if religious freedom is allowed but it will not abandon China’s diplomatic rival Taiwan, an official said on Tuesday.

The Vatican, which Taiwan sees as an important ally as it fights for international legitimacy against China, would seek to restore an apostolic nunciature in Beijing for the first time since the Communist Party began ruling China in 1949, said Monsignor Ambrose Madtha, charge d’affaires at the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Taipei.

But the Vatican would seek to keep a delegate in Taiwan, he said. Taiwan split from China in 1949 after the civil war that brought the Communists to power, and the Vatican went with it.

Doug is happy to see this, but I think it may add to the trouble Taiwan is facing. As the type of folks who think back reverently on the founders of this nation, who braved a war against the world’s premier “superpower” of the time, classical liberals tend to take a kind view of Taiwanese independence. After all, we threw off the shackles of the British for reasons not nearly as severe as what our own government is doing to us, so the Taiwanese must want the same thing, right?

There’s a big difference, though. America in the 1770′s was ruled by Britian. Taiwan is not ruled by China. While Taiwan does not have UN representation, and their independence is not universally accepted in the “world community”, they live in a state of de facto independence. China does not in any way rule Taiwan’s workings, and except for the threat of forced reunification, does not really impact Taiwan’s government. To further confuse the matter, only a fraction of Taiwanese want a declared independence. Much like the Britian/America situation, Taiwan and China share very deep cultural ties. While some Taiwanese desire independence, others desire to wait for the day when China’s communist government has liberalized enough to have a voluntary reunification. Taiwan, living in it’s current independent state (if not declared), can only be hurt by a war with China, and gains little from a recognized independence.

Over the years, China and Taiwan have been softening their stances. There’s too much at stake economically not to. They have been working on allowing direct flights from Taiwan to the mainland, and Taiwanese companies have been making good use of the ample real estate and cheap labor found on the mainland. If China goes to war with Taiwan, it may be hurt economically by the damage it does to the economy of Taiwan, which is increasingly interdependent with their own. There is an unmistakable rift between the nations, but with time and a liberalization of China, that rift can heal.

What neither country needs, though, is for outside entities to push them towards the brink. That is what the Vatican, although unintentionally, is doing. China is a nation with a lot of pride at stake, and this is damaging to their pride. It may not be enough to spur them to act, but it doesn’t help the situation much. Actions like this fuel the flames between the two nations. If we, as outsiders, do anything, it should be with the intent of reducing the tension, not increasing it. I have an ideological desire to see Taiwan live as an independent liberal democracy. But my pragmatic side realized they’re already doing so. If that situation changes, it’s more likely to be for the worse than the better.

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18 Comments

  1. [...] Update 12/7/06: Writing at The Liberty Papers, Brad Warbiany expresses concern that a move like this could fan the flames of what is clearly a tense relationship between Taiwan and the mainland. While I agree that the ideal situation is to keep the PRC-Taiwan relationship as cool as possible, I don’t think that the Vatican’s move will have the impact Brad fears for two reasons. [...]

    Pingback by Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » The Vatican Stands Up To China — December 7, 2006 @ 9:38 am
  2. What does the indigenous population want now, since they had originally wanted to be independant of the Chinese in Taiwan.

    Comment by VRB — December 7, 2006 @ 9:57 am
  3. VRB,

    That’s a good question, and one I don’t know the answer to. I know they’re seen as a bit of an underclass in Taiwan, but I don’t know enough about them or their history to really answer your question.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 7, 2006 @ 10:42 am
  4. Actually Taiwan should be independent. Independence is not necessarily a bad thing considering what China has done when it illegally occuppied Tibet. I strongly suggest the writer of this article do more research before acting as if independence for Taiwan is a disease that will hurt Taiwan. The only disease that hurts Taiwan is China’s attempts to isolate it from important world organizations such as WHO. Taiwan won’t be able to do that unless the WORLD recognizes Taiwan as an independent nation and not part of China. Thank God the Vatican will not abandon Taiwan.

    Comment by Walter — December 7, 2006 @ 12:33 pm
  5. Walter,

    You’re missing my point. Taiwan is, for all intensive purposes, already independent. Right now they’re reaping the benefits of independence.

    But if they declare independence, all the help from the WHO won’t matter when China comes across the strait and invades (which they’ll be almost forced to do, simply to save face). I don’t like the situation, but declaring independence is suicide, and their de facto state of independence now is about 98% as good as “official” independence.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 7, 2006 @ 4:31 pm
  6. I know and I fully understand you well. My question to you is….why fear China? This is just the thinking of the world when Germany had 7 million strong and invaded Poland, the Netherlands, do you see where I am leading? What I am saying is that China is not the problem, the China government is. I am not one who is overly hateful of China, but China’s government has done many things that people don’t even know about. Everytime I buy a shirt in the store that says “Made in China” I remember the Falun Gong persecutions, the persecutions of Tibeteans, 800 million Chinese citizens in poverty, and so on. I guess I am too passionate about Taiwan’s independence, but tell me, is it wrong for Taiwan to declare it? I do not think so. To me, the only way for Taiwan to really be noticed in the international community and escape China’s isolating attempts aimed at Taiwan, is for the Taiwanese to decide that they have had enough.
    Taiwan declaring independence is not suicide, it’s the RIGHT thing to do. Even if they did not, do you think China will just NEVER invade anyway? I think China would have regardless, hence their continous military buildup to fight not only Taiwan, but other regional powers who may interfere.
    It’s not suicide my friend, for Taiwan to declare it. I think it would be more of a suicide for China, should they use force. Think my friend, Taiwan has not yet declared independence, me and you know that Taiwan is independent, but yet China complains, or gets upset everytime a nation deals with Taiwan “unofficially”. Isn’t that odd?
    I agree with you on the fact that Taiwan is independent, but given China’s state of denial, please look further into why this is so important. I sincerely hope you understand as I am extremely passionate on this issue.

    Comment by Walter — December 7, 2006 @ 5:41 pm
  7. Oh and by the way, China has recently claimed Arunachal which is part of Northern India. They even claimed the Northern part of N. Korea! You have to remember such things. Mao who fathered the Communists did not actually think Taiwan belonged to China. He just merely wanted respect for the newly installed Communist government. What is repeatedly forgotten is that it is not up to the Chinese or Americans to decide the future of Taiwan, it is up to the Taiwanese. I do not know if this is official, but honestly, a recent poll has revealed that regardless of what Beijing thinks, native Taiwanese by more than 54% now prefer independence. This poll happened in November of this year. Will the China of today be mature enough to accept this? No I think not. Trust me this is just how Germany was before World War 2. They felt cheated in World War 1. The Chinese feel cheated, even though we are helping them grow economically, because the Communist gov’t has convinced the people that the reason China is not as great as it is now is because of foreign interventions. I do not think so. It is because of the Communists that China can not achieve its real full potential. If China was different, let’s say a democracy, they would be on par with the U.S. and I as an American would not be afraid of that. I would rather China be like this than it is right now. I hope you think carefully on this issue. There is nothing wrong with Taiwanese having the right to self-determination. If other countries can do it, so can Taiwan.

    Comment by Walter — December 7, 2006 @ 5:48 pm
  8. Walter,

    One question, would you like to trade Los Angeles for Taipei?

    Comment by Kevin — December 7, 2006 @ 7:03 pm
  9. Walter,

    Believe me… I’ve been to Taipei. I interact with Taiwanese ex-pats on a daily basis. And I’m a huge proponent of freedom. I want to see an independent Taiwan.

    But think pragmatically for a second. If Taiwan declares independence and China invades, can Taiwan win that war? Can they do it without America’s help? Is America willing to take on the Chinese, a society 1.2 billion strong, with nuclear weapons?

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my view of the political calculus is skewed, and Taiwan can declare independence without starting a war. But I don’t think it’s likely.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 7, 2006 @ 7:16 pm
  10. Brad,

    Notwithstanding what I’ve written on this topic, I do agree with you. If Taiwan were to declare independence today, it would mean war tomorrow, plain and simple.

    And, if that happened, like it or not, America would get involved.

    Personally, I don’t think it will happen. The Chinese on both sides seem far too pragmatic to start a conflagration that could destroy them both.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 7, 2006 @ 8:34 pm
  11. Mr. Kevin, why do you ask such a question? Are you a true American and if so, why would losing Los Angeles be a concern if the security of a WHOLE nation is at stake? Should not Taipei have the right to self-determination and independence as we have? One who asks such questions is selfish and unconcerned about the welfare of others who are not as fortunate. Look around you Mr. Kevin. People who are born here in the U.S. are blessed. We should use our power to help those who want it. Taiwan wants our help, they need it, we should give it to them regardless of China’s threats.

    Brad I think me and you are of the same caliber on this issue. I can only hope that you are right that we will not have to go to war, however, underestimating China’s military intentions is just as bad as overestimating it. If Chinese on both sides seem pragmatic, please explain the continuing military buildup on the Chinese side vs. the defense spending decline on Taiwan’s side. Which side is more pragmatic? China or Taiwan?
    Should war actually happen, it would be mainly a sea and air battle which is actually two of America’s strongest points of military power. As far as the 1.2 billion is concerned, those are merely numbers. China can not really send 1.2 billion people across the ocean for the following reasons: Not all of those people are militarily able to fight in the first place, China does not have enough transports for such a number, and it would be like a shooting gallery in which a sea full of dead Chinese people would be the result.

    War these days is not about superior numbers, it is about political motivation, people willpower, and technology, and I might add for the United States, the power of God.

    If China is willing to do what it takes to invade Taiwan, Americans should be willing to do what it takes to defend it. We shouldn’t be afraid of losing cities because if the China government is stupid enough to think about escalating to that level, then we are more than ready to bring it up a notch. Also Brad just think about this kind of war for a second. I am just as pragmatic. China has to cross the seas, prevent Japan and the U.S. from interfering. Who knows if other countries would get involved? There is too many risks and Taiwan would actually win that war if it came down to it. Taiwan would be the defender and China would be the attacker. Invading a fully armed island that has had years to prepare for such a defense would result in a sea full of dead Chinese soldiers. Then add to that American firepower. America has assets on the island of Guam, Okinawa on Japan, so do you honestly think China would be that stupid?

    I wouldn’t be alarmed at all if Taiwan declared independence. I would stand behind what is right.

    Comment by walter — December 8, 2006 @ 3:02 pm
  12. Right now the U.S. would win a war between us and China…probably. In 10 years, the outcome is a lot less likely. China’s military is up and coming and we’re not expanding our conventional forces to meet the threat.

    Regardless, that’s not really what the argument’s about. It doesn’t matter what we think, it’s what China thinks. And China would likely feel forced to act if Taiwan officially delcared independence. Would they act? I can’t say for sure. But it makes little sense to undertake a symbolic act that in reality changes nothing but does make war more likely.

    Comment by mike — December 8, 2006 @ 3:47 pm
  13. Walter,

    Your questioning of my patriotism aside, how does China and Taiwan’s little cross strait dispute affect America’s national security? Why should American men and women die for Taiwan’s freedom?

    If you want to go help Taiwan secure its independence, you can go right on over there and help them fight for it. Taiwan’s de jure independence is not worth one American soldier’s life or one American city.

    Comment by Kevin — December 8, 2006 @ 8:08 pm
  14. Dear Mike and Kevin, you know, I am just amazed at how, both of you think so narrowly. First of all Mike, it’s not about what CHINA thinks! It’s about what Taiwan thinks! China does not own Taiwan, yet they claim it anyway. Taiwan as of this moment would rather be independent or maintain it’s current state of independence. Oh and of course of Taiwan declared independence, China would definitely act, but in reality, it wouldn’t be in CHINA’S interest to react militarily! Also Mike it doesn’t matter whether or not Taiwan declares independence because China would have invaded Taiwan anyway regardless. So symbolic or not, war would be inevitable. The ONLY reason China hasn’t started its aggression is because of the United States. That’s the only reason! I tell you what, imagine if we did not interfere and prevent China from invading? Do you honestly think Mr. Mike, that whether or not Taiwan declared independence would have actually mattered? Hell no! China would have definitely invaded Taiwan. Should the U.S. or Japan just sit idly by doing nothing, there would have been a war ANYWAY. You never thought to look at it from that angle did you?

    As for you Kevin, with all patriotism aside, let’s be pragmatic then. It’s obvious that you are selfish in this regards. All you see is, what’s in it for the U.S.? If that’s all you look at, then, no I wouldn’t want you to fight by me defending Taiwan either. You can stay the hell home and watch the news on T.V.! Also, American soldiers would more than likely be willing to support this cause because unlike Iraq, there is an actual purpose. War in Iraq was stupid because the real purpose stated by Bush disappeared when no WMD were found. But oh, he had to change it to “let’s promote democracy!” Bull crap! There is no way democracy would prevail in a state like that!

    Now let’s look at Taiwan, let’s do a checklist.

    They have a president: check
    They have 23 million people: check
    They have a democratic government: check
    They have an economy: check
    They have their own military: check
    They fulfill ALL requirements for NATIONHOOD: CHECK!

    This is worth fighting for. The purpose of such a war should it happen, would be defending the right of a nation to self-determination. You say for me to go defend Taiwan myself, I’m in no hurry to rush to war, but if it came down to that, and me being an American soldier personally, then hell yeah, I would do what it takes to defend Taiwan. I’m not going to let Communists take over Taiwan. I guarantee you most of my military buddies or even just the military wouldn’t do so either. Thank goodness, that not all Americans are like you Kevin.

    If you want to know whether or not it affects our National Security, I will be straightforward. Should Taiwan be taken over by China, a lot would be at stake. China of course, would not be stupid to invade the United States militarily, but a lot of credibility by the U.S. military would be lost. Japan would not need us, most of Asia would have no respect and turn towards China. Taiwanese themselves, for all the years they have worked to uphold the same principles that we have, would be bitter towards us and there would be anti-Americanism in that part. There is more to list, but clearly, we would not be able to say, democracy is the best way anymore because we are not backing up what we say when it comes to Taiwan. It would just be lies. I strongly urge you to stop looking at what’s in it for you and look at what is the right thing to do. Thank you.

    Comment by walter — December 9, 2006 @ 12:42 pm
  15. I’m amazed that you think Taiwan is worth a nuclear attack on an American city.

    Comment by Adam Selene — December 9, 2006 @ 10:36 pm
  16. Whatever Adam. If you are so scared to support what is right because a Communist country threatens you then just continue to live your life and not care. The U.S. was under constant threat of nuclear attack by Russia. Do you think that prevented democracy from winning? No. That didn’t prevent the U.S. during the Cuban missle crisis now did it? When another country like China threatens you with nuclear attack, the United States should stand up, not run away. I do not think Taiwan is worth Los Angeles, but I do think Taiwan is worth supporting and defending against China, regardless of its threats. Adam I am amazed to think you have no compassion for people who do not have the same right to self-determination as you do. Just the fact that China is willing to nuke us should concern Americans. Even more reason why Taiwan doesn’t need to be governed by this kind of insanity. If China actually nuked us, China would be obliterated. Seriously.

    I hope that you’re not saying we should just hang back and let China invade Taiwan should they do so militarily. Is that what you’re saying? Watch a whole nation get invaded? I hope you can live with that on your conscience considering that Taiwan will at LEAST try to FIGHT against China should that happen. If a small island can face a big dragon (China), why is the eagle( U.S.) so afraid?

    Comment by Walter — December 10, 2006 @ 8:43 am
  17. Furthermore, I would like to appreciate all of you who have asked me questions on my stand. But I must tell everyone that no matter what you all think, I have studied this issue and I strongly believe that the truth is that Taiwan is definitely a nation. I do not understand why people have doubts when it comes to Taiwan, maybe it is because of Bush’s blunders in Iraq. Maybe it’s because people are just plain SCARED of China’s military size. However, Taiwan is not Iraq and a potential war over Taiwan is not in everyone’s interests. But, should it come down to that, I know that our government will not stand by and let China blockade or invade Taiwan militarily. I am very sure on this. Hopefully, Americans will realize that this cause is worth supporting. The other day I watched a documentary of soldiers who were in Iraq. These soldiers were from the Arkansas Army National Guard. Throughout the whole video, the soldiers did not really want to be in Iraq. The reason why was because now that we all know there was no weapons of mass destruction, they felt there was no purpose there. Bush should have known that he can’t just change the mission around to “promoting democracy” in a part of the world that has known violence for decades. But it would be a different story with Taiwan. A completely different story. Taiwan is already a democracy. That’s very important. I will continue to stand by my conviction no matter what anyone says. I do not look at the issue of just Taiwan, I look at the issue of Tibet and how China has illegally occupied Tibet. Did anyone see the shootings of Tibeteans this past September? Maybe you did or maybe you did not. Does anyone support being against the violence in Darfur and notice the role that China has played in supporting the regime government in Sudan? I urge those who ask me such questions about Taiwan’s right to self-determination to look at how blessed you are to be an American before you have doubts about such a cause. Thank you.

    Comment by Walter — December 10, 2006 @ 8:56 am
  18. [...] So, we have a reader, Walter, who advocates going toe to toe with the Chinese over Taiwan. In response to a single comment by me, he posts a couple hundred words tackling me and his perception of what I advocate or believe. [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive » Responding to Walter — December 10, 2006 @ 10:04 am

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