Taiwan urged to make policy adjustments in ties with China, U.S.

Taipei, Taiwan needs to make policy adjustments if it wants to deal with China and strengthen its relations with the United States, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Richard Bush said Friday.

"Because Taiwan is a small power, maneuvering between the two powers is not easy," Bush, who was in Taiwan to attend the June 12 dedication of the new AIT compound in Taipei, said in an interview on POP radio.

"There are no easy answers," Bush said, noting that different presidents in Taiwan have adopted different approaches to promote Taiwan's interests.

In his opinion, the Washington's policy today is more favorable to Taiwan than it is to China, Bush said, although he wished the United States would not be so tough when it comes to economic negotiations with Taiwan.

When asked how Taiwan can pursue a balance in its relations with China and the U.S., Bush listed three serious questions Taiwan needs to address because the fundamental reality in cross-Taiwan Strait relations is shifting.

First, he said, it seems that China will no long rely heavily on conservative political forces within Taiwan to advance its interests, and it seems China's ability to intimidate Taiwan is growing.

"If that's true, should Taiwan adjust its mainland policy to something significantly different from before. If so, in what way?" he said.

Second, if Taiwan wants real improvement in U.S.-Taiwan economic relations, "should Taiwan, in its own interests, make the necessary concessions to make that possible?" he said.

Those concessions could involve market access for U.S. beef and pork and deregulation of its financial services industry to increase investment from outside, he suggested.

The third question, Bush said, involves the polarization of Taiwan's political system, which makes it harder to pass critical legislation.

"If that is the case, is it necessary for the island's political leaders to work harder together to create a consensus among them and do a better job of solving Taiwan's problems?" he said.

In response to a question whether the Taiwan Travel Act was an attempt by U.S. President Donald Trump to ease China's pressure on Taiwan, he said U.S.-Taiwan relations are "more complicated than this."

Although some people were concerned that Trump might use Taiwan as a bargaining chip in negotiations with China, Bush said the danger has declined a lot in last year and a half, but "I don't think it's going away."

"Indeed, there are three conflicting forces in U.S. policy towards Taiwan," he said.

There are those who wish to improve U.S.-Taiwan relations because they believe it is in America's security and political interest to do so. Among them are the Department of Defense, the State Department and pro-Taiwan congressmen who see Taiwan as a strategic asset of the U.S.

"These three groups don't necessarily agree on what we should do, but they think we should do something, in part because China is pressuring Taiwan," he said.

Another force, he said, are U.S. economic agencies who want Taiwan to make the politically difficult concessions on market access for beef and pork if there is to be real improvement in the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship.

Finally, the third force is represented by a group in the Trump administration that is very reluctant to take positive steps toward Taiwan because they don't want to create difficulties for Chinese President Xi Jinping (???), he said.

Bush said it seems to him that China has likely tried to make the case that President Tsai might be a troublemaker and needs to be restrained.

Turning to cross-strait relations, Bush argued that after Tsai was elected, "there was an opportunity to have a cross-strait trust building process that was incremental, reciprocal and proportional."

But it seems that Beijing was reluctant to do so, because it did not wish to "co-exist" with the Tsai administration and did not wish to legitimize the Democratic Progressive Party, he said.

Bush also deems the chances of a summit between Tsai and Xi as slim even if Tsai is re-elected for a second term.

"Unless President Tsai decides to accept the '1992 consensus" and core connotation in an explicit way, I don't really see a reason to believe that Xi Jinping would be willing to have a summit meeting with her," he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel