I was going to write a post about Pan's Labyrinth, but I'll save that for next week after I've seen 300. Instead, I've lately come across a couple pieces/encounters about Taiwanese independence and what it means for China and the U.S. And mostly, I've been pissed with what I've read.
A number of my friends are pretty pro-China, or at least pro-the Chinese position on the issue, which disturbs me a bit because they work for various organs of the State Department. The standard refrain I get from them (and many more within the policy community, though probably not the majority) is that the DPP and other "nationalist" groups on Taiwan threaten stability in the region, by which they mean closer ties between China and the U.S.
This seems backwards to me, and it arises mostly because people within that segment of the policy community are so resigned to the fact of Chinese military aggression that they somehow see the political maneuvers of Taiwan's leaders to be threatening. The only reason a move towards independence by President Chen is threatening is because China makes it so, by pointing missiles at Taiwan which threaten quite frankly the highest value concentration of computer and image hardware innovation in the region, if not the world. And because the U.S. has a legal obligation to come to Taiwan's rescue if it is attacked. But the fundamental issue here is not that people in Taiwan want the chance to make their voices heard (that's not really threatening to anyone), but that China hasn't renounced the use of force. People in that part of the policy community take Chinese belligerence as a given, as the status quo that needs to be accommodated, rather than something that can be negotiated.
And to that extent, they typically fail to recognize how Chinese belligerence is part and parcel of its strategy. It's a curious dynamic: the U.S. essentially rewards China for its threats. Consider, whenever China sees a Taiwanese move that could threaten its hope for long-term reunification (changing the country name on passports to Taiwan, revised history books, etc.), it talks about launching missiles. The U.S. reacts not by denouncing the threats, but by admonishing the Taiwanese for their actions. China, in a limited sense, gets an international veto over Taiwanese policy, no matter the issue. When Taiwan protests Chinese actions on the same issue (like all the preconditions Beijing attaches to final status negotiations), the U.S. doesn't say anything. It's the willingness to use force that is the decisive factor here, and essentially, anything that pisses off China, no matter how idiotic or insignificant a slight, is considered to be the fault of the Taiwanese for not recognizing the "realities" of the situation.
Now, I fully understand that a move towards Taiwanese independence, given China's stated response, is a bad idea. What I don't accept, however, is blame being placed on Taiwan for the situation across the Strait, which often happens when I talk with these individuals. The Taiwanese public has full moral and legal authority (under both domestic and international law) to declare themselves independent. That has to be accepted as a baseline, I think, for any meaningful discussion of this issue. It's when people forget that, when they start blaming Taiwan for China's response, that I have big issues. It's one thing not to want a war between the U.S. and China. It's another to blame Taiwan for China firing missiles at the U.S.