With additional PLA troops stationed in the South China Sea, including the army’s most modernized and well-equipped divisions and ongoing, extensive military training near the Taiwan Strip, China is well-positioned for an invasion of Taiwan at any time. So what’s next?
If you were China’s communist leader trying to obtain a legacy of uniting all Chinese people under the “One China” policy, you would send Taiwan an ultimatum: “If you don’t submit to Beijing rule, you will be invaded by my army waiting at your shores.”
That message may have been sent last week with the visit of Senior Minister Lee Kuan-yew of Singapore – a well-known and well-respected diplomat in Asia. Six years ago, the 80-year-old Lee orchestrated the first official communication between Taiwan and China in 50 years. He is trusted on both sides of the strip as a pseudo-neutral third party. I say “pseudo-neutral” because Singapore has vested interests in both China and Taiwan, making it less an objective observer than an undecided beneficiary of sorts.
Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan-yew leaving Taipei with Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian at his arm.
Now that China has what it needs to become a member of the World Trade Organization – namely permanent normal trade status, granted by the Senate last week – Singapore needs to be in good graces with the communist giant. Taiwan is also set to be admitted to the WTO, giving Singapore reason to “make nice” there as well. Singapore is also connected to both Taiwan and China through other business interests. Additionally, Singapore’s military is being trained by Taiwan. And China likes Singapore because its citizens are of Chinese descent and speak the same language as those on the mainland. Needless to say, Singapore is in a unique situation.
Lee, who is British-educated and a founding father for Singapore, made a “private visit” to Taiwan last week “just to know Taiwanese leaders’ point of view.” He was met with a flurry of media attention as the public suspected Lee carried a message from China. The Taiwanese people can’t stand “secret messengers” — they want everything out in the open. In the 50 years since Taiwan broke away from the mainland, many so-called messengers have come to the island from all over the world, including the United States and Singapore. The Taiwanese people are worried their leaders will secretly sell-out Taiwan to Communist China through these messengers who hope to prevent a conflict in the Strip and put pressure on the tiny nation.
Despite his insistence that he is not one of these messengers, Lee operated under a cloud of suspicion during his 72-hour stay in Taiwan. He claims he went to the island nation for a “private visit,” but why would this gentleman — who is highly respected in Asia and already built his legacy — need to visit Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian? And he didn’t just talk to Chen – the aged man made his short visit a strenuous one by talking to key figures in all three political parties in Taiwan. He also had intense meetings with Taiwanese officials who deal exclusively with Taiwan-China relations. “Why would he do that?” you may ask.
Senior Minister Lee, left, meeting with China’s Premier Minister Zhu Rong-ji in Beijing last June.
Remember, with the election of President Chen, Taiwan is being led by a new political party – the Democratic Progressive Party. Very few people outside Taiwan know the dynamics of the DPP. Before Chen’s inauguration earlier this year, he was the mayor of Taipei – Taiwan’s capitol city. During that time, almost 10 years ago, Lee and Chen established their personal relationship. So, if you are the Chinese Communist ruler trying to “feel out” the new party of choice in the nation you’re waiting to invade, who would you send to check things out? Lee is the obvious choice.
But China insists it has not sent any “messengers” to Taiwan. “The question of Taiwan is China’s internal affair, something for the Chinese people to solve,” said Sun Yuxi, spokesman for the People’s Republic of China, in his weekly press address. “By Chinese people, I mean people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Chinese with foreign citizenship are a different matter,” he added, indicating that though more than 98 percent of the people in Singapore are of Chinese descent, Singapore officials are not involved in the conflict in the Taiwan Strip. “We urge the Singapore side to honor its words and refrain from doing anything that might undermine the relations between the two countries,” Sun concluded.
This is all an act. I definitely believe Lee came to Taiwan for three reasons: to give an ultimatum to Taiwan, to receive a response and to assess the current mindset of the Taiwanese people toward the One China policy.
Three things strike me about this visit. First, Lee only met with Chen twice – when he first arrived and just before he left. That usually happens when a message is delivered, and the messenger backs off for a couple of days to wait for a decision. Then Lee must have returned for an answer before leaving. Plus, Chen said he would give the media an explanation a few days after Lee’s visit. That would give Lee time to deliver Chen’s response to Beijing before a media announcement is made.
Second, Lee immediately visited key Taiwanese leaders, decision makers, chairmen of Taiwan’s three political parties, and officials who deal exclusively with Taiwan-China relations. Chen likely told Lee to see for himself just how the Taiwanese people think and feel about China and its “One China” policy. Lee was forced not only to give Chen the message from China, but he also had to deliver the message directly to other Taiwanese officials, rather than having it relayed through Chen. That forces Lee to be the “bad guy.” If his message was indeed an ultimatum, Lee would not be met with enthusiasm, giving him a very clear response for China.
Third, the United States had said nothing. Why all the secrecy? It’s obvious what’s happening here. U.S. officials say they fully understand the significance of Lee’s visit and that they’re concerned about it. They know Lee’s 72-hour stay in Taiwan could be the turning point of the escalating 50-year conflict in the Taiwan Strip. Why is this administration so quiet? Because this White House is also putting pressure on Taiwan through Lee. This administration is using people like Lee to put a knife at Chen’s neck, and Chinese rulers are using other diplomats – such as President Clinton — as bayonets on their guns already pointed at Taiwan.
The Taiwanese media has been so panicked lately because they know Lee was there to deliver a message. They know Taiwanese government officials had to give him an answer before he left. They know the answer will be carried back to China. But what they don’t know is the question or the answer. Nobody knows … yet. One thing we do know, however, is that Russia is at the ready to help China’s impending invasion succeed, which could mean holding back American forces – that is, if the United States keeps its promise to aid Taiwan.
I don’t think U.S. military forces are prepared today to face two conflicts at the same time. Look at what happened in the Balkans. Look at our crude oil crisis and the situation in the Middle East. President Clinton is using our strategic reserves just to try to get a few more votes for Al Gore. Very soon, we will have a surprise conflict with Iraq over oil prices.
Ladies and gentleman, let me ask you something: Is our domestic situation better than it was eight years ago? Is our international order, or disorder, better than it was eight years ago? Are American armed forces weaker than they were eight years ago? Do our soldiers and officers respect their commander-in-chief? Has our president proven himself to be a good role model to our children? Has he been a wise and moral leader both at home and abroad? Do you trust him to do the right thing in the Taiwan Strip and in other situations?
If not, please go vote on Nov. 7, and I hope, before you vote, you would say this with me:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”