Foreign scholars urge Taiwan to counter China’s threat

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In an open letter published on June 8, forty-four international academics and former U.S. government officials expressed to Taiwan’s people the sense of urgency they felt to maintain unity and continuity at a critical moment in Taiwan’s history. (NOWnews)

WASHINGTON (CNA) — Forty-four international academics and former U.S. government officials on June 8 issued a joint open letter to Taiwan’s people to show support for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and urge Taiwanese across the political spectrum to understand and counter China’s threat.

In the open letter, the writers expressed to Taiwan’s people the sense of urgency they felt to maintain unity and continuity at a critical moment in Taiwan’s history.

They said China had left no stone unturned in its attempts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space over the past two years, threatening it with a buildup of military power, and making it appear as if Taiwan’s only future lies in integration with an authoritarian China.

That culminated on Jan. 2 when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said that unification under China’s “one country, two systems” principle was the only option for the future, the letter said.

“We applaud the courageous stance of the Taiwanese people in resisting Chinese pressures and protecting their own democratic system,” the letter said.

“But we express our concerns that Beijing’s latest subversive techniques of deception and disinformation could sow division and confusion in Taiwan’s body politic and create the kind of civil unrest that Beijing lists as one of the pretexts for using force against Taiwan — which would nevertheless constitute aggression in violation of the United Nations Charter.”

The authors of the letter said they understood that Taiwan has domestic issues to address, the hoped democratic processes proceed in a way that does not detract from national unity “in the face of the larger threat to Taiwan’s existence as a free and democratic nation.”

If Taiwanese across the political spectrum fail to understand this threat, and go on with business as usual, this provides Beijing’s repressive leaders with an opportunity to divide Taiwanese society, and increasingly make it an inevitability that Taiwan is incorporated into China, the letter argued.

The letter backed Tsai’s recent approach to China, including the rejection of “one country, two systems” and the “1992 consensus” highlighted by Xi in his speech.

It also supported her “Taiwan consensus” based on the “four musts” mentioned in a New Year’s Day speech.

The four musts are that China must accept the reality of the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan), respect the commitment of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freedom and democracy, resolve cross-strait differences peacefully and equitably, and negotiate with Taiwan’s government or an organization with a government mandate.

“We thus appeal to the people of Taiwan to maintain a clear vision for their future as a free and democratic nation that is a full and equal member in the international family of nations.

“It is essential to maintain unity and to be supportive of a democratically elected president who has demonstrated balance, flexibility, and toughness,” the letter said.

The authors of the letter also urged their own governments to make clear to Beijing that Taiwan does not stand alone.

Among those that signed the letter were John Tkacik, the director of the Future Asia Project at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Virginia and a retired U.S. foreign service officer; William Stanton and Stephen Young, former directors of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan; and Jerome Cohen, a professor of law at New York University Law School and an expert in Chinese law.

By Chiang Chin-ye and Evelyn Kao