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Jewish World Review /June 24, 1998 /30 Sivan, 5758

Don Feder

Don Feder Will Clinton betray Taiwan?

WHEN BILL CLINTON SHAKES HANDS with the devil in Tiananmen Square, the Taiwanese will have every reason to be nervous.

"Will We Have To Go To War For Taiwan?" asks the headline in a June 22 Time magazine story.

If America is resolute, it need never come to that. Rather, the question is: Will Clinton push Taipei into negotiating its existence with the People's Republic?

Beijing salivates at the thought of dining on Taiwanese take-out. The communists are eager to expropriate its $80 billion in foreign-exchange reserves and incorporate the productive capacity of the world's 14th largest trading nation.

In shaping Chinese policy toward Taiwan, greed vies with fear. Suppose that in 1939, there were a German state on the borders of the Reich whose inhabitants were free, happy and prosperous. Would Hitler feel threatened by the implicit challenge of such an entity?

That gives you an idea of how the Marxist mandarins view this isle of peace and plenty -- the first Chinese democracy in 5,000 years of Middle Kingdom history.

In a decade, Taiwan has gone from authoritarianism to an open society with 84 registered political parties and over 350 newspapers.

Per capita, Taiwan exports $4,400 in merchandise each year, compared to $130 for the mainland. Taiwanese with higher education are 12.5 percent of the population (in the People's Republic, it's only 1.4 percent). If you ever have a choice between spending a Saturday evening in Taipei or Canton, don't think twice.

In May, Maximum Despot Jiang Zemin summoned the party's elite to a three-day conference to discuss the reunification of Taiwan. They concluded that an all-out effort should be made to accelerate the process.

The People's Republic insists that negotiations be conditioned on its one-China canon. By this it means that the communist regime is the sole legitimate authority over all of China. Taiwan is merely a fractious province.

The communists offer the Taiwanese the one-nation, two-systems formula promised Hong Kong prior to June 1997. Beijing's first act after marching into the former British colony was to replace its elected legislature with a rubber-stamp body. It has since allowed a minority of members to be chosen by popular vote.

Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui responds that there are two governments in China, one on the mainland and the other on Taiwan. It's been almost 50 years since Taipei was ruled from Beijing. In the past century, the mainland and island were united for exactly four years.

To say that there are two Chinese governments is to give a dictatorship more deference than it deserves and a democracy less.

Only one government was chosen by ballots; the other is maintained with whips and chains. Only one allows an independent press, respects religious freedom and has renounced the use of force in international affairs. The other represses its subjects, exports weapons of mass destruction and tries to intimidate its neighbors.

After launching missiles into the waters off Taiwan in 1996 in an attempt to sabotage its presidential election, calling Taiwan's elected leader the "harlot of history," bending every effort to diplomatically isolate the island and loudly proclaiming that the military option is always open, Beijing actually expects the Taiwanese to welcome talks designed to extinguish their freedom.

To secure Clinton's help, China will dangle the bait of cooperation in areas like its arms trade with the Third World. If the president bites, he will justify our meddling as facilitating the resolution of a potentially explosive situation.

America would be insane to push Lee toward reunification. If Taiwan falls, there will be many sleepless nights in the Philippines, the next target of Chinese territorial ambition. Like Munich, Beijing's success at blackmail would fuel future aggression.

And yet, Clinton has prodded Israel into a disastrous deal with another terrorist gang. If he would betray our only reliable ally in the Middle East, what would he do to an island that we don't even recognize as a sovereign state?

Why should a president who compromised U.S. security by giving Beijing the technology to upgrade its missiles care about Taiwan's security?

On June 9, the House passed a resolution (411 to 0) urging Clinton to seek assurances from Beijing that it will never use force or the threat thereof against the island. It's comforting to know that someone understands America's interests in East Asia.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.