On July 6, US National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell said: “We do not support Taiwan independence.”
Campbell’s statement was confusing, immoral, anti-democratic and disappointingly common.
Speaking as an American, I think Campbell should be ashamed, and so should anyone else who parrots his words. The administration of US President Joe Biden should stand up for US values, not disrespect our democratic friends in order to appease the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Taiwan is in fact independent. For Campbell to suggest that the US does not support Taiwan’s independence is inaccurate and foolish, since it plays into the hands of CCP propagandists. What Campbell actually meant, and what he should have said, is that the Biden administration does not support Taiwanese changing their country’s official name to the “Republic of Taiwan.” When stated clearly, the Biden administration’s position is not only unreasonable, it borders on ridiculous.
Taiwan’s official name, the Republic of China (ROC), is a relic inherited from the Chinese Civil War and Taiwan’s authoritarian past. Hardly anyone says ROC anymore, mainly because it confuses people who are not familiar with Taiwanese history. Foreigners easily mistake the ROC with the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC).
I have met countless Taiwanese who have told me that they wish their government would change their country’s name. Most are offended if anyone mistakenly calls them Chinese.
Taiwanese did not vote for the name Republic of China. It was in place before most of them were born. If Taiwanese now want to change their country’s name, that is their democratic right.
As a champion of democracy, the US government should respect the will of Taiwanese, not discourage them from doing what makes perfect sense.
I would be happy to see Taiwanese change their country’s name. Most people use the names “Taiwan” and “China” anyway.
Part of the reason Taiwan has not changed its name is that the US government has been discouraging it for decades, out of fear that the CCP would respond with rage and violence, thus drawing the US into an unwanted war to help defend Taiwan.
The CCP falsely claims Taiwan is a province of the PRC and regularly threatens to take it over by force. The CCP passed an “Anti-Secession” Law in 2005 that states: “In the event that the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The law implies that the CCP would order a military invasion if Taiwanese remove the word “China” from their country’s official name.
The law is a form of legal and psychological warfare intended to intimidate Taiwanese. The CCP hopes that Taiwanese would eventually crumble from anxiety and dread, leading to a CCP takeover without having to fire a shot.
Many worry that the CCP might use an ROC name-change as a pretext for invading Taiwan, construing it as an “internal matter,” legally required and — in its warped view — morally justified. This could lead to a US and Japanese military intervention and even World War III.
These fears are overblown. If the anti-secession law were actually intended to be enforced, the CCP should have invaded Taiwan a long time ago. After the CCP imposed a so-called “national security” law on Hong Kong — eviscerating freedom, democracy and rule of law — there is zero possibility that Taiwanese would agree to being absorbed into the PRC, thus becoming the CCP’s political slaves.
Because the possibility of peaceful unification has been “completely exhausted,” the anti-secession law requires the CCP to resort to “non-peaceful means” to achieve unification, yet the CCP has so far done nothing. If Taiwanese changed their country’s name, my bet is that the CCP would continue to do nothing, apart from throwing more diplomatic temper tantrums and temporarily flying more warplanes into Taiwanese airspace.
The CCP’s leaders are not suicidal, nor are they stupid. Although they want to take over Taiwan, trying to do so would be irrational unless they could find a window of opportunity in which the benefits outweigh the costs. For now, the costs are far too high and will remain so as long as Taiwan and its allies stay vigilant.
While the CCP remains in power, Taiwan will constantly face the threat of invasion. All of us must learn to live with it. If the CCP does attempt to use force, we have to resign ourselves to fighting. That is better than letting the CCP bully us into compromising our values and mistreating our friends.
Taiwanese deserve our support, no matter what name they call their country. It is time to stop saying that we do not support Taiwanese independence.
Lindell Lucy has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Stanford University and is studying for a master’s degree in international relations at the Harvard Extension School.
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