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DATE=3/23/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=US - TAIWAN - CHINA NUMBER=5-45996 BYLINE=DEBORAH TATE DATELINE=WHITE HOUSE CONTENT= VOICED AT: Intro: Foreign policy experts in the United States are calling on the Clinton administration to reassess its policy toward China and Taiwan. President Clinton has indicated there would be no change in policy following the election of Chen Shui-bian as Taiwan's next President. But annalysts say the time has come to modify the U-S stand toward the region to reflect what they say are political reality there. Correspondent Deborah Tate explains in this background report. Text: U-S policy toward China and Taiwan has not changed since the 1970's, when Washington normalized ties with Beijing, broke off relations with Taipei - and agreed to encourage eventual reunification. The United States has maintained a one-China policy, recognizing Beijing as the sole government, and pursuing a strategy known as `strategic ambiguity', in which Washington refuses to specify the circumstances under which it would defend Taiwan from Chinese military force. It supplies Taiwan with weapons it needs to defend itself, but refrains from selling the island offensive arms. At the same time, the United States appeals to Beijing and Taipei to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue. In recent years, the policy has been criticized as `outdated' by foreign policy observers in the United States and from members of the Republican majority in Congress. Earlier this month, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, Majority Whip Tom Delay of Texas, said the one-China policy does not reflect `the new reality' in the region: a free and democratic Taiwan, and a China which he described as neither free, nor democratic, and a global security threat. Joseph Bosco, an adjunct professor in the Asian Studies department at Georgetown University here in Washington, agrees: // Bosco actuality // Circumstances have changed dramatically in the Taiwan Straits, the nature of the administration, the regime if you will, in Taiwan is entirely different. We had an authoritarian dictatorship under Chiang Kai- shek and his immediate successor that has evolved dramatically, partly under U.S. tutelage, to a flourishing democracy. So we have an entirely different situation. Meanwhile, on the mainland, although there has been great progress economically, politically there is still a Leninist regime, which has not evolved, has not democratized. Each time it made moves in that direction it suddenly lurched back into the kind of repressive system that we have seen. // end act // Critics - troubled by Beijing's recent threats to use force against Taiwan, even if necessary to achieve reunification - say the one-China policy has failed to ease tensions in the Taiwan straits. In 1996, the United States sent two aircraft carrier groups to the region after China fired missiles into waters near Taiwan ahead of elections on the island that year. Beijing considers the island a renegade province. With the election of Mr. Chen in Taiwan, observers believe there is an opportunity for the United States to - at the very least - clarify its one-China policy. Professor Bosco: // Bosco actuality // Over the years, our position has eroded from one of neutrality over that issue, to accepting China's position that it is the one China, that the People's Republic of China has the right to govern Taiwan. This to me is serious erosion of what the one-China policy was originally. // end act // Professor Bosco says the United States should also make clear it would come to Taiwan's defense if the island came under attack by Beijing - in his words, replace the policy of `strategic ambiguity' with `strategic clarity'. /// opt/// Mr. Bosco advocates expanding military ties with Taiwan. The House of Representatives last week passed the Taiwan Enhancement Security Act, which would do just that. The Senate has yet to act on the measure, but the Clinton administration has indicated the President will veto it - arguing it is too provocative to Beijing.///end opt/// Professor Bosco dismissed concerns of supporters of current policy who believe a clear commitment by the United States to defend Taiwan against Chinese attack would destroy U-S - Sino relations. /// opt/// Such ties are already strained over concerns about Beijing's human rights record, allegations of Chinese espionage on U-S nuclear laboratories, and last year's accidental Nato bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.///end opt/// // Bosco actuality // There are such strong reasons why we should have a healthy bilateral relationship, certainly stronger reasons on China's side than ours. They benefit far more than we do on the trade relationship, so it is hard to see that China would cut off its nose despite its face by breaking off relations or curtailing trade simply because they disagreed with our commitment to Taiwan. // end act // Trade is one area where Professor Bosco and the Clinton administration agree. Mr. Bosco says it would be a mistake for the United States to withhold permanent normal trade status for Beijing, echoing the administration line that the best way to foster democratic change in China is by integrating it into the world economy. /// opt /// U-S officials are concerned that Beijing's recent threats against Taiwan may make an already reluctant Congress even more hesitant to extend normal trade ties on a permanent basis - a key step toward China's entry into the World Trade Organization. ///end opt/// Besides expanding trade, observers believe Washington also can promote change in China by highlighting Taiwan's democratization in its dialogue with Beijing. Bates Gill is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution here in Washington. // Gill actuality // We need to begin the process of dialogue with China to integrate more effectively the changes that have taken place on Taiwan, and facing them more realistically. Avoiding the obvious or pretending the democratization process has no bearing on the situation or that somehow we can ignore these changes is wrong-headed and is more likely to lead us to disillusionment and conflict in the years ahead. The sooner we can make clear to Beijing that we intend to take the democratization process seriously in Taiwan and convey to Beijing our interest in finding ways to integrate it into our dialogue, the better. // end act // Mr. Gill denies that such a move would encourage Taiwan to proclaim independence, thereby sparking war with China. // Gill actuality // I think it is wrong-headed to believe that democratization and Taiwan independence are one and the same. They are not. Clearly, we have seen the democratization process occurring in Taiwan for the past 10-15 years, which has not led yet to the independence of Taiwan. I will grant that it has forced all parties to think more flexibly about what the one-China policy means, and think more imaginatively about how that framework can be preserved at its broadest level, while still accomodating Taiwan's democratic process, and its well-deserved strengthened stature on the international stage. But I do not think they are mutually exclusive. // end act // Mr. Gill notes that since his election Mr. Chen has sought to distance himself from the idea of independence for Taiwan, and that China, too, has softened its rhetoric toward Taiwan. In an effort to keep tensions at bay, Mr. Clinton sent U-S Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke to Beijing to try to encourage a resumption of a cross-strait dialogue. Former Congressman Lee Hamilton, now head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, at the request of Mr. Clinton, delivered a similar message to Taipei. (signed) Neb/dat/PT 23-Mar-2000 18:49 PM EDT (23-Mar-2000 2349 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .