It's actually embarassing, after labeling myself a radical, to make a post that will be taken by most as moderate. Still, I feel strongly about it and have to make comment. I just can't let it pass. So everyone knows what all the fuss is about, read this first:
Once you've read that, tell me if you're also wondering whether some people in the U.S. Congress want to start World War III. I am entirely in favor, mind you, of proper independence and free republican elections for Taiwan and Tibet. All the same, foreign policy is a delicate art and one of the old rules of that art is 'one crisis at a time.' Bush meeting with the Dalai Lama officially and publically already had to make China unhappy. If this bill were to be passed (and while I don't believe it possible in this Congress, it could very well be brought back by a future Congress) then it would be straight-forwardly challenging the People's Republic of China to a game of paper-rock-scissors in the Taiwan straights and this game would have potentially nuclear consequences. I don't believe that Bush is in favor of this, he's on record as warning Taiwan not to push right now.
There is a long, unpleasant history here and that history should be carefully studied and clearly understood when considering any action in this region. The corrupt and dictatorial regime of Chiang Kai-Shek fought a civil war against equally corrupt Communist revolutionaries under Mao Tse Tung. The best example of the ambition and selfishness of both would-be leaders of China was during the Japanese invasion of China that preceded and lasted through WWII. Both Mao and Chiang received Lend-Lease aid from the United States in order to fight Japan and both sides continued to focus their efforts on fighting their own civil war even as the Japanese army brutalized their people. Chiang was defeated and retreated to the island of Formosa, present Taiwan, and declared himself still the rightful leader of the Republic of China where the United States propped him up in its efforts to 'fight global Communism.' Mao became as dictatorial as Chiang had been after his declaration of the People's Republic of China. The Chinese people suffered, regardless of the 'republic' in which they lived. Until the early 70s, both governments proclaimed they were the only legitimate government of China and Taiwan had the 'Chinese' seat at the UN. In the early 70s, the PRC took the seat and the ROC (Taiwan) lost it. Mao and Chiang were succeeded by collegial ruling groups no longer autocratic but every bit as repressive. In fact, until 1987, Taiwan was under martial law with the army serving as the police force. Hardly a 'republic'.
Since 1987, the government of Taiwan (always capitalist) has become slowly more representative. During roughly the same period of time, China's economy has become slowly more capitalist. Taiwan no longer claims to be the legitimate government of China and now seeks its own recognition and independence as a nation. China is diametrically opposed to this, their policy is that Taiwan is a Chinese province. US support for Taiwan has carefully avoided either recognizing Taiwan as an independent country in its own right or recognizing China's claims to rule the island. The US has walked a high wire, agreeing that Taiwan is part of China but defending the island's autonomy.
This bill, if passed, would end that and openly recognize an independent Taiwan. Such recognition might very well be a worthy goal, but at this point it means nothing unless backed by military action. I don't see even the Bush administration starting a war in the Taiwan straights, certainly not while fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So even if Congress were to pass the law at this time, it would serve no purpose but to slap China in the face for no concrete gain. Some pragmatism is required in foreign policy, and this is anything but pragmatic.
If we really want to anger China, why not do something constructive like intervening in Darfur (China buys oil from Sudan, and their opposition is the major bar to UN or NATO action in Darfur) or tightening the legal restrictions on American business shipping its labor costs to China? Wouldn't either of those choices actually accomplish something, if we're not concerned with hurting China's feelings?
On the other hand, if China's reaction is important to us, then we shouldn't be pissing them off over Taiwan independence and shake a very insecure status quo that could turn into war at any moment.
Either way, whether China's reaction is important to us or not, this action is simply stupid.