Su Chi, Chairman of Taipei Forum 
United Daily News (聯合報), July 11, 2021, Page A10

Recently, the remaining American troops left Afghanistan. Kurt Campbell, President Joe Biden’s policy coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, stated for the first time that the United States does not support Taiwan independence, while Chiou I-jen, former secretary-general of the National Security Council, said on a radio show hosted by former President Chen Shui-bian that the Taiwanese people alone cannot make the decision on whether to pursue independence. These three events that occurred half a world apart have a common source—the Pride and Prejudice drama series staged simultaneously in the United States and Taiwan over 20 years ago. The United States has now realized the mistakes and is ready to switch to a new play. In contrast, Taiwan is still indulging in the old drama and is inextricably bound to it.


At the turn of the century, President George W. Bush entered the White House with a minority popular vote. The "neo-conservatism" that he represented was daring and energetic and striving to show its prowess. His supporters believed that President Bill Clinton missed the strategic opportunity of American dominance after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the United States became the only remaining superpower, there is no need for forbearance and restraint in the world affairs. History has proven that the democratic system is absolutely superior, so America should promote democracy to additional countries.


Wolfgang Ischinger, former German ambassador to the United States, revealed in his memoirs that he once cautioned U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice not to have the fantasy that democracy would take root in Iraq after the collapse of the Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. Unexpectedly, she replied, "We have taught you Germans, and Japanese how to establish a democratic system. Why couldn't the Iraqis do it? Aren't you a racist?"


This kind of "pride and prejudice" naturally brought the United States into the quagmire of Afghanistan and Iraq wars after the September 11 attacks, and could not get out of it for 20 years. When the US awakened to the fact that the Chinese Communist Party had been gaining strength, it was too late.


Before World War II, the United States rarely started wars. Only when other countries have fought to exhaustion, did America enter the fray to finish up the war others started. After World War II, as the "world policeman," the United States launched and ended wars. Except for the Korean and Vietnam wars, it often got quick victories. During these periods, the United States was like the hero in a Western cowboy film. Entered a town on a horse, quickly eliminated the rascals and protected the good people, and trotted away in the setting sun.


Unfortunately, after sinking into the quagmire of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the United States became a country that started but could not end the war as well. As the flames of war rekindled, the "world police" seemed to fulminate but had no intention of mobilizing forces and meddling in other country's affairs. For example, many Middle Eastern countries inspired by the "Arab Spring" to democratization (such as Egypt and Libya) soon returned to autocracy except Tunisia. And years of civil strife have created countless refugees in Europe. The United States remained completely passive, regardless of the deterioration of U.S. relations with Europe. Russia annexed Crimea, was involved in the war in eastern Ukraine, and successfully intervened in the Syrian civil war, but the United States continued to stand idly by. Obama solemnly declared that should Syria use chemical weapons, which was crossing the red line would have significant consequences. That happened in the second year, but the White House downplayed the issue. In the past four years, Trump only quarreled and did not take up arms. Similar examples are too numerous to mention.


According to the well-known "five stages of grief" theory in psychology, facing a "rising East and falling West " new world order, the collective psychology of the United States seems to have crossed the first stage of "shock and denial" and is in the second stage of "anger", sliding to the third stage of "bargaining." President Biden's domestic reforms and re-establishing America's relations with allies, as well as Mr. Campbell's latest remarks, are in part paving the way for future bargaining between the United States and China. As for when to enter the fourth and fifth stages of "depression" and "acceptance", only time will tell.


Taiwan’s problem is bigger than that of the United States. Not only is it still immersed in the "denial" stage but also intoxicated with American delusive promises and cannot see the new behavior pattern coming.


It all begins with the late President Lee Teng-hui's "pride and prejudice". Lee believed that Taiwan's economy (a quarter of that of the mainland), military (China basically did not send fighters to sea), and diplomatic power enable Taiwan to get her day in the sun. He held his own opinion against that of the majority and firmly believed in the imminent collapse of the Communists, so there was no need to worry about it. More significantly, he believed he was invincible in Taiwan and empowered to implement whatever policy. Therefore, in just one year after the direct presidential election, hastened to change the presidential system to a "quasi-emperor" system, and promote a constitutional amendment to embrace the "Two-State Theory" and reduce the territory of the Republic of China.


Former President Chen Shui-bian and President Tsai Ing-wen basically continued Lee's unfinished ambitions. Two decades of practice has proved that Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) main platform of Taiwan independence, even only "do it but do not say it" has already plunged Taiwan into never-ending strife, the people's feelings torn apart, the economy turned from a powerful dragon to a small snake, and the national defense looked impressive but lack real worth. If the DPP not only carries out but also talks about it, the consequences are even harder to imagine.


Both the United States and Taiwan come from the same Pride and Prejudice, but America has realized its past blunder. We hope that after Mr. Chiou, other DPP leaders will also reflect on this. But the key lies in domineering President Tsai, whether she would cling to her treasured "Two-State Theory” and remain unmoved.


The author, chairman of the Taipei Forum, formerly served as secretary-general of the National Security Council, Republic of China (Taiwan), from 2008 to 2010.