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Neutrality is Taiwan’s Best Option

By David Pendery

Taipei Times Monday, Oct 06, 2008

Taiwan finds itself lodged in one of the most difficult political situations in the world today,

with unresolved issues of sovereignty and nationality, the acute threat of conflict, and resultant

vexatious relations with numerous other countries constantly curtailing progress and marring the

country’s image at home and abroad. There is, therefore, an urgent need for creative and decisive


Hsieh Zui-chi ( 謝 瑞 智 ) suggested such action in the Taipei Times recently, with his

recommendation that Taiwan adopt a neutral stance in politics (“Taiwanese neutrality offers road

out of abyss” Sept. 17, page 8). There is much to agree with in Hsieh’s article and the present piece

can be considered a complement to his argument. In addition to neutrality, Taiwan approve

constitutional amendments renouncing war as an instrument of state, and adopt and endorse an

explicitly non-violent position in world affairs. The combination of these measures could reduce

and/or eliminate the chance of war with China, and also bear fruit in many other ways for Taiwan

and the world.

The charged emotions surrounding the core issues of Taiwan’s sovereignty and political status

have not always resulted in particularly clear or pragmatic discussion, which has impeded progress.

In terms of this, we could probably include President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) talk of a “diplomatic

truce” with China, as well as notions such as “de facto independence,” “one country on each side,”

“special state-to-state relations” between China and Taiwan, and “one China, each with its own

interpretation.” Finally there is that old saw about “maintaining the status quo”—a stance that by

definition means “do nothing.” None of these positions, models, doctrines, theories or whatever you

want to call them have gone far in solving the thorny problems on table.

In terms of these issues, Taiwan finds itself caught on the horns of a troublous trident that

includes the remote possibility of actual independence, the just-as-distant possibility of unification

with China, and the variety of kinda-sorta proposals referred to.

Looming behind this discussion is the possibility of war. With the discussion now largely at

loggerheads, I believe that alternative solutions should be considered. Enter the neutrality and non-

violence sanctioned here.

Admittedly these suggestions are problematic. Along with a constitutional amendment based

on Japan’s—which states that the people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation

and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes”—Taiwanese disarmament

would have to take place. Though a dramatic move, this is by no means out of the question, having

already been adopted by a select group of other peaceful, progressive nations. Of course, harsh

international realities and threats cannot be ignored, and the maintenance of a viable national police

or self-defense force would be necessary. This may acceptably be combined with a peaceful

national posture.

In the short term, threats from China would probably not disappear, but in time we might well

find that the nation would find its more aggressive tendencies limited. Were China to threaten a

nation that had renounced war, for example, it would probably be subject to a storm of criticism and

pressure from other nations. As well, other nations could likely support Taiwan politically and

militarily, and pressure China to soften its stance if a neutral, non-violent stance were adopted.

These developments could require China to pragmatically re-think it’s current positions vis-a-vis


Some will label this stance a capitulation, appeasement. In answer we say that the same was

said of great non-violent peacemakers like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. And as

for those who want to dismiss these leaders with notions of hard-nosed realism and pragmatism ...

good luck.

These proposals are idealistic, they are humanistic—could they be for Taiwan? Courage and

fortitude would be required, and there would no doubt be some discomfort and difficulty in the

short term. In the long term, however, we might find a wealth of potential and positive change.

Most importantly, the threat of war with China could be reduced and hopefully eradicated. Taiwan’s

international status could be bolstered.

And yet more, the policies proposed here could lead to fruitful new areas of investment and

development in Taiwan and China, and promote creative, peaceful coexistence and human potential

in this part of the world. In all of these ways, neutrality and non-violence could lead to a better

future and more positive outcomes for Taiwan, China and the world.