A Man with a Flashlight

Taiwan rejects 2008 Olympic torch
May 5, 2007, 3:36 am
Filed under: Politics, The East

An amusing peek into the high-stakes poker game that is Taiwan’s sovereignty.

The Mainland Affairs Council (Mainland = China) rejected China’s offer to route the Olympic torch through Taipei on its way to Beijing. The decision must have come from President Chen Shui-bian, and it’s not surprising. Though he has stopped short of a declaration of independence, Chen certainly sees Taiwan as separate from China, so it would be hard to explain what the Chinese olympic torch was doing in Taipei.

If the Kuomintang candidate had become president – which came within a hair’s breadth, or perhaps I should say, a would-be assassin’s bullet, of happening in 2004 – the torch would likely be welcomed.

Imagine how hard this makes Taiwan’s policy towards China to predict. Now imagine you are the referee, mediator, and peacemaker between Taiwan, the world’s first Chinese democracy and a Western ally, and the government of China, Asia’s rising star and owner of the world’s largest army, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and depends for legitimacy on ending Western (and Japanese) humiliation of China, while keeping the memory of that humiliation forever fresh. Welcome to the United States’ position in East Asia.


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