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discussion: Do you think China can be America's partner, or adversary?


Dear FRONTLINE,

Taiwan is less than 1.5% of all the Chinese on earth. By unrealistic and single-dimensional adherence to an ideal, the defense of Taiwan, with bloodshed and the agitation of chaos in the home of over 98% of the Chinese people would be a gross blunder. We would bequeath an unstable world to our children as a result of such gross blunder.

I have sympathy for the people of Taiwan, but it is a fact that Taiwan was the result of a civil war. The reality is that Taiwan has failed to secure at least a few of the coastal provinces; as a natural result, the relative power between the two sides would be decisively huge.

Those who think that Mainland ChinaŪs determination to recover Taiwan represents communist ideological expansion are without justification. England claimed the American colony, the North claimed the South, and every time we sing our National anthem we say our flag is still there. Furthermore, the American colony did not overtly express the ambition of reclaiming the mainland until 1766 or 1805, as Taiwan did until 1991.

Jeff Church
los angeles, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

The common mistake most people made regarding U.S. and China relationship is thinking žTaiwanÓ as the only and the main obstacle. In fact, the main issue causes tensions between our country and China is the ideology, namely we being the leader of democracy and China being the last communist dictatorship in the World.

We are too na‘ve to think that if we let China take Taiwan, we will get true friendship from China. China will never satisfy until it can overpower U.S. in every way.

Looking back in history, the real reason that America went to Korean War and Vietnam War was not to defend these countries (even we wanted us to believe), but to fight for our democratic values and to retain our military advantages in that region.

China is the same. The real reason that China became partners of North Korea and VietCom was not because it cared about them, but because it believed that it was fighting for its communist belief.

Therefore, unless either China transforms itself into a democratic country or U.S. changes to a dictatorship, there will be no real peace between U.S. and China.

Foinna Price
san jose, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

The frontline show "Dangerous Straits" misinformed the viewer that Taiwan was a "Chinese" Island and that Taiwan has only been separated from China for 50 year. With the exemption of four years between 1945 and 1949, Taiwan has been politically separated from China since 1895. China gave up claim to Taiwan in 1895 in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after losing a war to Japan. Prior to that Taiwan had only been a province of China for 7 years. Taiwan had been an independent country in the late 1600's for several decades as well as again for a brief time period in 1895 before the Japanese took it over.

The American public is misled to think that the Taiwanese people on Taiwan are no different than the Chinese on China. The Taiwanese share a cultural identity different from the Chinese by their history of having lived on Taiwan and having small but biological integration of native aboriginese heritage, and having lived under 50 years of Japanese rule. The Taiwanese also speak their own language, which the KMT of Chiang Kai-Shek tried feverishly to destroy through their "Sinozation" programs in school and government when they took over Taiwan. At one point before the KMT came to Taiwan, the Chinese thought of the Taiwanese as an ethnic minority and non-Chinese.

The Chinese have to know that what Taiwan is today is because of what the Taiwanese have done through hard work and preserverance. Taiwan is not a Chinese property to be taken back by force at its whim as one Chinese interviewer on the program was noted to say. China gave up Taiwan in 1895, a fact that doesnt get brought up.

A thorough understanding of the dynamics behind both the Chinese side and Taiwanese side need to be understood. The United States failed to understand these dynamics, when it handed Taiwan over to Chiang Kai Shek in the Cairo Declaration of 1943. To this day, the consequences of that ill-fated declaration are being played out. When Japan lost to the US in WWII, it renounced the rights to Taiwan, but in no international treaty has Taiwan been given to China.

gene deune
baltimore, maryland


Dear FRONTLINE,

Being a son of Taiwan, I feel sad when I heard the Chinese scholar commenting Taiwan as a piece of real estate, "yard", and "roof", as if my home is some private property of his while he and his ancestors had never set foot on the beautiful islands.

Does the producer agree with such fabricated Chinese sentiment by removing the people of Taiwan from the picture? Most US media do a good job in covering the human face of Afghan people who are caught in between the US and al-Qaida. Why did a PBS program do a much worse job in covering the human face of Taiwanese and Uighurs who are caught between the US and China?

Taiwan is the homeland of more than twenty million Taiwanese. Like many colonized Asian peoples, Taiwanese started an uprising in 1947 to resist the victors of WWII who were trying to reestablish their colonial order in Asia. It happened that the 'corrupted' Chinese nationalist government received Taiwan from Japan and the Taiwanese found themselves in a more corrupted form of colonialism than that of the Japanese.

Without the US naval support to the Chinese nationalists in 1947, Taiwan would have joined the self-determination countries like Indonesia (from Dutch), Malaysia (from the UK), Vietnam (from France), and Philippines (from the US). Without the US Cold War alliance with dictatorships, Taiwan would have freed itself from the Chinese civil war by declaring independence when Chinese were busy with their Culture Revolution.

I do not want to blame the Taiwanese plight on the US foreign policies, but it is unfair for any US media to treat Taiwanese merely as obstacles to better relations between the US and China. Chinese have this entitlement mentality about rebuilding the empire of their Manchurian master who also kept Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam as vassal kingdoms.

The US had shaped the post-WWII world with conflicting principles like realpolitics and self-determination. The reapolitics of yesterday has sown the seeds of security dilemma today. Isn't that the most important link between the war on terrorism and the US-China relations?

Chekgiau Ng
el cerrito, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Several readers pointed out that the U.S. should not risk American lives to protect Taiwan against China. Indeed, why would, or should, America "spill her blood" on other people's land for something that "seems to be" none of America's business ?

What is so puzzling is that, for the past several decades, the U.S. government DID maintain an attitude that is/was opposite of that sentiment. Why ??? Is it that the American government has been so wrong for so many years, yet no one within the government has ever tried to fix it ? Or is there something missing in the above-mentioned mindset ?

Why should America protect Taiwan anyway ??? Is Taiwan's "being free from from China" really none of American's business ???

This brings us to one very crucial point which was missing, intentionally or not, from the episode of "Dangerous Straits:" the strategic role of Taiwan in terms of her geographical location.

About 100 miles off China's eastern shores, Taiwan is on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. To Taiwan's north lies Korea and Japan. To her south, the Philippines. Together with Korean, Japan and the Philippines, Taiwan is one of the indispensable elements of a strategically defensive front line which seperates red China and the Pacific Ocean. If Taiwan falls into China's hand, the entire Pacific Ocean will be wide open to China. This means that the American people will be face-to-face with red China across the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. and China will be staring at each other across the great expanse of the Pacific without any large in-between islands or land mass which the U.S. can claim as an ally.

Why does it matter? In the event of a crisis in eastern Asia, military or otherwise, the lack of islands that can be considered an ally to America may pose significant and serious logistical issues if the U.S. were to mass troops and other equipment for any contingency missions into or around China. One prime example is the current war in Afghanistan where the U.S. has had to use considerable diplomatic leverage in persuading the likes of Uzbekistan and Pakistan for the use of their facilities. A

The strategic role that Taiwan plays has been so crucial that it has actually dictated, conscious or otherwise, the American's policy toward Taiwan for half a century.

As for the argument that "face-to-face with China, so what?", it depends on if you trust the Chinese government. Being a Taiwanese, I won't. We have suffered enough.

Runsun Pan
w lafayette, in


Dear FRONTLINE,

It is too easy to answer a yes or no in a very complicated question as such. Yes China and U.S. should be partners rather than adversaries in a time of international crises. Yes the Chinese and the Americans can only benefit from both countries' peaceful cooperation with each other in the war on terrorism.

However, if we delve into the issues deeper, can the U.S. honestly partner with a country that still, in the 21st Century, denies its people basic human liberties and rights? Can the U.S. honestly partner with a country with a government that ignores human compassion, allows its citizens to be treated as second class, allows the poor to get poorer and the rich to superficially represent its current economical status and human welfare? Can the U.S. partner with a country that is using force and coersion to persuade an independent country to become a part of a communist regime?

So this question is not as simple as a one or two word answer. Unless we consider the psychological, geographical, historical, and humanistic aspects of the U.S., China and Taiwan relationships, we cannot provide a concrete answer that will ensure the happiness, safety and welfare of billions of people.

Diana Lee
new york, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

Regrettably your documentary "Dangerous Straits" seems to reduce Taiwan to a piece in the chess game between the US and China. It also makes insufficient distinction between us native Taiwanese (85% of the population) and the Chinese mainlanders, who came over with Chiang Kai-shek after WW II, and repressed us for more than 40 years.

We Taiwanese want our homeland to be recognized as a full and equal member of the international community. We want to live in peace with all our neighbors (including China). Will the US be courageous enough to take the first step towards normalization of relations with Taiwan? We believe it is high time.

Mei-chin Chen
bethesda, md


Dear FRONTLINE,

China seems interested in becoming the regional bully of asia; just as the soviet union was the regional bully of eastern europe. In the modern 21st century world that we live in, we americans cannot allow this. We must encourage other asian states to stand up for themselves and join with them if necessary in order to do so. We cannot just sit back and allow the PRC to destroy the only democracy ever created in chinese history.

They are no threat to the so-called "people's republic." The only threat they pose is that their democracy serves as an inspiration to chinese people everywhere. And if we have to arm the Roc with nuclear missiles to protect themselves from chinese aggression, then we should do this. But if we are firm with the chinese govt., then hopefully, china will never try to take Taiwan.

G Sohn
jacksonville, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

Our two countries will be partners in some areas and adversaries in others. Although Taiwan is a hot issue, the relationship between the two will always be a mixture of partners/adversaries, even without it!

I do want to see America at peace with all countries of the world. But I cannot see how we could look away while a country uses force to absorb another; after all if others did not lend us a hand two hundred thirty years ago, when we struggled to be free, what would America have become today? History has taught us that by burrying our heads in the sand will not will not spare us from the wars.

I was born Taiwanese; I have been a naturalized US citizen longer than I had been Taiwanese.

san jose, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

It makes me sad as a Chinese girl in this country to see things such as this. It's so obvious that there is a lack of understanding between two cultures that might as well be two worlds apart.

Why does the U.S. insist on getting involved with the China/Taiwan conflict? They shouldn't be wasting the effort or the energy. It's not their fight. Why not stay neutral? This could only lead to trouble if such alliances continue. At a time like this, we should be thinking about uniting against war and terrorism. It's no time to squabble over small matters.

The U.S. has to understand that China is its own country and keeping "tabs" on us is not the way to go. Our military training is our own business. It's almost like someone invading your privacy even if it is no real threat. I think it would annoy anyone.

The little bit about the will of 22 million in one of the replies I read had me thinking. 22 million is not a lot out of 1.3 billion. China's simply too big to think about each and every individual. They have to concentrate on the common good. Every member of the country has to sacrifice a little so the conditions will improve. No one looks for miracles to happen overnight.

Taiwan is an independent sovereign. China recognizes that. Taiwan has their own independent rights. I haven't yet that China has been suppressing these rights. I believe that as long as Taiwan doesn't provoke China or vice versa, there should be no conflict at all.

Where does America get off with being the "police force" of the world? Yes, you are righteous. Yes, you are great. But perhaps being a bit more openminded would not hurt. The East and West think differently. Both sides have to give a little and make an effort to understand. Force is not the answer to anything. "Nuking" anyone is not the answer. Being stubborn doesn't help either. In a world of symbiosis, we should find a way to live together in mutualism. The U.S. and China would both benefit from a partnership. I also have great faith in the Chinese people, not to mention the American people as well.

Jing Li
boston, ma


Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontliners,

I have no problem seeing China and America being partners. Greater political change in China will happen in next decade with the incoming fourth generation leader. I have great confidence on Chinese people.

Alex W.

chicago, il


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think the main problem in the Taiwan issue is best exemplified by a Chinese interviewed on the program (i.e., Dangerous Strait), who proclaimed, "Taiwan is our property, is this simple!" In fact, all Chinese interviewed on the program did not mention a single word about the will of 22 million people who live on the island.

I believe a peaceful solution will not be possible if China continues to ignore the human factor. Yes, I do hear Chinese talking about "peaceful unification," but a coerced unification should not be considered as peaceful just like a robbery at gunpoint should not be taken as "voluntary donation!"

In addition, the program also made a mistake by saying that "US recognizes that Taiwan is part of China," which is incorrect. In all three communiques signed between US and China, US has only "acknowledged" "the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China." Omitting the phrase "Chinese position" delivers a totally different impression.

John Thomas
gaithersburg, md


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am very glad to see this program which provides less projudiced information to the American audience who basicly have very little knowledge about China. China and America can only be enemies if the US news media continues to depict China as a devil and report only the problems that China has.

M. Dou
richmond, va


Dear FRONTLINE,

This program was strong in showing the wide variety of social and political problems China faces (though some major issues, such as Tibet) were missing. By why was the program organized around the dubious concept of "dangerous straits?" The straits aren't in themselves "dangerous", and only the PRC's military posture makes them so. To define the major "problem" between the U.S. and the PRC as "dangerous straits" is to accept the premiss that the PRC's relentless territorial claims upon and against a defacto independent state that now has half a century of independence is to tilt the discussion. There is nothing whatsoever "dangerous" about the "straits" anymore than there was anything inherently dangerous about the Sudentenland prior to Munich. The danger in the Sudentenland, or better yet, the danger in Germany's land border with Austria, was the militaristic/imperialist drive to conquer through annexation. Hitler argued (and his arguments were just as popular with Germans as the Frontline show claims the PRC's arguments are among China's nationalists) that the re-union of Germany with it's fragmented German communities in Austria and the Sudentenland. What will it take for us to respond that there is nothing sacred about national states that wish to annex other national states. There will be many "dangers" in the road when and if the U.S. appropriately pressures the PRC to end that dictatorships horrific human rights abuses, suppression of religion, of all basic freedoms, use of forced labor camps, and so on. Yes, even the "free Tibet" movement might turn out to be "dangerous." That in itself is not a reason to turn our backs on one of the few even partial democracies in Asia. China will eventually face nationalities crises in half a dozen regions. Those movements will push their claims as nationalist fights for freedom. And they will all be dangerous.

Mark Powelson
alameda, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am 100 percent sure that the U.S. at no time should go to war with China over Taiwan at no time should this occur. I also think that if China gets out of hand in any other part of the world we should not hesitate to nuke them, but for now let's just use them and their flurushing economy to bolster our own.

I as an american would rather deal with chinese communists than muslim radicals. thank you.

Michael Keys
san marino, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think the answer for your question is quite simple since you have only given me two choices. Without a doubt, China will be American's partner in many ways.

I come to this conclusion not because I am some sort of expert in this subject. I simply follow my heart, and use my common sense.

1. It is mutually beneficial to both countries to have strong economic partnership.

2. Both countries now have a common enemy - terrorism.

I just finish echoing the two major points in your TV program. Now, let me ask the question the other way around -- Do you think the US can be China's partner?

I ask that question for two main reasons. 1. Partnership is a two-ways street. What do you think China can benefit from the partnership? More to the point, what do you think the Chinese government wants from this partnership? (Well, human right is not the right answer.)

2. I feel that if I don't ask that question, I can't balance out the ethnocentrism that I sense from the question. Especially after the 9-11 attack, it is now more important than ever for all of us to see the world from multiple angles. Being tolerance and understanding of each other are key ingredients for world's peace.

I personally hope that WWIII will never happen. But if the relationship between China and the US ever deteriorate to the point that China is deemed as an "adversary" to the US, maybe another war is bound to happen.

Ricky Tse
new york, ny

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