[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Good News for Bush
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] Our beleaguered president has finally received some good news and achieved a significant victory. His triumph came in Asia. Not surprisingly, it didn't make the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post. Pages A-15 and A-12 were where the stories appeared.

For months, top Administration officials had been concerned first that Chen Shui-bian would be re-elected president of Taiwan, and then that he would use his re-election to provoke a crisis with Beijing. For some time, Chen has been hawkish on advocating independence for Taiwan, knowing full well that the Chinese, who regard the island as a renegade province, would go to war to conquer Taiwan rather than permitting that to occur. Chen has done more than raise a red flag. He has been poking the Chinese dragon in the eye.

The timing couldn't have been worse for Washington, which was plump in the middle of this dangerous game of chicken being played across the narrow Taiwan Straight. Bilateral commitments require the United States to come to Taiwan's defense if they are attacked by China. Not surprisingly, there is nothing that cancels these commitments if Taiwan provokes the attack by Beijing.

Add to this, the last thing the United States, at a critical point in Iraq, needs right now is another crisis anywhere in the world. Asia would be particularly bad. We're in the process of weakening our military presence in that part of the world as we move troops from Korea to Iraq. Next to pack up may be some American forces in Japan.

Moreover, China may now be our largest trading partner. The term "trading partner" may be a misnomer. We buy massive quantities of everything from them, with a far greater impact on our balance of payments then oil purchases from OPEC nations. In return, the Chinese buy very little from us. Still, our economy has now become addicted to these Chinese imports. A conflict with Beijing would have devastating economic consequences for the United States.

Again, the timing is horrible. The American economy is struggling to get back on its feet after months of recession. Interruption of raw materials and supplies for American products, coming from China, would set back that recovery.

With so much at stake, the Bush Administration, with senior State Department officials in the lead, worked around the clock since Chen's narrow and disputed election victory. With a combination of mediation, arm twisting, high pressure and cajoling, they spared no effort to persuade the fiery Chen not to throw down the gauntlet to Beijing in his inaugural address. Washington's request was simple. "Cool down the rhetoric at the beginning of your new term." Meanwhile, in Beijing, the Chinese ratcheted up the pressure themselves. Expanded missile sites were aimed and ready to launch. Troops were poised to invade Taiwan.

The United States hasn't enjoyed many diplomatic successes of late. This time we succeeded. Chen's inaugural address watched and studied for every word and nuance was a yawn.

Chen blinked. His speech made it clear that he would postpone any moves toward independence. He avoided using the inflammatory language that incites Beijing. He said he would concentrate on internal reform in the Taiwanese government. Hardliners in Beijing grumbled, but they had no basis for doing anything quite more than that. The missiles have been disarmed. The curses averted. At least for now.

This result didn't occur by accident. American officials reviewed Chen's speech in draft, made revisions and discussed its contents with Beijing. This was informal, quiet mediation. Diplomacy at its best.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief for now, although officials in Beijing are still highly suspicious of Chen. While conceding that Chen's speech was not provocative, Beijing is wary of the future. "The root of the tensions in the Taiwan Strait has not been eliminated," an official Chinese government spokesman said at a news conference. Then to make his analysis more graphic, the spokesman said, "Chen is riding near the edge of the cliff, and there's no sign that he is going to rein in his horse."

Nobody knows how long a respite we will have in this clash between China and pro independence forces in Taiwan. But sufficient unto each day is the evil thereof. The Bush Administration got what it needed now.