英語中有一句諺語：「Be careful what you wish for.」中文大概的意思是警告我們要小心動念、謹慎許願。最近看到美國國會推出的一些友台草案時，這句話不斷出現在我的腦海。
另一項「台灣學人法」（Taiwan Fellowship Act）是要在美國創建一個台灣獎學金計畫。在其中擬議推動台美行政部門的合作計畫中，包括了美國的台灣對應窗口將可獲得在台灣政府機構工作或交流實習的機會。或許進口美國人力可以幫助台灣在公部門服役的替代役人員們分擔一些工作、減輕他們的辛勞。
另一項草案「台灣外交檢討法案」（Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act）將要求未來美國在台協會處長的任命程序，應比照一般美國駐外大使的程序，需要美國參議院實行同意權。乍聽之下這似乎提升了美國駐台協會處長的地位，也讓許多希望尋求美國支援的台灣支持者感到高興，但筆者認為可能不需要高興得太早。首先，這一措舉並不代表我們離台美建交更近一步；其次，在美國參議院聽證會期間，被提名人最多也只能用最保守的論點來回答參議員所有關於美台關係的問題。
Be Careful What You Wish For in Foreign Policy
By Ross Darrell Feingold
Former Asia Chairman Republicans Abroad
In English there is a saying “Be careful what you wish for.” This was on my mind while reading about some recent bills in the United States Congress that are intended to strengthen the already excellent bilateral relations between the United States and Taiwan.
One item prohibits the Department of State from using its funding “to create procure or display any map that depicts Taiwan Kinmen Matsu Penghu Wuciou Green Island or Orchid Island as part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China.” Given that the People’s Republic of China has never exercised jurisdiction over the named islands it is only logical that the State Department use maps that accurately depict current realities. However the bill omits how State Department maps should refer to islands in the South China Sea to which the Republic of China claims sovereignty and are currently under Taiwan’s control as well as the many other islands claimed by the Republic of China in the South China Sea and the Diaoyutai in the East China Sea that are currently not under Taiwan’s control. The bill also does not require the State Department’s maps to refer to these islands in a specific way whether as the Republic of China the Free Area of the Republic of China the Republic of China (Taiwan) or the Republic of China Taiwan (or any other designation for the country’s name that the current Taiwan government prefers).
Another proposal would create a Taiwan Fellowship program funded by US taxpayers. Among the more interesting parts of the proposed program’s structure the Taiwan Fellows from the United States would spend time working in Taiwan government agencies. Perhaps young men working in government agencies as part of Taiwan’s alternative national service program are over worked and Americans need to be imported!
Is Taiwan such a mysterious and exotic place that the US taxpayer and US government must spend more resources to assist Americans to learn more about it? Taiwan is one of the wealthiest and most technologically sophisticated countries in the world; if there are shortcomings in the world’s knowledge about Taiwan it should be the responsibility of the Taiwan government and people in the first instance to address this.
In fact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs already operates a program called the Taiwan Fellowship for foreign scholars whose recipients receive a Taiwan taxpayer funding to do research or teach in Taiwan (and some of whom then publish commentaries and books in foreign languages that not surprisingly reflect the Taiwan government’s views). Perhaps the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington DC should let the United States Congress know this in order to avoid confusion.
In this author’s experience a recurring problem with Taiwan central and local government agencies is to be over exuberant for foreign support but only when it comes from foreigners who live outside Taiwan (this is one aspect of what is known in Taiwan as “overseas marketing turned into domestic marketing”). Often the foreign residents of Taiwan are overlooked in these initiatives even those foreigners who currently live in Taiwan are better ambassadors for bilateral relations with their home countries than foreigners who might come here for one or two years and then move on to other non-Taiwan related activities. In my own career in Taiwan both in professional and community activities I have repeatedly encountered government officials who are unable to appreciate this and rejected proposals for initiatives that would better utilize the soft power of Taiwan’s resident foreigners. By way of example over twenty years along with many other foreigners who had studied Mandarin at the National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center we sought support from the school as well as the Taiwan government to create a global alumni association. Given that many alumni remain to work in Taiwan (and others went on to work worldwide in government and industry) this was a ready to be utilized group of foreigners with a strong connection to Taiwan. The reaction from the school was verbally supportive but short on substance (and the frequent changes to the Mandarin Training Center’s director made continuity difficult). I also met with the head of the cultural division at the TECRO in Washington DC to seek moral (though not financial support) and was told that if we provide any assistance to you we’ll have to do it for every Mandarin language school in Taiwan. My reply was that the Taiwan government should not discriminate against the alumni from a particular national university who are taking the initiative to do something for Taiwan but in reality I gave up.
Another bill in Congress would require that the American Institute in Taiwan Taipei Office director be confirmed by the United States Senate just as any other United States ambassador to a foreign country is. At first glance this seems like a good idea and it is something Taiwan supporters in the United States have long sought though there are several reasons why this might not be a good idea at this time. Most importantly it is not diplomatic recognition. When confirmation hearings occur the nominee is sure to reply to senators questions about US-Taiwan relations with the same kind of “bureaucratic speak” as other State Department and Defense Department nominees do in their confirmation hearings. A new director just arrived in Taipei which means the use of the law would have to wait at least three years. On a practical level ambassadors are sometimes nominated and then confirmed after the predecessor has departed the post. Is Taiwan be better off with an “open window” during which there is only an acting Taipei office director?
But perhaps most importantly Taiwan would give up a unique status (that the US government can select the Taipei office director without the need for a Senate confirmation hearing) in return for a momentary sense of happiness when the bill passes into law and a momentary sense of happiness in the future when the confirmation hearings for a new Taipei office director occur. Is this trade worth it? Instead Taiwan and its supporters should have advocated for a more prominent person from outside the foreign service to be selected for the post similar to the US ambassadors that a new US president nominates for ambassadorships to countries such as China and the United Kingdom. Although the recent and new Taipei office directors are well qualified it is not the same as a political nominee personally acquainted to the president of the United States and the absence of nomination hearings might make the opportunity attractive to political appointees. Unfortunately in its foreign policy Taiwan often seeks equal treatment simply because it is what other countries also do; examples include attempts to join discredited international organizations (such as the United Nations and World Health Organization) maintain diplomatic relations with corrupt governments who steal Taiwan aid money or to participate in COVAX as a recipient of vaccine donations (rather than only be a purchaser). Perhaps Taiwan would be better off finding ways to use its unique status to its advantage rather than simply trying to be like everyone else. After all countries also should be careful what they wish for.