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'Anti-war' scholars urge Taiwan to balance U.S., China ties

03/21/2023 05:12 PM
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Scholars Kuo Li-hsin (from left), Lu Chien-yi, Daiwei Fu and Feng Chien-san hold paper boards with slogans that call for peace at Tuesday
Scholars Kuo Li-hsin (from left), Lu Chien-yi, Daiwei Fu and Feng Chien-san hold paper boards with slogans that call for peace at Tuesday's press conference. Photo courtesy of Taiwan Anti-war Working Group

Taipei, March 21 (CNA) A statement by an "anti-war" working group signed by 37 active and retired scholars has urged Taiwan to work toward averting a U.S.-China war by maintaining positive and "equidistant" ties with both countries.

The statement, which touched on both Taiwan related and global issues, was initiated by National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University emeritus professor Daiwei Fu (傅大為) and presented at a press conference on Monday.

It made four key demands, including an immediate ceasefire and negotiations to stop the war in Ukraine, an end to "American militarism and economic sanctions," and for Taiwan's budget to focus on social welfare and climate change mitigation, rather than on the military and war.

The statement also said that to avert a war between the United States and China, Taiwan should insist on acting for itself and maintaining positive and "equidistant" relations with both countries.

At the press conference, Fu said China's constant threats against Taiwan were driven in large part by U.S. "provocations" and Taiwan's "knee-jerk" support for the latter.

He warned that this had become a vicious cycle, and urged Taiwan to adopt a policy of "equidistant diplomacy," or signalling of neutrality, toward the two superpowers in order to lower the risk of war.

Lu Chien-yi (盧倩儀), a research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of European and American Studies, said the U.S.' militarism had come at significant domestic cost, citing cuts to U.S. social services, crumbling infrastructure and a drop in life expectancy.

"If politicians in Taiwan try to imitate these cuts to social welfare and the climate change budget, should we just blindly accept it?" she asked.

In Taiwanese society, there is a "strange logic" which says that China is the only threat, Lu said, adding that this "dangerous" habit is reinforced by government officials, who try to tamp down public skepticism of the U.S.

While China wants to "swallow up" Taiwan, the U.S. could end up "sacrificing" Taiwan in a potential war, and neither outcome is better than the other, Lu said.

Feng Chien-san (馮建三), a professor at National Chengchi University's (NCCU) College of Communication, made a similar argument about the current situation in Ukraine.

He said that while Russia's invasion of Ukraine was "an ignorant crime," the responsibility for the suffering and continued bloodshed there was not Russia's alone.

Specifically, Feng said, the U.S. and its allies pushed for NATO's eastward expansion when they knew this was a red line for Russia, and since the war began, they have stood in the way of efforts to reach a ceasefire.

Kuo Li-hsin (郭力昕), a retired professor in NCCU's College of Communications, said that while the group's statement was bound to provoke strong opinions, he hoped it would provide a starting point for public debate.

"In a society that prides itself on democracy and freedom of speech, we hope there can be more deep thought and dialogue" on the issues that it raises, he said.

In terms of the public reaction, many commentators argued that the statement was excessively tolerant toward China.

Shieh Jhy-wei (謝志偉), Taiwan's representative to Germany, wrote in a Facebook post that the scholars had their anti-war message "backwards," as the real threats of aggression and invasion come from Russia and China.

Wu Hsin-tai (吳欣岱), head of the Taipei chapter of the pro-independence Taiwan Statebuilding Party, also criticized the scholars for promoting "naïve appeasement" of China, while turning a blind eye to its very real desire to "swallow up" Taiwan.

(By Tseng Yi-ning and Matthew Mazzetta)


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