This article originally appeared in Asian Education and Development Studies.
In May 2015, Susan Thornton, the deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of State responsible for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mongolia, spoke on U.S.-Taiwan relations and U.S. policy toward the island and its government. Much of her address reviewed the breadth and depth of the bilateral relationship in the areas of business, education, global issues and security. However, she also presented the U.S. stance on the relationship between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.
In this paper, Richard Bush explores how the United States seeks to promote its interests in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in the context of Taiwan’s unique political status and its democratic system. He examines the recent history of Taiwan’s democratic development and U.S. responses to it. The main focus of this paper is on how the island’s domestic politics have affected its relations with both the Mainland and the United States, in particular the adjustments that Washington had to make to Taiwan’s new political dynamic. It looks not only at what the United States says, but also at what it does, particularly on security policy, and concludes with a discussion of the 2016 election.
Bush finds that the United States has responded in various ways to the dilemma of respecting the outcomes of elections in friendly democracies while protecting its own interests in peace and security. This was easy during the Ma Ying-Jeou administration (2008-2016), but he argues it is likely to become more difficult following Taiwan’s presidential election in January 2016. This study draws on personal experience and an in-depth understanding of Taiwan politics and American diplomacy.
AAPI Heritage Month: Safeguarding Asian American inclusion and belonging
President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.