Amid CCP Virus Fallout, US Should Pivot Towards Taiwan & Away from China: Former US Diplomat William Stanton

April 15, 2020 Updated: April 15, 2020

What explains Taiwan’s success in containing coronavirus, or CCP virus, despite Taiwan’s close proximity to mainland China?

How has the Chinese Communist Party influenced the WHO?

Over the past several decades, how has US policy towards China been mistaken and shortsighted?

How would the US. and other free countries in the West benefit from a closer relationship with Taiwan?

In this episode, we sit down with Dr. William Stanton, who served for 34 years as US diplomat, including two assignments at the US Embassy in Beijing. His final posting was as Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the equivalent role to Ambassador. Now he is Vice President of the National Yang-Ming University of Taiwan.

This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.

Jan Jekielek: Dr. William Stanton, it’s such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Dr. William Stanton: And it’s a great pleasure to have this opportunity to talk with you. I’ve often watched you online, and it’s quite an honor actually to be asked to do an interview with you.

Mr. Jekielek: Well you’re top of my list right now because you’ve been in Taiwan for at least a decade now. You are vice president of one of the major health universities, and you have a ton of diplomatic experience in China. You have this unique perspective where you can look at the China reality, and look at the Taiwan reality. And right now this is front and center with coronavirus. While China has had a destructive policy or approach to coronavirus, Taiwan has had a model policy. Let’s hear your thoughts.

Dr. Stanton: Well, Taiwan has done a fantastic job—it doesn’t surprise me—in controlling the virus. There have only been, I think, six deaths as of now, and fewer than 400 cases, I believe, somewhere around there. And compared to what we’re facing in the United States, of course, it’s a much smaller population, but still there are 23.5 million people in Taiwan, and yet it’s really managed to control the spread of the virus. And I think that reflects well on the medical system they have here, but I think it also speaks enormously well for the measures that the Taiwanese adopted from early on. Sometimes [those measures are] contrary to what they’re being told—the little that they were told—by the PRC government officials they met with, but also quite different from what the WHO was saying. So they addressed the issues very early on.

They were well prepared because of their experience with the SARS outbreak in 2003. It was at that time, I understand that people got used to wearing masks to begin with when they had a cold so they wouldn’t spread it. But in addition to that, they were well prepared in other ways. They had already set up a structure for an emergency epidemic committee to make decisions before it was accepted that this is something you should do. In fact, they were a bit condemned by WHO. They began examining flights or passengers on all flights from Wuhan, then subsequently before it was a general practice, they began actually halting all flights from Wuhan. And so they took the right steps, they had a good system, they were prepared, and they also got buy-in from the public. I think the public trusts the government for its transparency, its honesty. I mean, it’s a democracy. And, the public is treated in that way. And they respond positively as well. So everyone is avoiding, you know, maintaining social distance. I’m teaching classes now online, so we’re all contributing to the ongoing effort. But I think, unfortunately, Taiwan is often overlooked by the rest of the world. The Wuhan virus has caused many people, numerous magazines and newspapers and journals, as well as many well-known personalities to say, “Hey, Taiwan’s doing a great job.” So I’m proud of Taiwan for that reason, and I’m proud that they’ve been able to show how it should be done to get control of this deadly disease.

Mr. Jekielek: It’s almost as if the fact that Taiwan hasn’t been allowed into the WHO helped in this case.

Dr. Stanton: Ironically, I think that’s true. I’ve read online that apparently under the previous administration, Under Ma Ying-jeou, who was primarily focused on improving relations with the PRC, or as he would say, Mainland China, he apparently reached a secret agreement at some point with the Chinese government—the PRC government—that Taiwan would be allowed to be an observer, but not a member, when the World Health Organization had its annual meeting, and so for a few years, they were able to go, but there were conditions,. They had to go under the name Chinese Taipei, they could not be on a committee that met during that meeting, where actual guidelines and the most substantive issues were being discussed. It all had to come from the PRC itself.

So in a way it (the pandemic) has strengthened the character and the backbone of the Taiwanese people because they realize that they couldn’t count on anyone. So they had to look after their own health system. Actually, my [university] president, Steve Kuo, opened up many years ago the first health office at Techpro in Washington, DC, so that Taiwan could establish relations with the National Institutes of Health, with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, and improve cooperation on issues like endemic, pandemic disease. So, they got a head start. They’ve always been interested in global health. And the university that I’m at now is very much focused on that. And I think in a way if you exclude somebody, you know, one possibility is they go off in a corner, they feel sorry for themselves. The other possibility is that they say, “Well, I’m not going to let this get me down. I’m going to keep on trying. I’m going to continue to try to get in the WHO. But I’m also going to reach out on my own to other countries, particularly other democracies who’ll be more willing to deal with me.” And frankly, the WHO has treated Taiwan… and under the director general Tedros, I think it’s been really abominable.

Particularly his charges that Taiwan is racist. It was interesting too, because I saw online today that there are an awful lot of Africans in Guangzhou. And apparently, they’re all being discriminated against, [they are being told] “go home,” they fear that they’re disease-bearing. And indeed, I remember in the late ’80s, when I was in the PRC, there was somebody at the foreign ministries—now Liu Xiaoming, he’s now the ambassador in London—he wrote an article in the English language China Daily. And basically charged America with being racist. And I saw him at our reception. And I sort of got hold of him and said—at this point, he wasn’t so high ranking—I said, “Well, you know, America acknowledged that it’s had a problem with race, and has tried to address it. But you don’t seem to recognize that China has a problem with racism.” And I cited in recent months at that time, there were two or three incidents on campuses in Beijing, and on a bus in one case, where an African student would be seen with a Chinese student, a female, and they would be harassed and they’d be cursed. In some cases, they were attacked by fists and so forth. So I think it’s interesting that they should draw the racial card. Because I’ve never found in the six years I spent in China, that they were all that enlightened about racial issues.

And I find in that regard that Taiwan—every country has problems perhaps with people of different races or ethnicities—but I think Taiwan’s far more accepting of differences among people and tends to treat everybody with courtesy and welcoming, so I thought it was particularly ill-suited that Dr. Tedros should decide to pick on Taiwan and call them racist. And then to make it worse, China joined in and had people online send him messages from fake Taiwanese, apologizing for being racist. So you know, it’s one thing after another—this whole experience with the virus that is generated—and it’s quite disturbing, actually. And that’s why in a recent article I wrote, I agreed with those in the US Congress who are calling for the US to cut off its financing for the WHO as currently constituted. We provide about twice as much—I think last year was $52 million—as China, which I think contributed about $29 million. It’s up around $400 million for voluntary contributions that different American agencies and different American philanthropic groups contribute because they’re interested in coverage of certain diseases. But clearly I think we have to take a much harder line in terms of how the WHO has handled this virus, because it’s clearly been simply a mouthpiece, in my view, for the PRC government.

It was two days after he visited Xi Jinping in Beijing, that Dr. Tedros decided that—a week after he said there was no need to declare an international emergency—that it was time to declare it an international emergency. So it was almost like he went there and got his marching orders and then came forth and announced them. They criticized Taiwan early on and criticized us as well, when we stopped flights coming in. Then shortly thereafter, China did the same thing. So they criticized Taiwan for doing that. And yet, I think that was also one of the things that helped save Taiwan from a much worse situation. So looking after itself, not listening to the WHO in this particular case, I think actually helped.

The other thing is: I don’t think that WHO has done enough to look at the whole question. Why hasn’t it elicited from China more information about the viruses about the genomes, about all the technical details? Why has nobody raised this? And, you know, in that regard, I want to give a shout out to the great documentary I saw today, “Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus.” It’s long, but every minute of it is interesting. It’s about 55 minutes. And it asks a lot of unanswered questions. Given that there was a virology lab, particularly right in Wuhan. Why have they not played a role in trying to uncover the source of this? Why aren’t they talked about? Why are they the dog that doesn’t bark? And certainly we need to know more about that and why haven’t we heard more about that from the World Health Organization. They should have the ear of the PRC leadership to tell them is there anything we should know that we can help fight this disease more effectively?

Mr. Jekielek: When it comes to the racism as you described, I keep thinking forced assimilation policies in Tibet and Xinjiang. I can’t even imagine too many things that are more racist. Anyway, that’s that’s one thing that jumped to my mind. And the second thing is the insanity of targeting of African people—people with different skin color—for the virus. It just speaks to this power of the CCP propaganda to somehow convince the population that the virus didn’t come from China.

Dr. Stanton: Well, they’ve already pervaded the idea that it came from the United States. And I’ve also seen, online today an item suggesting that the sequencing of this virus is so old that it may have existed for ages and could go back to Europe, for example. So because I guess they read the report that some of the virus that has infected people in the United States may have come from Europe, or maybe most of it, I am not quite sure the details of it, but clearly they’re constantly trying to shift blame. So to charge the US with spreading this virus or to charge anyone else is really absurd, especially since it’s now the developing countries in Africa, in Asia, and in Latin America that I think are most endangered by the continuing spread of this virus. They will be the next targets for it. So it’s unfortunate.

I spent two years as director of UN political affairs, which does Security Council issues at the UN from the State Department, gathering consensus within the US government on policies. And it always struck me that it was the developing countries that were most likely to support countries like the PRC. Why? Because the PRC’s largess depended in part on that. There was an awful lot of, particularly in the General Assembly, vote-buying and influence peddling. I mean, why was it that after Kim Il Sung died in North Korea, that the General Assembly, which is all the members of the United Nations, had a moment of silence in honor of Kim Il Sung.

I mean, this is extraordinary. And this is the same UN. I know about this personally, because I wrote a telegram when I was at AIT, complaining that there was a Taiwan student, a college student, who had signed up to join the Model UN program. And the Model UN program gathers students to give them a replica of the UN experience. And the only criteria for getting into that is that you believe in the principles and purpose of the United Nations—basically maintaining peace and security building peace and security around the world. And this student was turned away at the door, because he didn’t have Chinese identification. He only had Taiwanese identification. I was so outraged by this, I wrote a cable. We wound up getting [inaudible] at the second highest level at the US office at the UN. An ambassador delivered it—not the top guy, but the second one—to the Undersecretary for Political Affairs. And the reaction was, “well, there’s nothing we can do for this.” It’s really scandalous that then they should pick on Africans, but that’s the way it is. I got quite used to it. I mean, one of the things about being Taiwan is so often when I was in the PRC, I felt that every meeting was sort of a confrontation. And, you know, it’s so nice and pleasant to be in a country where even if you have a disagreement, you’re respectful, you’re courteous to one another. It’s a much better atmosphere.

Mr. Jekielek: The US State Department is trying to get Taiwan more of a presence in the WHO. I think this speaks to the evolution of the US, China and Taiwan policy over time. I know this is something that you’ve been thinking about deeply for quite some time.

Dr. Stanton: If the US is really serious about getting Taiwan into the WHO, they need to abide by the Taiwan Relations Act, which in 1972 said, I’m paraphrasing here, “nothing in this act should in any way lead to withdrawal of Taiwan from any international financial or other international institution or any international organization.” Well, what happened in 1998? President Bill Clinton was on his long visit to China. And on one of his stops, he announced some sort of gifts to China, one of which was, he announced for the first time that it’s the policy of the United States, it might have been an implicit policy at times or maybe the way the United States behaved. But he said that no country which statehood is not recognized, should be allowed to enter into any international organization where statehood is a requirement. So if the State Department and the US government really wants to get Taiwan into international organizations, and some of the others include Interpol, ICAO, which deals with civil aviation, these are important matters of safety and security. What the US needs to do is say, “Well, you know, this policy statement was inconsistent with US law, and therefore, we’re going to address it, and we think that it should not be barred from membership” and make a stand on that basis. But I don’t know, there are too many people who say, “It would be impossible, it would just ruin the international organizations. It would just cause everything to come to a standstill. We can’t do that.”

But on your larger point, actually, there has been an enormous evolution in relations. I would say going back, probably to 2011. But certainly 2014-15. If you look at the Pew surveys that are done on public opinion, the survey that was done last year on whether you view China favorably or unfavorably 60% of the American public, viewed it unfavorably, and in previous years, it only began to turn toward the unfavorable trend around 2011-2012. And there are other things that you can point to in terms of journalistic opinion, opinions of the media. For example, in 2015 there was a study done. It was a seminar of former China hands, who had been reporters in China. And the title of the seminar, and it was later published as a book,… “Have the media misled the American public about China?”

And it was quite clear. The conclusion of that was yes, we did. We took this very starry-eyed view of how China would evolve. And of course, beginning in 2012, when Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the Communist Party, everything began to change, because he’s a true-believing Marxist. And he immediately and increasingly is taking power. So on the one hand, I think you have an American public and American elites and political leaders who are increasingly skeptical of China. And you also have a China which was increasingly unpopular because of its oppressive policies toward religious groups toward ethnic minorities in China, and its more aggressive policies in its own neighborhood and elsewhere in the world—basically bullying other countries. I wrote a commentary not too long ago reminding everybody that China itself stated his position in the Shanghai communique—the first communique with the United States—that big countries should not bully small countries. But that’s what it in fact does.

So, there has been a shift. And I think a lot of the reason for the original optimism for China was totally misguided. Many people have said this to Henry Kissinger. He [worked] on behalf of President Nixon. He didn’t know much about China, but he was sent there to establish relations. And his whole argument, and the argument also of President Nixon in the time was, “well, our real problem is still the Soviet threat. So what we need to do is to somehow separate, split off China from the Soviet Union.” It was a geostrategic move. And of course, everybody’s always admired, including Kissinger himself, his geostrategic thinking. And so there was this whole plan that China would become increasingly an ally, a friend of the United States. I mean, that’s what we did with Japan after all, and with Germany at the end of World War II. So there were certain precedents that you could point to. Of course, that whole idea collapsed in 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and then in ’91, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And along the way, having seen what happened with the Berlin Wall, you also had Tiananmen, which also caused China, including Deng Xiaoping, to make it take a much tougher stand. So that was a mistake.

A second mistake was the belief that if we had better relations with China, we would be able to solve strategic international, bilateral, regional issues, that we would be able to move forward on all of them. There’s a story I heard after the 2015 visit of Barack Obama as president to China. He spent like four days and three nights there. He had been told by some staff people who still foster the idea of cooperation with China, that we absolutely need Chinese cooperation if we’re going to make progress on international regional bilateral issues. So he went feeling that there was real progress possible.

And instead, nothing happened. The Chinese were feeling very good about their economy. And they got no concrete results out of the visit. Of course, there was a bunch of verbiage and different signed language that they agreed on, but it was all generic stuff. So on the way back, according to the person I talked to who heard it secondhand, Barack Obama supposedly said, “Well, let me get this straight. We need Chinese cooperation to solve bilateral regional international problems. I guess after this visit, we can pretty much say, we’re not going to make progress on any of these issues are we?” So I think that was a delusion, the self-delusion that we had.

The third thing that happened was there was also a view that if we had better relations with China, a stronger, more self-confident China, it would be an international stakeholder. I remember talking points that also it would open up China, that if China were wealthier, it would move in the direction of democracy. This was the way that we could overcome the human rights advocates in Washington who said that “No, we can’t give China most favored trading status. It’s unacceptable.” We already gave them World Trade Organization participation. That hasn’t worked out all that well. But you know, there was strong pressure from big companies; the investment bankers, the computer companies, the same kinds of people who have shipped all of our vital supplies for medicines for protective gear for hospitals, for test kits, all that’s being made in China—these same people because they could make it more cheaply and make more money. They were totally for giving them this most favored trading status and they won. And that never turned out to be true. In fact, with Xi Jinping coming to power, it became less liberal, less open. And then everybody also thought, well, you know, if nothing else, we’ll make money there.

And it’s true some people did make money there. But also millions of people—I’ve heard different estimates, some 3 million, some more—American workers would lose their jobs in the process. And while economists were always talking about in the long term per worker…If you’re 45 or 50 years old and you’ve been working in a certain plant all your life making car parts and now you’re told you’re not needed… you’ve lived your whole life, your family is there, your community’s there, maybe your church is there, you’re supposed to pull up and move on and retrain and become a computer expert? I find it hard to use computers now. I’ve sort of grown up with computers a little bit. So that never worked out either.

And unfortunately, a lot of those same people are still giving advice, even in the current administration. So there are good people but there are other people who are more skeptical. I enjoy very much listening to Peter Navarro. I enjoy hearing about the decisions Matt Pottinger makes, I’m very impressed by [Mike] Pompeo. But some of these other people, it’s more of the same. So, you know, we’ll have to see how US policy evolves in the future.

Finally, the other thing we did was we totally underestimated Taiwan. Back in 1972, Chiang Kai-Shek was in charge. Everybody said, well, Taiwan’s a basket case, it’s only a matter of time before it drops into China’s lap anyway. So, let’s not think about that. Nobody really foresaw and particularly people who had never been to Taiwan—like Kissinger. His whole life, he’s never been there. Nixon maybe should have had more of a glimmer because he least visited when he was vice president. But nobody predicted or could foresee that within four decades, Taiwan would become a democratic, prosperous, thriving nation with advanced science with advanced technology, a leader in things like microchips. At one point, they were fourth or fifth in applying for patents until China started applying for US patents. Now, it’s sixth, I think in the most recent year, but with a tremendous health system rated one of the highest in the world. And for people who come to Taiwan, they also see it’s an incredibly safe, welcoming place to come. You know, it’s a beautiful country. And I think that some people want to take that away. You know, it makes me really quite distraught.

I once wrote a commentary on this. When you look at the Chinese elites, what do they do? You know, thousands of them have emigrated to other parts of the world, usually Western democracies. That’s where they send their children. There are some 400,000 Chinese in American colleges and secondary schools, and it’s even more than that. They move their money out to safeguard it. They buy real estate there. And if they can, they immigrate. And there are studies going back several years from Hurun in Shanghai, which does studies of Chinese wealthiest people about the decisions they make. Xi Jinping’s daughter went to Harvard. I think she last year went back again. So they’re always leaving their options open because they are the people who have the most to lose. A lot of the blame, though, I think is the United States. I think our policies were naive, they were short-sighted. They were mistaken in many cases.

Mr. Jekielek: What do you make of the fact that the first congratulatory call from an international leader that President Trump got was from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan?

Dr. Stanton: Well, I was elated. And was hoping for the best, but having spent 34 years in the State Department, I was not overly optimistic because I noticed after a strong PRC reaction, that he walked it back a little bit. And periodically, he said, things that are positive about Taiwan. But he also says things—the President does—that are very positive about Xi Jinping. The other day, I was disturbed that he said, “great respect” in a Tweet he sent, because that would not be the language I would pick for somebody who has not exactly been a sterling example of upholding human rights. So I think it’s hard to say. I hope for the best. And I think that what I do hope now is that, this experience of the coronavirus and the enhanced reputation that Taiwan has as a result of its handling of it, [gets] universal acclaim, not only from magazines and journals and newspapers, but also from individual countries for the fact that it’s donated masks and protective equipment to the United States. It hasn’t sold them and then later on claimed that they were donated to other countries as the PRC has done, and they also haven’t donated things that turn out to be defective, as I think has been the case in Spain and Italy and, and [Czech Republic]. I think in England, we saw Conor McGregor, the boxing guy, complaining about how they sent bad face masks. I think I’m hoping that this new recognition, this new awareness of Taiwan will help build support in the United States and other Western democracies to give Taiwan a second look, a closer look to see how maybe we should be working more closely with Taiwan. And maybe we should not always be looking over our shoulder at the PRC. That’s my hope.

Mr. Jekielek: You can’t imagine a more positive PR situation for Taiwan. Its democracy and transparency are showcased through exactly this coronavirus situation.

Dr. Stanton: It’s almost like a screenplay that has a happy ending… Some countries at least, will be more, take a closer look at improving their relationships with Taiwan. I’ve often said Taiwan also needs to reach out not only to its 15 remaining diplomatic allies, but it should also continue to try to foster relations with other important countries in the region and the world. And I think, from what I’ve seen under Tsai Ing-wen there has been that effort, the new Go South policy, certainly in terms of the relationship with the United States, the relationship with Japan, and potentially the relationship with India—there are people in India talking about that. Just read two articles actually, by two scholars in India, that there’s a lot of balancing going on and counterbalancing. And I think more and more people have become aware of potential Chinese threats. I think there are many countries, like Vietnam for example, who are thinking long and hard and are inclined to get on board with other countries like the quad, which includes Japan, the United States, Australia and India. But, you know, they might not do that because it might be too risky for them, but they’ll continue to cooperate in other ways with the United States and other countries.

Mr. Jekielek: The last time we talked before the pandemic, we spoke about the elections and the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to influence those elections. Of course, that failed miserably, thankfully. But how are Taiwan-China relations? And how is the regional relations evolving?

Dr. Stanton: Well, I think if the United States decided to do something more forward-leaning with regard to Taiwan, for example, say that the US doesn’t agree anymore that statehood recognized by other countries should be a precondition for participation in international organizations. And China would object to our change of position but we could argue that well, our position in three communiques was very clearly stated that we had two conditions. One is that any resolution of differences had to be peaceful. As soon as China issued the 2005 Anti Secession law, which listed all kinds of things that Taiwan could do—change its flag, call itself a new name, declare independence, have a vote, a referendum on independence, any of those things—they would be that there would be abrogating the anti-secession law that they passed for themselves, they would be in violation of it, and trying to reserve the right to use force to settle the issue. We could then say, well, as soon as they said that back in 2005, we should have said, Well, don’t forget our signature on the three communiques, certainly the first and the third, (because the second was about was General Hague’s resolution about not selling more arms), the first and the third, we’re always conditioned on number one, you have to respect the rights, human rights of the Taiwanese people, and number two, any settlement of your differences has to be a peaceful settlement. So in a sense in 2005, they violated our understanding, as we set it forth in the joint communique back in 1972. So I think we have more arrows in our quiver, we have more, we have more things than we can do. But it’s a question of whether we’re willing to do them. I think arguments can be made for doing more, and I would like to see us do more for Taiwan.

Mr. Jekielek: I’ve been seeing reports of Chinese overflights coming close to the Taiwanese mainland. There’s a report of a Chinese naval vessel sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat. In the midst of the pandemic, China’s starting to agitate. The Chinese Communist Party is doing something there in the region. How do you read that?

Dr. Stanton: Well, there was also an attack on a Philippine fishing boat as well, if I’m not mistaken. There was more than one incident like that. I think it’s partly related to the Wuhan virus. I think it’s partly to show “just because we were distracted by this virus, we’re getting back to work now. And we’ve never lost sight of our long term regional goals. And we’re going to show our military muscle.” I think it’s also a signal to the United States at a time when everybody clearly is rather enthralled by what Taiwan has managed to do. And I think they are rather peeved by that to say, “don’t forget we still have the weapons, the might, we can call the shots.” So I’ve been happy to see though, in turn, that the US has also been continuing to fly the flag through the Taiwan Strait. And, you know, has indicated in other ways that it remains very supportive of Taiwan. But we’ll have to see. Everyone’s great fear is that Taiwan one day will decide to go to war. I don’t think so. But if they do, I sure hope the United States would intervene. If we don’t, basically we’ve abrogated all of our treaty alliances. Because Japan will look at what we’re doing. Australia will look at what we’re doing. There’s already enough problems with our allies in Asia and in Europe. They’ll say, well, we can’t look to America anymore for support.

So I hope that we would do what is necessary in the event that there’s a threat to Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwan has also been bolstering its own armed forces which it has long needed to do and under President Tsai, it’s been doing that. And I also think that Japan has a lot to lose in this situation as well. So Japan recognizes the clear need that Taiwan and US support for Taiwan may be the only thing standing between it and the Chinese military, so they’ve been getting stronger as well. So these are only personal views of mine, but I do hope we will show support for Taiwan.

Mr. Jekielek: For the typical American or typical Canadian, anyone in a free country that is watching Taiwan right now, what would you say is the big benefit for their country to establish these closer ties to Taiwan?

Dr. Stanton: The idealistic answer is that we are all democratic countries. We respect the rule of law, human rights. And then to the extent we walk away from any of us who might face a threat, it diminishes the strength we as a community of nations have in fostering the values we hold dear. And fundamentally, our problem with the PRC was not only that we never had common interests, that for example, they would sign an agreement not to proliferate, But they would continue to provide the materials for nuclear weapons and missiles to the North Koreans, to the Iranians, to the Pakistanis. We don’t have the same values. And it’s the values we all do that the Chinese don’t agree with either. And the Chinese have always recognized that in the PRC, they’ve said yes, well, we have different histories, we have different heritage. We have much different experiences of the world, we have different societies, cultures, so it’s inevitable that we have different values. But you have to respect ours, as we respect yours. Maybe they say that, but I don’t think so. But we have neither values, nor interests in common. There are some people who have interests in common. The people have made a lot of money there. But that’s all, so I would make that argument.

Second of all, I would make the strategic argument which is simply that, [if the] US walks away from Taiwan, why won’t it walk away from you? Again, we all have a common interest in solidarity among our nations. So, it’s not something new. Many people have said Taiwan’s the canary in the coal mine for the PRC’s hostilities toward other nations. You know, maybe they think if they take Taiwan and then they can just call the shots in the rest of Asia, but they certainly want to push the United States out of Asia, certainly out of the two defensive rings that US bases provide so if we go it’s hard to go back. We’ve already seen the Philippines, the military I think is very pro-US. President Duterte’s got a pet personal peeve with the United States. He said “get out” because we wouldn’t give a visa to a guy who is shooting people on site for drugs. Some of the Southeast Asian countries except for Vietnam, Thailand, and to a greater extent, certainly Laos, Cambodia very much sort of in the Chinese pocket now. It’s not very diplomatic to put it that way. But that’s effectively what’s happened. The Philippines wavers back and forth, against different signals at different times. I think Indonesia and Malaysia in more recent months have made stronger statements about PRC incursions into their territorial waters. So we’re all in this together. We all have common interests. And I think, to a greater extent than with the PRC, we have shared values, as well as shared interests.

Mr. Jekielek: Bill, that’s a fascinating look into the geopolitical reality in that region. Speaking about the shared values, at the Epoch Times, and certainly I myself personally, I really like to distinguish starkly between the value system of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people. The Chinese Communist Party has been trying extremely hard to force that value system on the populace.

Dr. Stanton: It’s the Chinese values that I admire so much here in Taiwan. The Taiwanese people believe strongly in education. They cherish families. They cherish community. Many of them practice traditional religions. They certainly write in traditional Chinese characters. They still practice traditional Chinese calligraphy, just as many people do in mainland China. You may have noticed in the course of my talk several times I would say China, and I would correct myself and say PRC, and the reason is, I don’t want anyone to think that I have anything at all against Chinese culture or the Chinese people. I don’t think of the modern-day People’s Republic of China as equivalent to China. I think it’s altogether different.

After all, Xi Jinping made it very clear when he stepped up to be a general secretary in 2012. He made it very clear that he believed in Marx and Engels and quoted them in his speech to the Politburo. This is a Western philosophical goal and ideal that died even in Russia, where it originated. So it’s a very alien concept. I remember Secretary of State George Shultz who I got to know when I was the Lebanon desk officer. The year I was at the Hoover Institution, he was there. He said to me, I’ve always said that what Deng Xiaoping did when he opened up was not so much anything he did, he just allowed the Chinese people to be Chinese to do what they’re best at—to go out and grow more food, to open businesses to make money to be productive, to look after their families and get rid of all this alien stuff about the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, or these ideological concepts, which have never been part of a more pragmatic framework for many Taiwanese.

At the same time, Taiwanese also can be very religious. There are many Taiwanese who, who practice a range of religions, and Taiwan is very open. It’s not prejudiced about that at all, oh, what religion are you? Which is here in the United States Oh, you’re Protestant, what branch of Protestant faith, that kind of thing. So I apologize if anyone got the idea that I was talking about China. I’m really talking about the currently constituted government of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why I never said, unless I made a mistake, China virus. I said the Wuhan virus. I don’t want people to think that I’m directing my comments against Chinese. I’ve lived for, it’ll be going on 18 years of my life in a Chinese society. Taiwan is other things, it’s not only Chinese. It’s more multicultural than that. More so than in China because of your different cultural or ethnic background, you seem to get stepped on. But, I do respect the Chinese as a civilization, as a culture and as a people.

Mr. Jekielek: Any final words before we finish up?

Dr. Stanton: I just welcome the opportunity to frankly express my personal thoughts about these issues. I know there are a great many people who may disagree with them. That’s fine. I welcome disagreements. Everything I said is not set in any spirit of animosity toward anyone. But it said mostly out of a feeling of great respect and admiration for Taiwan, and great disappointment in the current government that runs China.

Mr. Jekielek: Bill Stanton, such a pleasure to have you.

Dr. Stanton: Pleasure’s mine.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 
 
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