Thursday, October 13, 2005

A historic American visit

Nat Bellochi’s reminiscence of Lee Teng-hui’s famous 1995 visit to Cornell in the Taipei Times today takes me back. At that time, I was living in Kunming and immersing myself in socialism with Chinese characteristics. Every once in a while, I would pick up a copy of the International Herald Tribune that some running dog left behind at the Journey to the East coffee shop. But for the most part, my news of the world came from the cankao xiaoxi, a Chinese-language compendium of wire stories that the CPC felt told the truth about the world. Mostly, the stories were critical of Western governments at the time - as one could imagine. There wasn’t really a whole lot about Lee Teng-hui’s visit to Cornell that I recall, but all of us in China were regaled with glorious footage of the military exercises that are now known as the Taiwan Missile Crisis.

Bellochi says he was the one who suggested the “elongated transit” for Lee that still serves as a model for unofficial visits in the United States by Taiwanese leaders. IMHO, in his honor we should start calling them Bellochi transits. In any case, it’s notable that these transits are no longer a big deal. In fact, President Chen placed so much importance in his last scheduled San Francisco transit stop that he went to the United Arab Emirates instead. As Bellochi notes, it will be interesting to hear what Lee has to say this time around on his visit. It will be even more interesting to see whether Taiwanese leaders will be officially welcomed in Washington a decade hence.


DogOfTheSouth said...

"Bellochi Transit" -- fantastic. That will be my phrasing of choice from now on.

"Vice President Lu, traveling from the Marshall Islands to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on a friendship-strengthening tour of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, will make a four-day Bellochi Transit in Miami, where it is rumored that she will meet former United States Attorney General and unsuccessful candidate for Florida Governor Janet Reno. Other highlights of the Bellochi Transit will include shopping in Miami's famed South Beach and an outing to a jai alai fronton."

Jason said...

Great article; Bellochi's account matches that of a good friend of mine who, during his time at the GIO, actually wrote the Cornell speech for Lee. He's always held that the speech was as apolitical as you can get, and that commentator have since parroted the State Dept's analysis because it makes for better news copy. The sad truth is there are people in positions of power in the State Dept. who would like nothing better than to see Taiwan quietly disappear and allow them to plan their weekend golfing trips in peace.

Rank Beginner said...

Readers can judge for themselves. The text of the Olin Lecture can be found here.

I wouldn't call it provocative, but a speech that dwells on the benefits and promise of democracy couldn't really be called apolitical.

Feiren said...

The speech this time will be much more political. It's real fire and brimstone.