Which President of an Asian democracy is forbidden by Washington policy to walk on U.S. soil--much less set foot in the White House? Which free-market economy in the Far East is shut out of the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade? Which Asian country has $80 billion in reserves that it is spending on infrastructure projects but doesn't rate a visit from that peripatetic peddler of U.S. exports, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown?
The answer is Taiwan, the booming island of 21 million people off the coast of China. Now that relations with Beijing have been "normalized" with the passage of most-favored-nation status, it is time for Washington to do the same with Taipei. Indeed, with fast-growing authoritarian regimes in Asia arguing that democracy is an unneeded Western luxury, it serves America's interests to highlight the alternative democratic model of development.
The Clinton Administration is in the midst of a policy review on Taiwan. Until China and Taiwan sort out their differences, it makes sense for the U.S. to stick with its single-China policy. But it is time to invite the ranking Taiwanese economic officials to visit their American counterparts in Washington, without their having to skulk around in hotel rooms. Lee Teng-hui, the president of Taiwan, should be able to stretch his legs in Hawaii for a day or two en route to another destination. And Secretary Brown should pack his clubs for a few rounds at the Tamsui golf course.