Taiwan a year later

If Taiwan is any indication, America's old allies do not die -- or fade away either. In the year since Washington gave Taipei the cold shoulder and switched diplomatic recognition to Peking, Taiwan has been doing more business than ever with the United States, not to mention the rest of the world. This is in keeping with the spirit of President Carter's intention that the shift to Peking not work to the disadvantage of the people of Taiwan.

There have been some serious disadvantages coinciding with the economic progress, whether or not they are necessarily traceable to the broken Washington-taipei connection. The break has been cited by the government in suspending scheduled parliamentary elections. The press has been interfered with. Last month the government said the elections would be held "at the appropriate time"; it asserted its deterimination to promote democracy and preserve human rights. But some see a decline in civil liberties. The annual Freedom House world survey of freedom now gives Taiwan a civil-liberties ranking lower than its middle category of two years ago. Unless Taipei reverses such a trend, its economic achievements will ring hollow.

Yet these achievements should be noted as evidence that Peking's gain need not mean Taiwan's loss. By way of perspective, last year's fledgling US-China trade was still expected to total less than $2 billion when all the returns are in, whereas US-Taiwan trade for the first 11 months had already exceeded $8.2 billion, with an expected year's total of $9.6 billion, an increase of more than

Taipei reports that its overall trade for those first 11 months surpassed $28 billion, up by more than 30 percent from the same period in 1978. Despite its vehement anticommunism, it is cultivating the East European market. New rules permit direct trade with Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia, with which only indirect trade was allowed before. Indirect trade is now permitted even with the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania, with which no trade of any kind was previously allowed.

Taiwan's people not only are reaping the benefits of increased per capita income but are doing their part in the dramatically increased productivity that has made pay raises possible. We wish them well throughout the new year.

A footnote might be added. Remember the furor about the US leaving Taiwan in the lurch by ending that mutual defense Treaty? Well, the treaty now has ended. But Washington has resumed arms sales to Taipei, agreeing already on some $280 million worth of "selective defensive" weapons. The ties that bind don't have to be treaties.

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