Irvine’s One China Policy

If you thought foreign policy was left to the federal government and Ms. Rice, you haven’t been paying attention to the ambitions of Irvine.The LA Times reports that, in a move reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s opening of China (and probably the results of some tough negotiating that would’ve made Henry Kissinger jealous), Irvine recently signed an agreement making the Xuhui District of Shanghai, China, their new sister city and promising that “Irvine leaders wouldn’t visit Taiwan in any official capacity or display the Taiwanese flag or play its national anthem.”

It seems, though, that Nixon struck a better deal. He used his visit to China to drive a wedge between Communist China and the Soviet Union to gain advantage on a number of diplomatic fronts, including, some argue, the SALT II negotiations. But that’s ancient history…

Irvine has much less at stake and in the short term the agreement has achieved two (most likely unintended) goals:

  1. upsetting the Taiwanese community in Irvine (90-95% of the Chinese Americans in Irvine according to Jack Wu, a Newport Beach politician as quoted by the OC Register), and,
  2. causing the local pols to scramble to cover their tracks with a combination of doublespeak and finger-pointing.

From what I can tell this later effort has been spearheaded by Irvine Mayor Krom who characterized the matter as “truly a lost-in-translation situation” (see the OC Register, 20 June ’06). (“You’re telling me the agreement specified that I couldn’t visit Taoyuan, Taiwan [one of Irvine’s other sister cities]?!”) Mayor Krom also refers to the memorandum signed by Valerie Larenne (a city staffer) containing the restrictions cited in the first paragraph as “unartfully” written and claims to have not known about it until last week.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I suspect none of the politicians involved in the sister city agreement — including Councilmen Larry Agran and Steven Choi — paid the expenses associated with their little junket out of their own pockets. So here’s the serious question: do these sister city efforts really provide any benefits to the tax payers? Apart for getting the local politicians out of town for a while, I mean.

Maybe it would help our budding diplomats in Irvine to remember what Richard Nixon once said: “Well, I screwed it up real good, didn’t I?”

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