Wednesday, September 20, 2006

China threat: Overblown

Columnist Tom Plate discusses the China threat:

But there's enough to worry about right now without them, said Wu. Due to their goose-stepping military-modernization and arms buildup, the Chinese are scaring just about everyone in Asia. Even the powerful Japanese are frightened by the Chinese buildup -- "I could clearly sense their nervousness," he said -- and even the otherwise amiable Australians are frightened too, he claimed.

And we Americans had better not fall asleep at the switch, either: "The Chinese will have a long range military capability," he warned. "China will become a future power that the U.S. will have to deal with."

In truth, if you shave 25 percent of the blather off Wu's alarmist lather, China does have the potential to become a threat. It would take a fool not to understand that. Rising nations always proceed apace militarily. It's what such countries do.

Taiwan faces an immense military threat from the mainland, make no mistake about that. And let us not doubt that Beijing would take military action against Taiwan in the event the mainland ever came to believe that the island's independence was irreversible. If China did invade, what would be Taiwan's response? "We would try to hang on as long as possible until the U.S. comes to our aid," Wu told me after the briefing.

Plate's solution?

Chairman Wu did a good job in making the extreme case for maximum worry about China's resurgence. But the answer for comparatively tiny Taiwan, it seems to me, is not to try to match the mainland missile for missile -- that's just not feasible. The answer is to launch a killer peace offensive that makes Beijing's military buildup seem like a foolish -- even childish -- waste of resources.

Ca we have some examples of successful application of this amazing strategy? Historical appears to indicate that for a small power facing a large, hungry power, the correct solution is alliance with another power that is willing to protect it for reasons of its own. The proper strategy for Taiwan is to anchor itself in an alliance system founded on one side by Japan and on the other by the US, as well as to build relations with Korea, India, Mongolia, Russia, and Vietnam, and countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines in whose waters China has been making unfounded territorial claims. The real tragedy of Taiwanese diplomacy isn't the ups-and-downs of the relationship with the US, but the numbing stupidity of pissing off needed neighbors like the Philippines by claiming islands in the South Seas, which also commits it to the strategic nightmare of defending them, or the political nightmare of giving them up once claimed.


Sun Bin said...

how about canada sunshining america? :) it could have become become a texas if dubya insists, you know....just kidding

example of success for amicable approach
1) the 2 yemen's?
2) aceh in indonesia?
3) greeks showing goodwill when turkey hit by earthquake, thus easing the perenial antagony.

you got to believe the good sides of human nature.

Michael Turton said...

Hmmm...I don't think the two Yemens or the Turkey-Greece situation applies, as they are close in size and power. Aceh is an interesting example -- maybe E. Timor too. I emailed Plate for some examples, let's see what he says.


Larry said...

killer peace offensive? Easier said than done

Sun Bin said...

I was tempted to quote E Timor. But it wasn't too much of a success considering the violence/etc.

But there is no perfect analogy, I guess. I was just trying to make the point that there are some close analogies, and it is more likely in today's world than in, say a few decades ago.

IMO relative size is not the crucial factor, but it puts more responsibility of taking the first concession / goodwill on the larger party (as was shown in Indonesia's case). However, the Aceh case also showed that the smaller (less powerful) party is willing to compromise only when it had not much choice otherwise.

The lesson is that some visionary leader on either (or both) side would need to seize a small window of opportunity in a crisis to initiate the reconciliation. CCP made a half-hearted attempt during the earth quake in 1999, but that wasn't enough.

Anonymous said...

People always think about the size difference, but defense is also really easy compared to offense. Since 1900, there has not been one single successful invasion--unless you count Afghanistan (doesn't really count since there was a civil war going on) and Iraq. In other words, the exceptions are very questionable themselves.

Taiwan with a small but credible amount of offensive capability (like 2 nuclear bombs or the conventional arms equivalent) would effective neutralize any threat whatsoever of China invading Taiwan.