Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Night Lites

Ralph Cossa of CSIS, who has been a harsh critic of the DPP for "provoking" China, has suddenly noticed that the real problem is Chinese belligerence and intransigence in a recent PACNET piece:
What Beijing needs to understand is that arms sales are more than just the fulfillment of the US moral and legal commitment to help Taiwan defend itself. In the final analysis, these sales are driven by Taiwan's perceived defensive needs in the face of a relentless expansion of Chinese military capabilities across the Strait. The best way to get Taiwan to request less would be for China to significantly reduce the threat Taipei currently faces).

Arms sales to Taiwan are a clear demonstration of Washington's commitment to peace and stability in Asia that send a clear signal to allies and potential adversaries alike that the US is determined to be an Asia-Pacific power. A refusal to sell much-needed arms to Taiwan would raise serious doubts about the credibility of the US defense commitment to its other allies. It could also compel Taiwan to turn to
nuclear weapons as a last resort, an outcome that China, least of all, should want to see.
It's highly unlikely that Taipei would begin construction of a nuclear capability, especially with a party more or less allied to Beijing running the government. But that kind of rhetoric shows the concern and puzzlement among US commentators over Beijing's behavior, evidenced also in the Bush piece discussed below this post. Is there a re-assessment going on in the US foreign policy community? Let's hope so.....

The NYTimes also editorialized on The Challenge of China...
The sales could not have been a surprise to China’s leadership. Mr. Obama told President Hu Jintao of his intentions at their summit in November in Beijing. The arms were part of a package approved by former President George W. Bush, and Mr. Obama left out the most controversial items: F-16 jets and diesel submarines.

Rather than encouraging Taiwan’s independence, as Beijing claims, the arms sales will give Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, the confidence to continue his efforts to improve relations with the mainland. It is absurd for China to think that any Taiwanese leader would not want to bolster his country’s defenses when Beijing is modernizing its arsenal and stationing more than 1,000 missiles across the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing’s threat to punish American companies is a dangerous game, especially at a time when criticism is rampant — around the world and on Capitol Hill — about China’s unfair trade practices.
Both Cossa and the NYTimes pointed out that Obama told the Chinese months ago this sale would go forward. The noise that Beijing is making is just a game their playing... thing this military build-up during the China-friendly Ma Administration has done is made it extremely difficult for critics of the DPP to reasonably claim that it is "provoking" China. Beijing has made it quite clear that the military build up will go on irrespective of who is in power -- meaning that it is now crystal clear the problem is Beijing.

In other news, Taiwan's share of imports into China has fallen...
Though Taiwan remained China's third largest source of imports in 2009, its share declined as Chinese purchases of Taiwanese goods contracted dramatically, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) reported Saturday.

The MOEA, citing data from Chinese customs, said that Taiwanese products accounted for 8.5 percent of Chinese imports in 2009, down from 9.1 percent in 2008.

Japan remained China's top source of imports with a 13 percent share in 2009, slightly down from 13.3 percent in 2008, while South Korea was second with a market share of 10.2 percent, up from the 9.9 percent of the previous year.

China's imports from Taiwan recorded the largest annual contraction of China's top three suppliers, falling 17.1 percent from a year earlier.
The solution, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs? You know what it must be: ECFA.
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Don said...

As you say, Michael, confusion and puzzlement seems to be the order of the day among the US's smartest-guys-in-the-room commentators on Taiwan.

Note: R Bush III's disappointment that the CCP continues enthusiastically adding to its anti-Taiwan missile arsenal post-2008; wide eyed Admiral Keating saying that the nakedly appeasionist Ma Ying-jeou "gets it"; R Burghart coming to Taipei to tell us with a straight face that the handsome gift to the CCP of carefully positioned antiTaiwan "territorial integrity" rhetoric in Obama's joint statement in Beijing was nothing of the sort; now R Cossa's stern astonishment that anyone in Asia could doubt the "credibility of the US defense commitment" to Taiwan.

One is tempted to ask what the hell planet do these gentlemen live on? Which part of "stand up to Chinese aggression" do they not understand? They use their powers of punditry to eliminate the case for sustaining Taiwan's liberty, and label those who doubt that the CCP is a goodfaith bargaining adversary as fools and troublemakers. Then, to cover their asses presumably, they express "surprise" when China's sociopathic regime acts just like...a sociopathic regime.

Michael Turton said...

I don't know what's wrong with these people. Or rather, I don't like to voice the ugly suspicions that are in my heart.

Don said...

What's causing me confusion and puzzlement is this:

1) the new arms deal has negligible defensive value. The big ticket item is the 100+ Patriots, unproven and in fact useless, repeat useless against ballistic missiles launched seven minutes away and barrelling near-vertically down onto targets in Taiwan at Mach 4 or more, aka 1km/second.

2) In reality the deal doesn't even have symbolic value -- how on earth does a high-priced clearout of fancy kit with minimal defensive application symbolize US "commitment" to Taiwan's defense needs?!

3) The players are clearly going through the motions for their respective domestic audiences: Washington as globocop, "just keeping the peace, ma'am," acting like it has no fear of China; KMT-Taipei crowing vindication for its "talk softly and carry a big stick" policy on China rapprochement; Beijing shrieking and throwing a couple more toys out of the pram. But all three having first satisfied themselves that in the real world the deal means zilch -- too little too late, with only fake symbolic value at best.

4) In short, a charade seems to have been acted out to mask the astonishing fact that there will be no upgrade, ever, for Taiwan's aging force of fighter planes. The single Taiwanese military asset that should give the PLA pause for thought (assuming Taiwan ever bothers to carry out a massive programme of counter-missile measures to defend its airbases) is being allowed to run down...with the apparent consent of all involved!

My question is: what happened to the F-16C/Ds?

Someone who reads this blog must know.

Did the Pentagon nix the sale because it predicts ROCAF assets will all be in PRC hands five years from now? Did the KMT government quietly stop pushing for the fighters on orders from Big Brother in Beijing? Did Beijing twist Washington's arm, using economic leverage, to make sure that F-16 request never made it through to Congress?

Come on Anonymous, be a good soul, spill the beans...

Michael Turton said...

Yes, exactly. I think the F-16s are being withheld as a chip against something washington wants out of Beijing. The constant mention of Iran in this context by many onlookers is probably a clue....


Thomas said...

It might also be that the Americans are still at the point where they think they can defeat the Chinese, if need be. They might feel that they CAN currently use the F-16s as a bargaining chip because they currently still feel reasonably confident that US forces can have some deterrant effect.

Could it be that overconfidence on the part of the US is prompting many American policymakers to think that they can, at the moment, have their cake and eat it too?

This mentality might change in the next ten years if Beijing becomes more problematic on the world stage, but it might be too late by then.