A Rising Chinese Hegemony:
Regional Challenges and Responses
Regional Challenges and Responses
Speech to the Taiwan Brain Trust & Project 2049 Conference
July 19, 2010
Dr. Tsai Ing-wen
July 19, 2010
Dr. Tsai Ing-wen
Chairman Koo and President Lo of the Taiwan Brain Trust, Mr. Schriver of Project 2049, Distinguished Guests from abroad, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
It is indeed a privilege for me to attend the “International Conference on A Rising Chinese Hegemony: Challenges to the Region,” held by the Taiwan Brain Trust and co-sponsored by Project 2049.
This gathering is a timely reminder not only to Taiwan’s politicians who have been engaging in serious debate on how to live and deal with China but also to the international community that a serious analysis of a rising China is vitally necessary.
China’s rise is a complex phenomenon that folds together its economic growth, military modernization and power projection with the political influence these elements bring. Will the rise continue? If so, will it mean Chinese hegemony in Asia, if not more widely?
The PRC’s grand strategy in the region is clear in the consolidation of its geo-political and geo-strategic positions:
1. Tightening of control over Xinjiang and Tibet;
2. Deepened relations with Central Asian nations;
3. Building of ports and bases in Burma;
4. Exclusive Economic Zone claims in the ocean arc reaching from the Yellow Sea through the Sea of Japan to the South China Sea and increased naval presence throughout this ocean space;
5. Protection of North Korea as a buffer state;
6. Increased tension with India over border issues and nuclear cooperation with Pakistan;
If we add China’s political intentions toward Taiwan, the regional picture gets more alarming. China views US relationships with its friends and allies in the region, described by US analysts as a hedging policy, as, in fact containment of the PRC. China is trying to get out of this box by building up its blue water navy, along with its cruise and ballistic missile forces. Strategically speaking, Taiwan is key to China’s naval breakout. Controlling Taiwan would allow China to project power beyond the “First Island chain.” If Taiwan starts political talks with China, the future of Taiwan’s role in any regional strategy becomes uncertain.
China’s ambitious grand strategy has been sugarcoated by the slogan “peace and development.” The fact remains that there is no way for peace to be reached by military expansionism and increasing military threats against a democratic Taiwan. This stands in sharp contrast to what the CCP and KMT governments claim, namely that cross-Strait relations have significantly improved.
On the Taiwan issue alone, the Chinese leadership has failed to show the world that a rising China would be accompanied by the rise of the prospect for peace, nor has Beijing demonstrated that it is a “responsible stakeholder.” The Chinese defend development of a blue water navy and the capacity to project military power beyond its shores as necessary for ensuring China’s growing global economic interests. Nevertheless, as a preamble to justifying its use of force offshore, irrelevant to the safety of sea-lanes for Chinese ships, China passed a so-called “anti-secession law” in 2005 to legitimize the use of force against Taiwan.
Beijing’s recent moves to extend the definition of its “core interests,” as stipulated in the Obama/Hu Joint Statement, to the South China Sea was clearly a manifestation of its attempt to broaden the application of the above grand strategy.
China’s economic growth has been the engine driving China’s growing military and political might. However, questions have arisen about the continuation of this growth. The issue is not simply the value of the renminbi. It involves broader questions about China’s mercantilist policies and the CCP’s inability to change these policies without jeopardizing its hold on power.
As other nations strive for a re-balancing of the global economy, China continues
1. its subsidies to state-owned enterprises through manipulated interest rates;
2. its depression of consumers’ spending through this same gaming of interest rates;
3. its drive for “indigenous innovation” which effectively steals other nations’ intellectual property rights; and
4. its other surplus building practices.
The hopes expressed at the G-8 and G-20 meetings for rebalancing of the global economy will not be met if such Chinese economic policies continue. It seems clear to me that the CCP must face the “dilemmas” that Wen Jiabao hinted at recently and this would surely brake China’s rise. I doubt that the CCP is willing to walk this path, however.
In Copenhagen, China also showed that it was not willing to be a ‘responsible stakeholder’ but rather wishes to free ride as a “developing nation.’
On the security front, there has also been developing discomfort with Chinese practice. The Cheonan Incident is one key example. Chinese refusal to fully acknowledge North Korea’s involvement and join in a full-throated condemnation through the UN has raised the ire of South Koreans. Chinese warnings against US and South Korean joint exercises off the Korean coast has raised red flags in Washington. Whether the US and South Korea will call the Chinese bluff and send the nuclear carrier George Washington into the Yellow Sea remains a question, but one senses at least a chill in the Chinese relationship with both countries. Whether the move of operational control over forces in South Korea back to 2015 is a result of Chinese and North Korean actions is not clear, but the symbolism of the move cannot be ignored.
China’s claims in the South China Sea have strengthened significantly and cast a chill over its relations with other countries with claims in this area.
Chinese military maneuvers in and around the territorial waters of Japan are another instance where whatever economic leverage and draw China might have for sectors of the Japanese economy have been overshadowed by a perceived growing security threat.
Finally, the severe reaction of the Chinese to the Obama Administration’s notification to the US Congress of an arms sales package for Taiwan has drawn a sharp rebuke from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Other examples could be raised but these will stand for now.
Globalization’s economic interdependence and electronic connections have bound us together. Chinese actions are those of an outlier and our response must be a united one that insures that those values that might make for a globalization that positively touches the lives of all sectors of our societies are reinforced:
respect for the rights of all peoples,
democratic participation in decision making,
fair and respectful trade relations.
The Democratic Progressive Party, destined to come back to power, supports these values. We are in the process of producing a 10-year policy platform, ranging from economic development to international policies, for Taiwan to be a better place and a more responsible regional player. The most important element of our international policy will be to adhere to the value of democracy to build up our international relations.
Instead of turning to China as “the future,” the way President Ma and the KMT are inclined to do, we wish to turn to democratic friends around the world and invite China to join us in building a world where justice for all is the norm.
I trust you all have witnessed the development of debate on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, or ECFA, in Taiwanese society over the past few months. It is all too obvious that the Ma Administration is attempting to shove such an economic pact through the Legislative Yuan without regard for legislative oversight and democratic procedures. Recent remarks by senior officials in the US State Department that cross-Strait negotiations and agreements need to be consistent with Taiwan’s democracy, yet I’m sure you would agree that the recent actions by the Ma Administration are out of line with these policy statements.
So, instead of going first to China and then to the world, as the Ma Administration is currently doing, we wish to join hands with partners around the world first and invite China to participate. The Trans Pacific Partnership is an interesting example of how this might be done. Instead of China’s attempt to co-opt the ASEAN plus one as well as ASEAN plus three formulas as ways to marginalize US, and Taiwan’s, participation in the dynamic economic interaction of the region, TPP will, hopefully, emerge as an economic organization that is inclusive and keeps China’s economic practice in line with the rule of law, protection for IPR, proper currency evaluation and fair domestic policies practiced by other TPP members.
There have been several formulations for an Asian security organization. We believe that here, as with any economic organization, engagement of all democracies first is vital. After democratic partners agree on the basic structure for such an organization, then others, like China, are welcome to join if they support the fundamental principles of the organization.
We are encouraged by the Obama Administration increased attention to Asia, whether evidenced in President Obama’s serious set of bilateral meetings with Asian leaders at the G-20, Secretary Clinton’s planned participation in the Asian Regional Forum meeting, the repositioning of US forces, shifting of operational control of forces in South Korea back by several years, or Secretary Gates strong rejection of Chinese exclusive claims to the South China Sea and support for US arms sales to Taiwan.
We trust the US will adhere to the Taiwan Relations Act not only to provide necessary defensive weapons to Taiwan but also to maintain a significant presence in the region to deter China from initiating any military adventures. Such an obligation is consistent with US security interests in East Asia. The US allies in the region are watching carefully to see how the US will respond to a crisis in the region, for we all see a growing need for Washington to seek Beijing’s cooperation on many international issues.
For the people of Taiwan to be sure that the US remains deeply committed to Taiwan, arms sales are the key barometer. Taiwan needs F-16 c/ds for its air defense and also needs other defensive articles. The DPP, whether in power or not, will continue to urge the United States to make these articles available to Taiwan, the sooner the better. We need sufficient security deterrence capability to have no fear in our future negotiations with China.
Let me conclude by saying that international society faces the challenge of a rising China with a clear motivation to become a regional hegemon. We don’t necessarily need to look at the situation as the rise of an enemy. But we do need to be vigilant, and together encourage China to rise up to be a “responsible stakeholder” – for the sake of its own people, those of the region and of the whole world. Encouraging China is not enough. We must build the economic and security structures that insure China does not become that regional hegemon.
We countries in the region have an opportunity to build a brighter hope for the future for all our people. The challenges for the coming decades will require collective action and coordinated response. I look forward to the discussions during this timely international conference and look to be enlightened by our distinguished experts as together we face the reality of a rising China.
I wish the conference every success.
Thank you very much.
- Don't miss this awesome post over at Language Log on scripts in Taiwan.
- Don't miss this awesome post over at Cycling Satin Sestina on bike manufacturing and Taiwan
- Hilariously, the mayor of Taichung is cited in Monocle as one of 10 urban leaders.
- Foxconn to open 2,000 stores in China.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!