Thursday, November 18, 2010

Foreign Policy Vignettes

Ma's foreign policy sees another failure: tug of war over overseas Chinese communities continues. What did they expect? A commenter on a previous post argued that the KMT is actually stoking local pro-Taiwan opinion prior to the election, but actually there has been a steady stream of such reports over the last couple of years.

The China threat continues unabated, and Ma's unilateral disarmament, in which purchases of weapons have slowed and there is a switch to 'soft power', may well lead to war, argues our own J Michael Cole in the WSJ....after referencing Ma's apparent weakening of the island's defenses, Cole concludes:
The longer this situation is allowed to persist, the greater the gap between Taiwan's and China's military capabilities will grow. Without a reversal, it may only be a few more years before Taipei finds itself incapable of warding off a Chinese invasion. But that would be just the beginning of its problems. Given that Taiwanese are unlikely to abandon their identity, China would likely have to wage an unconventional conflict to control the Taiwanese population, which could result in years of bloody fighting.

To avoid such a scenario, Taipei, Washington and the international community should make sure that Taiwan continues to have a credible defense to prevent Beijing from launching an attack on Taiwan. The costs of military deterrence are tiny compared to those of a conflict should China miscalculate its ability to overcome the Taiwanese will to maintain its separate identity.
The WSJ had a related piece arguing for greater US commitment to the island's defense:
The Pentagon is completing an official review of Taiwan's air power, which will likely recommend that Taiwan needs the new F-16s and not just the upgrading of its old F-16 A/B fighters. Most likely the report will be held back until after Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the U.S. in January. That pre-emptive cringing backfired this January when the Chinese staged a tantrum at a modest package of arms sales for Taiwan.

It's possible that Mr. Obama will see the light once he starts dealing with the new Congress. Selling new F-16s to Taiwan will be important to the U.S. defense industry, since the production line will otherwise start to wind down by the end of next year.

More importantly, we hope that Mr. Obama has also learned the lesson that appeasing Beijing is a losing game. It's no exaggeration to say that selling new F-16s is crucial to U.S. credibility as the guarantor of East Asia's security. If the President doesn't address Taiwan's weakness, the doubts in the rest of the region about America's commitment will only grow.

The WSJ piece shows the effectiveness of the Chinese policy of throwing tantrums -- the Pentagon can't even release a report calling for a modest number of F-16s -- not the most advanced fighter the US makes -- to be sold to Taiwan out of fear of Chinese retaliation. Yes, the US Defense Department can't even say Taiwan needs new fighters. Never mind that with the US in the midst of a major economic crisis, a big order for fighters might be just the ticket for American workers.

Fortunately the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission goes where the Pentagon fears to tread, arguing for a closer US commitment to Taiwan. To wit:
In its annual report released yesterday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission made a series of recommendations aimed at boosting the Washington-Taipei relationship and pushing the administration of US President Barack Obama to take stronger action on trade issues with China.

The commission recommends that the US Congress direct the Pentagon to “address the issue” of Taiwan’s air defense capabilities, to include a detailed assessment of Taiwan’s needs vis-a-vis China’s growing military air and missile capabilities.

The Pentagon should also assess the US military’s capacity to withstand a Chinese air and missile assault on US bases in Asia and the implications of a similar assault on Taiwan’s air defenses, including the impact further deterioration in Taiwan’s air defense capabilities could have on US forces should they become involved in a cross-strait conflict.

At the same time, the commission wants Congress to encourage the White House to continue to support the improving relationship between Taiwan and China.

Perhaps most significantly, the commission recommends that Congress push the Obama administration to “identify ways to strengthen economic relations between the United States and Taiwan in order to improve Taiwan’s position in further economic negotiations with the mainland [China].”
Yes, yes, and yes! Lots of things could be done, from fast tracking the US-Taiwan trade agreement TIFA talks, to getting US cabinet-level officials over here as a show of support, to quietly upgrading US-Taiwan mil-mil cooperation and relations. Also, buying me beers when you come to Taipei would certainly help relations....

The report also shows what the US threw away in the Chen Shui-bian years with its senseless, shortsighted hacking on the Chen Administration. The US could have gotten a head start on this by building links to an Administration that would have been eager to expand them. But instead Chen got the back of the hand. Now the US has a pro-China ideologue in office in Taipei -- supported by the US! -- and suddenly realizes its policy of isolating Taiwan to serve Beijing accomplished nothing. Spotted that big bullet hole in your foot, eh Washington? It would also help to end our criminal, and criminally stupid wars in the Middle East, not merely Iraq and our China-friendly invasion in Afghanistan, but also the illegal drone attacks and other operations against other Islamic nations. The future is out here, in Asia. Every dollar committed to war in the Middle East makes China that much stronger.

RELATED: Japan gives up attempt to make China center of its foreign policy. Obama to continue endless, stupid war in Afghanistan until the last US dollar has been printed.
Daily Links:
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! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

"Also, buying me beers when you come to Taipei would certainly help relations...."

Aha! Is that a good tip for avid century bikers?


MJ Klein said...

it's disheartening when the foreigner blogosphere can call stuff like this, but the damn president of the country doesn't get it. you keep asking "what did he expect?" clearly, he has no idea what the Chinese are going to do to him and his party! pitiful....

jerome in vals said...

For the past two years, Japanese and Taiwanese new leaders have been attuning their public opinion to a China-friendly mood.

Former DPJ PM Hatoyama's dream of "friendly seas" required gutting the US-Japan alliance to better cozy up to China. His China-slanted platform, both in its domestic and foreign policy sections, reads like a page taken from Ma's book on how to sell out. Both men have been dealt merciless dope-slaps by their intended partner.

For the time being, at least, Zhongnanhai seems to favor the more polarized Asia-Pacific area that it knows. Feel-good friends of China are welcome in all walks of life but not in government, they seem to intimate. You must admire how masterfully they are burning the bridges their friends have staked their political survival on building.

But to what end? What does Zhongnanhai read in the breeze that those China-huggers could not? Is not that onslaught of friendly vibes that spooked them the most? Did they foresee a threat to their grip on power?

And there’s another aspect of the Chinese simple, no-nonsense way of thinking. When they size up Japan or Taiwan against the hulk the US represents, their response can only be, “who cares about you, dwarves? Bugger off!!”

Taiwan and Japan are only relevant as specks which the gaze relies on to eventually focus on the lap of China’s Shangrila (桃源郷), America. Look at the landscape from China, and Taiwan is snuggly tucked right there. It’s feng-shui on a global scale.

Take US-occupied Japanese Taiwan out (tsk, tsk! don’t bother even raising an eyebrow, it’s the Chinese view we are talking about here), take US-occupied Japanese Taiwan out, I said, and the whole balance goes awry, the painting looks dull. Which do you like best, China’s culturally, esthetically rooted view of Taiwan in the grand scheme, or ours –
Taiwan, the outpost on the trail to that last American frontier?

The best part of acquiring something is spent drooling over it. Once you have it, it can prove high maintenance and burdensome. A lesson America paid billions of aid dollars to Taiwan for learning.

Don said...

Well said, Michael.



Anonymous said...

What the hell? These people are overseas Chinese. You, of all people, should be up in arms cheering on a divorce between overseas Chinese communities and "Taiwan".