Saturday, May 21, 2011

Missiles? What Missiles? Those aren't missiles! We're just happy to see you.....

In his column at WSJ Paul Mozur highlights a Chinese official's claim that no missiles are pointed at Taiwan.
At the first high-level military dialogue between the U.S. and China since military contact was derailed following the sale of $6 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan in January 2010, Gen. Chen denied that China had any missiles across from Taiwan, saying, “I can tell you here, responsibly, that we only have garrison deployment across from Taiwan and we do not have operational deployment, much less missiles stationed there.”

Experts and Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense say China has more than 1,000 missiles targeted at Taiwan. While many of the missiles may not be “across from Taiwan,” they’re awfully close, as Mark Stokes, executive director of think tank Project 2049 Institute thoroughly chronicles in a recent blog post.
While Gen. Chen's obvious lies provoked mostly laughter among observers, two high-ranking American officials, Sec of State Hilary Clinton and Adm Mullen, demonstrated a poor grip on US policy that had the State Department out the following day "clarifying" what they said. The Taipei Times reports:
At a Washington press conference on Wednesday, Chen said: “During my office call on Secretary Clinton this morning, she told me — she reiterated the US policy; that is, there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.”

His remarks alarmed Taiwanese-American groups, who called the US Department of State on Thursday asking for an explanation.

They particularly wanted to know if US policy toward Taiwan had changed.
Late on Thursday night, a US official said: “The United States has maintained a consistent policy across eight administrations; our ‘one China’ policy, based on the three US-China Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, has not changed. The secretary reiterated this policy yesterday in her meeting with General Chen.”
Somebody didn't listen at the briefing! ADDED: Although Chen is probably lying about what she said.

And frankly, that's what the State Department gets for not simply clearly and forthrightly stating what US policy is: the status of Taiwan is undetermined. This sort of nonsense could be avoided if US officials would stop playing coy.

And then there was Adm Mullen:
[Mullen] said: “As General Chen said, Secretary Clinton repeated and I would only re-emphasize the United States policy supports a ‘one China’ policy. And I certainly share the view of the peaceful reunification of China.”

Later, Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, explained: “The chairman fully supports the United States’ ‘one China’ policy, which is based on the three US-China Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. This policy has been consistent across eight administrations. The United States supports a peaceful resolution acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. It is this peaceful resolution to which the chairman was referring.”
FAPA put out a statement pointing out that the US should make it clear democratic Taiwan has the US' full support and that Taiwan's status is undetermined.

A counterpoint to this barrage of misunderstandings is the clarity of the increasingly pessimistic view of things from observers in Washington. This week longtime Taiwan expert Robert Sutter wrote for the NBR with the following policy implications:
  • Policy elites in Taiwan and the U.S. privately may be aware of the implications of Chinese leverage in determining Taiwan’s future and perhaps may favor Taiwan’s eventual reunification with China. However, other stakeholders in the media, among politicians and interest groups, and in the general public are not. Without a clearer view of existing realities, these groups may lash out in ultimately futile but highly disruptive ways as their preferred status quo wanes.
  • A similar backlash can be anticipated from like-minded stakeholders within the Taiwan and U.S. administrations who cling to unrealistic expectations that Taiwan can preserve freedom of action amid the increasingly constraining circumstances caused by a rising China, a weakened Taiwan, and declining U.S. support.
  • U.S. allies and friends in Asia, notably Japan, will require extraordinary reassurance that U.S. government encouragement of conditions leading to the resolution of Taiwan’s future and reunification with China does not forecast a power-shift in the region. Perceptions of such a shift would require dramatic and probably disruptive policy changes by regional states, ranging from bandwagoning with China to indigenous rearmament to become less reliant on declining U.S. power and resolve.
Sutter's view is quite clear: China's grip is tightening, the US is in decline and if the US is going to convince people it is a credible partner in East Asia's future but, at the same time, let China annex Taiwan, it is going to have to do some incredible tap dancing. Sutter does not complete the thought: ...and it doesn't seem likely the US can do that. 

A key issue a number of people have observed, most recently Steve Tsang in Asia Times, is that the twin problem of US decline + Taiwan's defense decline = an extremely unstable situation in which China might easily conclude that a quick victory is possible in a war because the US cannot/will not intervene, and Japan won't move without the US. Tsang points out, as many observers including myself have noted, that the current democracy is incompatible with single-party authoritarian rule in China, which means it will have to be eliminated.

But think carefully. Taiwan's democracy is more than skin deep and its people are immensely proud of it. The KMT can cause it immense harm but does not, at this point, appear to be able to blot it out. Meaning that the military option may be more attractive because it will enable China to efficiently crush the island's democracy, which cannot be done by peaceful means, without becoming beholden to the KMT. Weakness here and in Washington is an invitation. And we all know how limited wars swiftly become infinite -- see Afghanistan, Libya.....
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15 comments:

Thomas said...

While I am certainly not one to rush to back up Hillary on most issues, I think we have to be fair to her in this case. We really don't know whether or not she said what Chen Bingde said that she said. She might of. Then again, she might have said that the US supports a One China policy, upon which Chen chose to understand that this was China's version of One China. Mullen's utterance, at least, can be unquestionably tied to his own mouth.

Michael Turton said...

Yes my bad.

Okami said...

How about a quid pro quo example:

Taiwan isn't going to get any weapons from the US, China is not going to attack Taiwan and North Korea is going to go through a controlled collapse.

China is currently not allowing goods to flow into North Korea and won't even sell rice to a German charity that works in North Korea. The North Korean heir apparent is currently in China. Nobody wants North Koreans selling nuclear tech which we all know they will do at any opportunity. With a controlled collapse of North Korea, China avoids having US troops on one of its borders and sleep easier knowing that no dirty bombs will likely go off in any Chinese city over the muslim and tibetan minorities. Think how terrible one bomb would be and then think of one going off in Shanghai, the whole country collapsing is not unthinkable.

The US simply has to say it wants to sell weapons, but then let Ma and the KMT dawdle on it as they are wont to do. The only people upset would be the companies selling arms and we haven't really seen any push from the US side for Taiwan to buy which they could probably easily do. US policy makers know Taiwan is getting more and more into China's orbit and not even a DPP admin is going to stop that. We all know for all the DPP rhetoric at the end of the day it just translated to "Let the bidding begin."

I could be very wrong, considering how ham-fisted the current US admin is.

I always love how the EU only chooses foreign companies for cartel action.

Michael Turton said...

I always love how the EU only chooses foreign companies for cartel action.

Hahahaa. So true.

It sure will be interesting to see what will happen if Tsai gets elected.

Anonymous said...

I favor a 3 China policy and a 5 USA policy.
Does America have a one Japan policy?

Anonymous said...

that the current democracy is incompatible with single-party authoritarian rule in China, which means it will have to be eliminated

Long time China residents, observers and expats note that China has opened up a lot over the past few years with more freedoms being introduced. With the passing of the leadership next year to a new, more practical generation, further opening up is increasingly likely. Your statement above relies on China not changing which is patently unrealistic and nothing close to reality.

Anonymous said...

OT, but does anyone think Ma's kmtard slogan “Taiwan Cheers, Great!” (台灣加油, 讚!) makes any sense?

D said...

@Anon "Your statement above relies on China not changing".

A Russia-style democracy in China isn't going to help Taiwan very much, and I don't think anyone is anticipating a total reboot in the PRC right now. We'll see how "new" and "practical" Xi Jinping is.

Michael Turton said...

Anon, I expect change in China to continue. But I expect the CCP to remain in power as an authoritarian ruling party.

Michael

Anonymous said...

I suspect the KMT is giving China advice on how to remain the major power broker while appearing to support democratic reform.

Marc said...

Rather depressing this post. The apathy and cynicism are like a devouring cloud. Personally, I think there may be a few surprises those armchair experts haven't thought of, not the least of which the historical determination of Taiwanese not to be controlled, and to make life a headache for anyone who tries.

Readin said...

Sutter's view is quite clear: China's grip is tightening, the US is in decline and if the US is going to convince people it is a credible partner in East Asia's future but, at the same time, let China annex Taiwan, it is going to have to do some incredible tap dancing. Sutter does not complete the thought: ...and it doesn't seem likely the US can do that.

I think it is even simpler than that.
1. The U.S. is rapidly losing power relative to Beijing and can no longer be a credible partner in Asia.
2. Therefor the first of many betrayals will be Taiwan.
3. When we betray Taiwan because of 1, we must persuade persuade Japan that 1 and 2 aren't true.

Good luck with that plan.

Michael Turton said...

Ha Readin, your view is even clearer than mine.

Michael

Anonymous said...

On the QIng link. I love how the ROC was founded to discredit and undermine Qing sovereignty. The Republicans even called the Qing regime an illegal and alien regime. But in Taipei they can't get close enough.

Anonymous said...

http://davidonformosa.posterous.com/is-taiwans-press-freedom-slip-sliding-away

Rumor has it that the press story was pulled by the GIO minister.