Obama administration officials’ preference for a Ma victory is also a consequence of their hope to avoid introducing additional contentious issues to the increasingly complicated US-China agenda. Bilateral tensions have run high in recent years over a long list of issues, including North Korea, South China Sea, China’s military modernization, and China’s currency valuation and trade practices. US arms sales to Taiwan in January 2010 and September 2011 infuriated the Chinese and soured US-China relations as well, but the impact was relatively confined and short lived compared to the likely Chinese reaction to the return of the DPP to power. Past experience demonstrates that when Chinese fears of Taiwan independence spike, other issues are crowded out in US-Chinese consultations, making compromises and solving problems even more difficult than usual.She goes to argue that "in the absence of policy steps by Taiwan that damage American interest in the maintenance of cross-Strait peace and stability" relations will go well. The basic problem here is that Taiwan is not in control of stability in the Taiwan Strait, China is. It is China that determines the level of tension between Taipei and Beijing, which -- as I have noted a million times before -- is a policy choice whose purpose is to affect US policy in its favor. No matter what "policy choices" Taiwan makes, China can simply react negatively in an attempt bring down US pressure on Tsai -- it is a key policy goal of Beijing to transfer tensions between Beijing and Washington to the US-Taiwan relationship. Hopefully American policymakers will learn to recognize this dysfunctional political response and act accordingly.
Two other aspects of US policy are highlighted in Glaser's piece. The first that the US-China relation is in the tank and that this has nothing to do with what Taiwan has done. US-China relations have deteriorated despite having Ma in power and will continue to decline, so it is hard to see why the US is so sold on him.
The second is one I have also alluded to, the way Taiwan is treated in isolation from other East Asia issues. Analysts writing about it invariably ignore Japan and the South China Sea. This means that the Administration is essentially pursuing the contradictory policies of telling Taiwan to shush while quietly moving to shore up allies elsewhere in Asia, most recently with the addition of a paltry couple thousand marines to Australia and the announcement that the US is considering basing ships in Singapore.... remember this pic? (I just updated it).
I should add that Glaser also puts her finger on an important psychological strategic function of the Taiwan issue: "when Chinese fears of Taiwan independence spike, other issues are crowded out in US-Chinese consultations" -- Taiwan fixates Chinese minds.
In a separate article the Taipei Times also reported that several US Congressmen are writing letters to the Administration warning it not to take sides in the upcoming election.
There is a growing chorus of protest against perceived efforts by members of US President Barack Obama’s administration to interfere in Taiwanese elections by boosting President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is seeking re-election on Jan. 14.Glaser's piece was in response to one of the recent policy moves -- sending a minor cabinet official to visit and announcing the possibility of a visa waiver for Taiwan. The announcement of the visa waiver was seized upon by the KMT as tantamount to the US certificate of approval for Ma Ying-jeou, who has been trumpeting himself as the US choice.
The visa waiver campaign -- that idea originated with the pro-Taiwan side, of course.
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