Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sun Bin on the Arms Purchase

Asiapundit led me to Sun Bin's post on the Taiwan Arms Purchase:

If Taiwan really wants to buy the "bus ticket", the best way to do it is to create a budget explicitly, to either pay US directly or donate to US causes (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, TMD). When a government (or a corporation) spends on something under the name of something else, the logic will be muddled, the objective will not be achieved in an efficient way and it opens up the opportunity for corruption (The same amount of money will be much more efficiently used if outsourced to US military, rather than paying the defense contractors)

This inadvertantly identifies one big reason the KMT opposes the weapons proposal: if the DPP does the job, the opportunities for the KMT to spread the graft around its cronies fall dramatically. Last month the KMT floated a trial balloon for a new position on the weapons sales, arguing that the DPP was too incompetent to handle them, rather than that they were not needed. My expectation is that when the Presidency returns to the KMT they will turn around and approve the package immediately. The utter lack of concrete alternative proposals from the KMT, and flexibility on reasons for rejecting that weapons purchase, suggests that the real problems are that (a) the KMT is serving the interests of Beijing rather than Taiwan (b) it is not interested in defending Taiwan at all and (c) it is peeved about not getting any graft out of this purchase.

Sun Bin takes a very optimistic view of China's future:

Whatever objective Taiwan's leaders want to pursue, be it Ma's unification, or Chen Shuibian's independence, all they need to do is to bide its time. Some years into the future, maybe as long as 20-30 years, or as short as 5-10 years, China will be more open or even become a democracy, by then no one can stop Taiwanese people making their own decision.

My own experience with Chinese of all political stripes is that few support Taiwan independence, and I think democracy will do little to change that. Nationalism does not disappear when nations become democratic -- ask Goans about India, for example. And then there is America, where nationalism is practically the second religion after Christianity.

Further, I see no reason why China could not pursue a war against Taiwan. Imagine a successful and growing Chinese state, where the economy is doing well and people are fat and happy. That is not a recipe for peace, but for expansion -- see history of US after WWII, Britain during Victorian period, etc. Imperialism is one way wealthy nations express themselves, especially as its costs fall mostly on the poor classes who furnish the cannon fodder, and the faraway victims an ocean or a strait distant. It would not be difficult for a saavy and unscrupulous government to foist a war to annex Taiwan on a complacent and relatively wealthy Chinese populace -- just look at the way the Bush Administration manipulated the US public into attacking a prostrate nation that was no threat to the US. There is no support from anywhere in history for the belief that democracy is going to mellow China. Quite the opposite!

Sun Bin notes that option 2 of the two he outlines for Taiwan is:

Quietly maintain the status quo, do whatever it like of self rule, even preach democracy to the mainland, just don't declare independence. There will not be a war, and hence no need to get into an arms race. From CCP's perspective, their focus is on economic development. The last thing they want to see is a war, or even an arms race.

This is the conventional wisdom: China is so busy growing it doesn't want a war. Hogwash. Just yesterday the Chinese navy cruised past oil platforms in waters claimed by Japan. If China does not want conflict to interfere with its economic expansion, why is it busy provoking a cold war with Japan, pushing Japan closer to Taiwan and the US? The CW is wrong -- economic expansion is not a goal of the CCP, but a means of the CCP, a means to greater power projection. One could argue just the opposite -- that when economy has expanded sufficiently to support a war, Taiwan will be swallowed.

As for Sun Bin's final claim, that the CCP doesn't want an arms race -- well, that's half true. It doesn't want anyone racing it as it expands and modernizes its military, particularly its would certainly be much easier to annex Taiwan if the island did not engage in an arms race with it! Hopefully we'll see Taiwan procure the arms and secure the international support it needs to deter Chinese aggression against the island.


Related news items appearing in the local newspapers today (from Taipei Times and Taiwan News): The US urges Taiwan to increase its defense budget, and the KMT stalls the arms package for the 28th time.

UPDATE: 9/18 MZT takes apart Sun Bin as well.

It is only natural that a state keep as potent a military force as it can reasonably afford. Taiwan needs these weapons. The Greens don't need them. The Blues don't need them. Taiwan needs them. To deny the country the weapons it needs to defend itself and bargain, in order to further your party's political bickering is petty and dangerous.

Great job, MZT!


Sun Bin said...

Thanks for your follow up. My personal opinion is not entirely against any arms procurement. I just believed the amount could have been smaller and the money could have been spent more wisely. On top of that, one needs to think about the strategic objective before making such decision. DPP (and KMT in the past and present) did not seem to have thought it through.

You may be right in that KMT might turn the table if they are in charge (especially judging on their track record). That is why I believe a bus ticket, if there is, should be treated on its own.

We may disagree on the "CW". But you have not been fair on China in the Japan matter, in calling it "provokes a cold war" with Japan. It takes two to provoke each other. In particular, it is inaccurate to claim that "the Chinese navy cruised past oil platforms in waters claimed by Japan". The source (Taipei Time) you quoted said "The ships were seen just on China's side of what Japan considers the dividing line in the sea. China does not recognize the line." see also's map.

I don't know what the international laws say about disputed water. Chinese ships certainly didn't sail into the disputed water (it's plane might have, but airspace is ruled by a different rule, if you remember the EP-3 incidence in 4/2001). But Japanese ships did.

Cheers :)

Michael Turton said...

In particular, it is inaccurate to claim that "the Chinese navy cruised past oil platforms in waters claimed by Japan". The source (Taipei Time) you quoted said "The ships were seen just on China's side of what Japan considers the dividing line in the sea. China does not recognize the line." see also's map

Actually, I was trying to be balanced and ended up ambiguous because of the English -- I meant the platforms, not the Chinese ships, were in waters claimed by Japan. Sorry!

I just believed the amount could have been smaller and the money could have been spent more wisely.

So do I, as I argued with MeiZhongTai a couple of months ago -- 400-600 more combat aircraft, not subs, are what Taiwan needs, as well as investments in ammo, training, and spare parts.

And Sun Bin, there was no growing Cold War with Japan until China began whipping up domestic hatred of Japan, and began a pattern of regional expansion. Japan was not expanding into places where it doesn't belong. Quite the opposite. That remark I stand by.


Sun Bin said...


In pekingduck's chart, even the platform is in undisputed china EEZ. The controversy that japan raises, is that oil/gas are fluid, if you extract on your side of the water, then my gas/oil will flow into your side. (like we both sip with straws on the same bowl of soup) Therefore, international practice is to negotiate. This is the same accusation Saddam Hussein used on Kuwait (that Kuwait is depleting Iraqi oil field as they share the same field). Arguably it could have been a valid argument, if the disputed water is UNDISPUTED. (China claims the whole field belongs to China)

As to who owns the disputed water. Well, disputed water is, disputed. i would keep an open mind on who owns the EEZ between the red and yellow line in pekingduck's chart. :) Japan's claim is based on whether a piece of rock can be defined as an island. ..... while i respect your opinion :), I would appreciate if you could check out IHT on Okinotori and this, nothing conclusive, but a good introduction on the background.

Please also understand that everybody in Asia (except DPP), not just China, distrust Japan based on its track record.

Chinese government has been very restrained in the past, until this year. They actually suppress any voice regarding the Diaoyu issue (for other reasons). I believe the reason behind letting the steam out this year has to do with Japan's bid for UN Security Council Permanent seat. China wanted to give itself a reason to veto that.

Michael Turton said...

MZT strikes....