Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China's threats never end

China is once again putting its military might on display in order to threaten Taiwan. Hong Kong media outlets reported Tuesday that China would hold military exercises on Dongshan Island off Fujian Province. According to the reports, the exercises would involve large numbers of personnel, aircraft and submarines.

The purpose of making threats is to frighten one's opponent and in so doing to hijack that opponent's freedom to think and act. As long as no attack actually materializes, the threat of attack always remains. Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) cut to the chase concerning China's antics when he said: "A dog that bites doesn't bark, so if you want a fight, get on with it."

Lee, in his straightforward way, revealed what lies at the heart of China's military threats. China doesn't have to attack; by making occasional threats, it can always frighten some Taiwanese, ensuring that they don't dare contravene China's wishes.

But given the sensitivity and fragility of the international economic environment, China does not really need to invade Taiwan. It can hurt Taiwan more than enough by test-firing the occasional missile and complicating Taiwan's international relations -- for this is sufficient to cause investors to pull out of Taiwan, the stock market to crash, Taiwanese society to be disrupted and people to leave the country.

Since China stopped shelling Kinmen in the 1970s, Chinese threats have caused Taiwan's economic and political reform to make progress very slowly. Only US promises of military assistance have been able to relax the political and economic situation in Taiwan.

But China's threat-making has been constant, though new pretexts are sometimes provided for it. During the Lee era, China threatened Taiwan time and again, calling Lee a traitor and saying that he would be swept into the dustbin of history. Now that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has taken over, China is continuing its threats, saying that Chen is promoting Taiwan's independence, while itself organizing military exercises of various kinds.

We don't know if the Chinese people should be proud or sorry that China, a country claiming to have a glorious 5,000 year-old culture, has become the nightmare of Taiwan, a country sharing its culture.

In short, it is difficult to reason with China's leaders -- so Taiwan must help itself.

Only by improving its military preparedness will Taiwan have any bargaining chips in cross-strait negotiations. Only by tightening military exchanges with the US and Japan and upgrading the nation's military hardware will Taiwan gain an effective deterrent against rash Chinese action.

China's military expenditures have increased over the years while those of Taiwan have gradually declined. To improve that nation's anti-missile equipment and strengthen its naval capability, yesterday the Cabinet finally proposed a NT$610.8 billion (US$17.9 billion) special budget to buy modern weapons from the US. Cabinet spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) called on all political parties to support the budget plan when legislators review it.

Security across the Taiwan Strait is crucial not only to the development of Taiwan's politics and economy but also to regional peace in Asia. Once disorder occurs in Taiwan, it may damage the political and economic stability of neighboring countries -- such as Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries. In particular, as China's political and economic power increases, its military expansion threatens the military balance in East Asia.

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