Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 8 News List

The greatest danger we face today

By Chiou Chwei-liang邱垂亮

The NT$600 billion military purchase from the US has been badly handled and made to drag on for four years, causing much bickering and conflict. We see a situation in which the pan-blue alliance, which controls the legislature, resists President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at every opportunity, and the special budget for the purchase has not yet been passed.

When Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) led a delegation to the US recently to discuss the purchase with the Americans, it was given VIP treatment and received by the US deputy defense secretary who explained the importance of the deal.

The US is anxious to push the deal through, but in Taiwan, some people, especially pro-unification elements, are simply holding things up. In all the controversy that this issue has given rise to, what is the real problem?

With the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, the legal basis for the concept of national sovereignty was established. No power existed above the nation-state, and the international community entered into a state of anarchy, so that nation-states were forced to increase their national strength, especially their military strength, to protect their own national interests. They used that military strength to grab resources and resolve international disputes.

For over 350 years, this realist expansion of power and warfare has constituted the mainstream in international political discourse, a discourse that holds that "war is not only inevitable, it is also necessary."

The world's strongest powers, the US, Russia, and China, of course believe in and implement the reality of power, relying on their military power to solve international disputes.

In today's world, small countries like Taiwan find themselves in a difficult situation. In addition, Taiwan's neighbor is totalitarian China, which sees Taiwan as a rebellious province and believes that annexation by military force is necessary because unification by peaceful means is unachievable. The Communist Chinese enemy is the biggest threat to Taiwan's democracy, and that is the reality of power we have to face up to.

There are people in Taiwan, especially pan-blue unificationists, who think differently. They do not see China as an enemy or a threat, and they even believe that Taiwan and China will one day be united. Nor do they see the US as an ally that truly wants to help Taiwan based on the universal values of liberal democracy and assist in the defense of Taiwan. These people believe that Taiwan, for security reasons, should keep both China (the enemy) and the US (an ally) at an equal distance.

This is the issue that lies at the center of Taiwan's national identity crisis. The attitude was reflected in a column in the June 27 edition of the New York Times, where an anonymous Taiwanese professor was reported as saying that "The US won't sacrifice one single soldier for the sake of Taiwan independence, but 90 percent of the Taiwanese people believe they will, and are therefore encouraging Chen and Taiwan independence advocates to push for Taiwan independence."

But looking at the US, there are many people, including many Bush administration officials, who firmly believe the China threat is real. There is also the Taiwan Relations Act, which clearly stipulates that the US shall assist in the defense of Taiwan, not only through the obligation to sell advanced arms, but also through the responsibility of sending troops to defend Taiwan. It is this difference in the understanding of the China threat that lies at the center of the arms purchase conflict.

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