Tue, Sep 14, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan needs weapons for safety

By Bill Chang and Lee Wen-Chung 張國城, 李文忠

A report on China's military strength was recently submitted to the legislature by the Ministry of National Defense. As this is a crucial time for cross-strait relations, this report deserves our attention.

Regarding the date of a possible invasion, the report said that prior to 2008, China is likely to use a strategy of military intimidation against Taiwan. After 2008, if there is no upgrading of Taiwan's military strength and a significant imbalance develops, then China is likely to adopt a strategy of de-stroying Taiwan's infrastructure followed by an invasion.

But as far as we can understand, the cause of any conflict in the Taiwan Strait would depend on China's willingness and ability to conduct such a war. As regards its willingness to initiate such a conflict, this is clearly not in accord with China's long-term advantage, nor its goals.

Everyone knows that the goals of China's national development are to maintain a peaceful and stable environment that will allow its economy to continue growing. This is to China's advantage. In this situation, unless Taiwan crosses the "red line," it is highly unlikely that Beijing will initiate a conflict. We have some comments to make regarding the numerous "red lines" that the ministry has adumbrated, which could spark a conflict.

The "red line" encompasses the following conditions: Taiwan declares independence or uses any other method to cut itself off from China; that a foreign power becomes involved; Taiwan rejects negotiations over a long period of time; Taiwan experiences civil unrest; Taiwan develops nuclear weapons capability, makes constitutional amendments pertaining to independence, territorial claims or national status.

A declaration of war is a grave step for a nation and it is unlikely that the Chinese leaders have listed so many specific conditions for going to war, making the world, and even party insiders, wonder why, given these conditions, it has not already gone to war. To do this would simply be to disrupt its own decision-making mechanism.

For example, looking at the condition that a foreign power becomes involved" or that Taiwan rejects negotiations over a long period of time we might well ask what is meant by "involved" and how long is a "long period of time." Involvement of a foreign power was a condition repeatedly emphasized by Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) in the 1980s. At that time, close Sino-US relations caused a cooling in relations between the US and Taiwan, but even though China had little reason for anxiety that the US would become involved in Taiwan it still established this condition as a guarantee.

The current intimacy of the US-Taiwan relationship would quite clearly transgress the 1980s definition of "involvement," so if we regard this as one of China's red lines, then clearly China's leaders have lost the initiative.

As far as ability goes, we believe that China's military would seek to meet three conditions before it initiated a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. First, it would require the ability to swiftly defeat and immobilize Taiwanese forces. Second, it would require a quick victory to prevent complications from changes in domestic and international circumstances and also to control the cost of the conflict. Third, it would require the means to intimidate the US to keep it from becoming involved.

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