Although the Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development came to a close last week, the debate on Taiwan's China-leaning economic policies continues. It remains to be seen what conclusions Taiwan's policy-makers will come to. However, the Israeli-Lebanese conflict currently in the international spotlight may give Taiwan food for thought.
Since heavy clashes broke out between Israel and Hezbollah last month, Hezbollah has fired more than 1,500 short-range missiles into Israel and blasted an Israeli warship with a cruise missile, killing four sailors.
How did Hezbollah acquire such a massive amount of short-range ballistic and cruise missiles? Daniel Henninger, a dep-uty editor at the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote that Israel has realized that these arms are coming from China. Beijing exported missile technology to Iran, who then provided Hezbollah with the missiles. Even more painful for Israel, many of these missile technologies were provided by Israel when it was developing the Sino-Israeli relationship. It seems that Israel has shot itself in the foot.
Besides the US, Israel has over the past few years been actively strengthening relations with China and India in the pursuit of three objectives: raising its foreign exchange earnings through arms sales, breaking through the diplomatic and military pressure of the Arab world, and dealing with Islamic extremism.
Richard Fisher, a US defense expert and vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a Washington-based think tank, recently wrote that Israel's assessment is incorrect, for it has failed to understand the fundamental differences between India and China.
India is a democracy restricted by regular elections and the freedom of speech and the press, which forces it to operate within international norms. China, on the other hand, is a dictatorship whose diplomatic strategy is to challenge the US and the existing world order. Beijing's arms sales to North Korea, Pakistan and Iran follow clear strategic objectives. It wants to create a military balance to restrict the US-Japan military alliance, thus decreasing the strategic pressure on Beijing by leaving the US and Japan no time to deal with other issues.
It wants to export nuclear technology to Pakistan to balance India's military power thus pre-empting the strategic possibility of a two-pronged attack from India and Japan; and it wants to transfer missile technologies to Iran to arm Hezbollah, Hamas and other such organizations to create disturbances in the Middle East, thereby containing US forces and reducing the capacity to defend Taiwan.
In the past, Tel Aviv proposed selling Beijing an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft but had to cancel the sale due to US opposition. Today, Israel is suffering from its efforts to assist China with its military development.
Many concerned countries have adopted measures to deal with China's rapid military rise and arms exports: India's military expenditure has grown at double digit rates in recent years; Henninger said in his article that Japan could assemble several nuclear devices within 30 days; and earlier this year, French President Jacques Chirac threatened a nuclear strike to deter terrorist attacks on France.
While nations all over the globe stop at nothing to protect their national security, Taiwan is still unable to pass the arms procurement budget in the legislature. Instead, it is pouring money into China, which is tantamount to helping Beijing develop more missiles to aim at Taiwan. I wonder if Taiwan is going to follow in the footsteps of Israel and shoot itself in the foot.