Mon, Jul 21, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan cannot play off China, US

By Chen Hsin-Chih 陳欣之

Admiral Timothy Keating, the commander of the US Pacific Command, said in Washington that “it is very, very, very unlikely that there will be conflict across the Strait” in light of the current cross-strait situation. This explains why there have been no significant arms sales from the US to Taiwan recently. The reconciliation between Taiwan and China after President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government came to power has not only affected the relations between Taiwan, China and the US, but has also made the strategic intentions of Beijing and Washington much clearer.

The possibility of a war between China and the US in the short-term because of the “Taiwan factor” has dropped dramatically. Washington will have time to rest and recuperate, and Beijing will be able to concentrate on its various internal conflicts, laying a foundation for its rise as the new hegemony. Possible points of conflict between the US and China are more likely to be issues such as international trade, human rights and global responsibility.

First, the easing of tensions between Taiwan and China also helps relieve tensions between the US and China, allowing Washington to employ a flexible China policy in the face of Beijing’s “peaceful rise.” After the normalization of China-US relations in 1979, to maintain both the trust of its allies and its dominant role in Southeast Asia, the US had been forced on several occasions to interfere with China’s attempt to claim Taiwan by force. Still, each US administration has tried hard to avoid a war, as such military interference would affect the economic and financial relations between the US and China. The US also tried to avoid triggering another “cold war” by using military force to defend Taiwan.

Therefore, the recent reconciliation between China and Taiwan is beneficial to the US and also highlights the significance that business will play in relations between China and the US.

Second, the US’ leading international position has been challenged around the world in recent years. China’s participation will be indispensable in the US’ attempts at using multilateral adjustment to reform the balance of international power. The US is skilled at using various international systems and Beijing will be a force in helping Washington revive itself.

For example, the US was able to eventually resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis thanks to China. Beijing also assisted in the US handling of Sudan’s Darfur conflict. It would thus be a great loss for the US to sacrifice its chances of further cooperation with China just for Taiwan. In essence, cross-strait reconciliation will lower the US’ political and military costs for stabilizing today’s global situation.

Third, if China changes the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait by using military force, it is likely to destroy any opportunity it has of rising in power. But if China handles the issue peacefully, it will build a new path for itself to become a hegemony. The warming relations between Taiwan and China eliminate the possibility of a direct conflict between China and the US. As a result, China does not have to lose the results of its reform over the past three decades and can improve its international image in the process. All China has to do is wait for a suitable time to replace the US as the world’s leading superpower.

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