Threat of force has its place
While I think it’s admirable, indeed imperative, that people of all political persuasions in Taiwan work toward a common consensus with regard to Taiwan-China relations, strict neutrality is not the way forward (“Neutrality is Taiwan’s best option,” Oct. 6, page 8).
Far from perfect is the situation that Taiwan finds itself in when we talk about the “status quo” in cross-strait relations. The status quo, unfortunately, is the best that Taiwan has at this juncture. It’s the security dynamic between China, Taiwan and the US that has fostered Taiwan’s de facto independence over the years. This fluid relationship is also, for the moment, the best way to maintain it. Changing Taiwan’s Constitution to renounce the use of force would fundamentally change this dynamic and could lead to further regional instability.
China has in excess of 1,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. This statement isn’t meant to stir pro-independence fervor, but rather to state facts as they stand. Without a concrete agreement in which China also renounces the use of force against its smaller neighbor, a constitutional change would be reckless regardless of Taiwan’s progress toward self-determination.
In effect, Taiwan would be inviting China to press its strategic advantage while at the same time bringing into question — at least from a US perspective — whether Taiwan is serious in defending its sovereignty.
Add to all this a global reconfiguration that is quietly but inexorably playing itself out as we speak. The US is still the world’s largest economy, with all the political and military clout that accompanies this. But Washington is paying the price for a largely unregulated financial system, bad debt and military over-reach.
At the same time, China and Russia are finding themselves increasingly able to assert pressure internationally. Does anyone really believe that, as things stand, the US is in a good position to guarantee Taiwan’s security? Recent events in Georgia, where the US seemed absolutely powerless to intervene, were instructive.
The weakening of the US already has the potential to upset the status quo in the region. A unilateral renouncing of force without a concomitant and binding response from China invites further destabilization. Whatever the way forward is for Taiwan, the answer does not lie in blindly putting faith in China’s goodwill and its opaque plans for Taiwan.
In an article in the Weekly Standard on Thursday, defense analyst Thomas Skypek reported that the US government was finally waking up to the threat posed by China’s “full court press to establish influence and connections in Africa and Latin America.” Here, yet again, is another unintended consequence of the US State Department’s failed policy of pursuing “good relations” with China at any cost. Will the State Department ever learn from its mistakes?
If the US had been more supportive of Taiwan in the eight years before President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, it is almost certain that fewer allies of Taiwan in Latin America and Africa would have recognized China. That would mean a balance of influence in these parts of the world.
One thing is certain: Any ally of Taiwan would not be in the pocket of China.
But what would result if the US began encouraging Latin American or African countries to recognize Taiwan?