The apartment where I live in Chiayi City is just a few kilometers away from one of the country’s Air Force bases, where with F-16s practice take-offs and landings seven days a week, flying high and swift above the Chianan Plain with an ear-piercing roar. I don’t mind the sound of the fighter jets taking off early in the morning or even late at night, because I know that Taiwan’s Air Force plays a vital role in the defense of the nation.
These thoughts came to mind after reading an article by J. Michael Cole (“China lobbying provokes freeze on US arms sales,” June 30, page 1) that noted in a subhead that “while the risks of retaliation from Beijing remains ambiguous, the US is taking them seriously and as a consequence sales of arms have been frozen.”
Cole wrote that the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council had confirmed a recent report in a US-based defense magazine that the State Department has frozen congressional notifications for new arms sales to Taiwan “until at least spring next year.”
The suspension is the direct result of “effective lobbying by Beijing,” Cole said.
Now Taiwan and China have signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) things might be looking up, as some economists say or things might spiral downward, as other pundits opine. I’m not an economist or a pundit, but I am hoping for the best, come what may.
Nevertheless, whenever I hear the F-16s in Chiayi whizzing by in the skies above my home, sometimes a single plane set against the blue sky, but on occasions two, three or even four planes flying together, I think to myself: “God forbid a war should ever break out between Taiwan and China.”
I hope the ECFA leads to peace across the Taiwan Strait and not to you know what.
Some people think there could be a war someday between Taiwan and China, and that Taiwan is unprepared and ill-equipped.
Wendell Minnick, writing for Jane’s Defence Weekly several years ago, said that, in his opinion as a military analyst, “Taiwan’s air force has enough munitions to last only for two days in a war with China.”
Minnick went even further in his observations, suggesting that if Taiwan remained unprepared and under-equipped, “in a war with China, China will rape Taiwan.”
I hope that the Air Force base in Chiayi will remain vigilant and ever alert and I hope that the governments of Taiwan and China will try to make peace someday, although I think that realistically we will have to wait for the future democratization of the People’s Republic of China and the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party before that ever happens.
In the meantime, on any given day in quiet, rural Chiayi, where large farms predominate and the landscape is dotted with silent temples and rice paddies, one can hear the roar of the F-16s taking off and flying overhead on regular practice runs.
The sound of the roaring jet engines is reassuring, because I know that the young men piloting these sleek, powerful planes are training to defend their homeland and keep us all safe.
Dan Bloom is a freelance writer in Taiwan.