During Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) recent state visit to the US, US President Barack Obama arranged both a state banquet and a private dinner for Hu. However, the editorials of the leading US media outlets were largely cold toward Hu.
An editorial published in the New York Times on Jan. 17 stated that: “State dinners and 21-gun salutes are ephemeral. What will earn China respect as a major power is if it behaves responsibly. That must be Mr. Obama’s fundamental message.”
Although Taiwan was not a key issue during the Hu-Obama talks, the two leaders allegedly mentioned that both sides of the Taiwan Strait oppose Taiwan’s independence and insist on the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) opposition to independence is understandable, but joint KMT and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) opposition is worrying. This is quite different from President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) pledge that Taiwan’s future is in the hand of the 23 million Taiwanese and theirs alone.
In the US-China joint statement, Washington said: “The US applauded the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement [ECFA] and looks forward to efforts by both sides [of the Strait] to increase dialogues and interactions in economic, political, and other fields.”
The US stance will to a certain extent restrict objections to the ECFA within Taiwan, but it also highlights the necessity for active monitoring.
China took over a number of US companies after the global financial crisis and Chinese investment in the US has grown rapidly to a total of US$12 billion. According to a US opinion poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, 61 percent of respondents see China’s economic boom as a threat to their jobs, while only 29 percent of them see it as an opportunity.
With even the US being cautious about, and on occasion restricting Chinese investment, it is even more important for Taiwan to keep a close eye on Chinese investments.
Earlier this month, as the KMT government prioritized cross-strait relations and the party’s supporters, benefiting from what Ma calls the “peace bonus,” bragged about turning tension into cooperation, China’s J-20 stealth fighter made its first-known test flight, while the Taiwanese military organized a disappointing air defense missile test featuring 19 missiles. This represents a severe challenge to national security.
To punish the Obama administration for selling arms to Taipei, Beijing froze Sino-US military exchanges for one year before finally agreeing to a visit by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The purpose was to deter Washington from selling advanced F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan. Tensions across the Strait may have eased, but China has not relaxed its efforts to cut US arms sales to Taiwan or block all US assistance.
During a joint press conference during Hu’s US visit, Obama said “the US has a fundamental interest in maintaining freedom of navigation” in East Asia, while two US journalists repeatedly challenged Hu on human rights issue.
In addition, the US Department of Defense has always paid close attention to China’s growing military strength, while developing the “air-sea battle” concept in response to China’s strategy to deny the US the ability to intervene in a conflict over Taiwan. Looking at the cautious US strategy and Taiwan’s poor missile test results, we must be alert to the dangers inherent in the term “peace bonus.”