There is a gathering crisis in the Taiwan Strait. This is the message of a long-time, careful observer of cross-strait relations and its relevance to US security.
The book America’s Security and Taiwan’s Freedom by Li Thian-hok (李天福) — a compilation of speeches, op-eds and journal articles, many of which have been published in distinguished journals — is both a labor of love and a cry of warning on the part of the author.
It is fitting that the author, a distinguished son of Taiwan who also goes by Jay T. Loo, is based in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the US Constitution and home to the famed Liberty Bell.
Indeed, the book begins with an address at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act.
Among those in the audience were Taiwanese and Taiwanese-Americans who were about to begin a 222km trek to Capitol Hill to commemorate the anniversary and to call Washington’s attention to the looming crisis in the Strait.
This crisis, Li says, seems to have escaped the attention of much of Washington’s policymaking elite. Several events that occurred subsequent to the publication of the volume underscore his point.
Articles have appeared in publications read by many academics and policymakers advocating that the US reduce its support for Taiwan to improve its relations with China.
One well-regarded military analyst has even said that if China were to attack Taiwan, the US should hold back, observe the progress of the war and take its time in deciding whether to intervene.
The US is burdened by huge debts and a sluggish economy, with Beijing holding a substantial portion of those debts.
It is also embroiled in a financially draining and protracted war against terrorism.
Even the death of the iconic terrorist leader Osama bin Laden does not appear to have diminished the threat from Islamic militants.
Some commentaries have said the US would be unable to resolve any major international problem without China’s cooperation and reason that acceding to Beijing’s oft-repeated demand for unification would incline the Chinese leadership toward working with Washington to solve these problems.
Also worrisome are developments in Taiwan.
As the governing party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has pursued a policy of incremental capitulationism to China.
It has reduced both the size and the budget of the military, deepened the dependence of Taiwan’s economy on China’s through such arrangements as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), allowed Chinese investment in Taiwan’s real-estate market and encouraged tourism from China.
Some of the visitors may not be what they seem — the Taiwanese military and intelligence services have suffered from embarrassing breaches of security.
Although the KMT government defends these appeasement measures by saying they will reduce the threat to Taiwan and enhance the country’s international living space, this has not been the case.
China pressured the WHO to refer to Taiwan as a “province of China,” with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) failing to deal with the issue until the matter became public knowledge.
To calm a firestorm of criticism, he made a stern speech about safeguarding the country’s sovereignty — but, meanwhile, former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), visiting Beijing, apparently said nothing about the matter in his conversation with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).