Wed, Sep 28, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Book provides insight to Strait crisis

By June Teufel Dreyer

Taiwan’s hard-won democratic freedoms have been constrained under Chinese pressure, as indicated by the downgrading of the nation’s status by international rating agencies such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders.

Moreover, even as Ma has progressively reduced the size and capabilities of the Taiwanese military, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has continued to receive double-digit increases each year, much of which goes to enhancing its ability to invade Taiwan.

There has been no reduction in the 1,500 short-range missiles pointed at Taiwan.

It is, as Li points out, idle to say that the possibility of China invading Taiwan has been reduced by the Ma administration’s policies when the real reason for the reduction in tension is that they are slowly eroding the country’s sovereignty — essentially giving Taiwan to China in the guise of creating better cross-strait ties.

This might be acceptable were it to conform to the wishes of the population, but opinion survey after opinion survey indicates that this is not the case.

According to an April poll, 69.6 percent of respondents were opposed to the eventual unification of Taiwan and China, while only 15.7 percent favored it; 49.3 percent supported the ultimate independence of Taiwan with 34.7 demurring.

The apparent erosion of Washington’s support for the Taiwan Relations Act is dangerous not only to Taiwan, but to the US as well, Li says.

Taiwan lies astride important sea lanes that are critical to international commerce and of special importance to US allies such as Japan.

Were Taiwan’s territorial waters to become part of China’s, they would come uncomfortably close to Japan’s home islands.

If the US abandons its support for Taiwan, its allies will conclude that Washington would not protect them either, and would seek to ensure their security in other ways — such as an arms buildup or closer relationships with Beijing.

Li cites late US representative Gerald Solomon’s words that a nation that does not support its allies will have no allies.

In this sense, Taiwan’s security is ultimately the US’ security as well.

Make no mistake, Li says, China does not intend to stop with absorbing Taiwan: He cites former head of the US Pacific Command Admiral Keating’s testimony that, during a conversation with PLA officers, they repeatedly brought up the idea of US and China co-managing the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii as the line of demarcation.

Note that this would limit the US to areas already part of its territory, whereas China’s sphere would be increased by tens of thousands of kilometers.

Li urges the million-strong Taiwanese community in the US to explain Taiwan’s domestic politics and Chinese statecraft to their policymakers so they may choose courses of action that would truly serve the US’ interest in bolstering the young democracies in Asia, while at the same time ensuring the security of the US homeland.

June Teufel Dreyer is a political science professor at the University of Miami, Florida.

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