Mon, Jan 02, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Beware unfulfilled expectations

By Joseph Bosco

That would probably be true if the US’ own intentions regarding the defense of Taiwan were clear, particularly to Beijing. Instead, Washington adheres to the doctrine of “strategic ambiguity,” which tells China that there are some “circumstances” under which a Chinese attack on Taiwan would be allowed to succeed.

In reality, Americans and the US Congress would never tolerate such an outcome and any administration of either party would vigorously defend Taiwan. However, do the Chinese understand that or are they willing to gamble on US acquiescence as North Korea mistakenly did when it attacked South Korea in 1950?

It does not enhance US deterrent credibility when any administration essentially endorses Beijing’s view of how Taiwan’s elections should turn out, as both the administrations of Bush and US President Barack Obama have done. There is clear present evidence of Washington’s preference for Ma’s re-election.

However, the assumption underlying that bias might be unfounded and even dangerous because Beijing’s expectations for a second Ma administration would surely be higher than for a government under Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — and greater than Ma’s ability to deliver the kinds of political concessions China wants. Chinese disappointment and anger at a suddenly non-cooperative Ma could trigger precisely the hostile reaction Washington seeks to avoid.

As Confucius (孔子) might have said, be careful what you wish for.

Joseph Bosco served in the office of the US secretary of defense as a China country desk officer in 2005 and 2006. He previously taught China-Taiwan-US relations at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is presently a national security consultant.

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