Although Taiwan does not have diplomatic relations with the US, there are provisions for the sale of military equipment to Taipei in the Taiwan Relations Act. Despite these provisions, Ma remains opposed to buying them, just as when he boycotted the military procurement budget while in opposition, and is quite content to watch as the balance of military power in the Taiwan Strait tips in favor of China.
It is not out of ignorance or neglect that Ma has allowed China to mount ever more military intimidation against Taiwan; he is deliberately engineering a situation in which Taiwan’s armed forces are left helpless in the face of China’s burgeoning military might by introducing the all-volunteer system and allowing military discipline to go to the dogs, which will see Taiwan routed should any conflict break out. The hollowing out identified by the CRS report is a deliberate policy of Ma’s and with his “no military action” policy is the best way to fulfill his commitment to “no independence.”
There is another level on which the hollowing out of the military is occurring. Retired generals, as soon as they leave the forces, travel to China and hobnob with senior military figures there, adding to this idea that “the militaries of the ROC and People’s Republic of China [PRC] both belong to China’s army.” Active-duty officers hold back from expressing their true feelings because of their positions and will hightail it over to China the minute they retire. They shuttle back and forth across the Taiwan Strait, coming back to support Ma in major elections, and Ma in turn relies on them to promote unification. Who knows, Ma himself will probably do the same when he leaves office.
The CRS report is hardly news. For more than five years Ma has been working to hollow out the military. Even Taiwan’s sovereignty is about to be sold out with the service trade pact. The question is, what is the US’ approach? Is it happy to see Taiwan embark upon this road to annexation by China, and to stand by as China absorbs a democratic nation in its quest for dominance in the Asia-Pacific region? Of course, we could ask the same question to 23 million Taiwanese.
Translated by Paul Cooper