Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Year of decision for US and China

By Joseph Bosco

Of the many foreign-policy challenges confronting US President Donald Trump this year, ensuring the democratic security of Taiwan might prove as daunting — and as dangerous — as resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis.

That is because by the end of last year, the US’ commitment to Taiwan was put under a partial cloud after a series of calculated moves by China — and an ill-considered one by Washington.

First, China’s financial pressures have increased Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation:

It continues to be effective in excluding Taiwan from international organizations, where it is uniquely qualified to make significant contributions, such as the WHO. It also succeeded in bribing three other economically stressed countries to sever diplomatic ties with Taipei, advancing China’s goal of delegitimizing Taiwan as a political entity.

The US was unable to head off adverse decisions by the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso and El Salvador, but it has imposed diplomatic penalties, hoping to forestall further erosion among the remaining states recognizing Taiwan.

Second, China’s interference in Taiwan’s democracy:

Leading up to Taiwan’s municipal elections and referendums in November, Beijing conducted a vigorous campaign of disinformation to oppose the candidates and positions proposed by the party of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Beijing’s anti-unification nemesis. It is not clear whether China’s efforts directly caused the results that seriously damaged Taiwan’s political fortunes and those of the Democratic Progressive Party.

However, the perception of effective Chinese election interference has sown considerable disarray and confusion in Taiwan’s body politic and encouraged the Chinese Communist Party to meddle even more vigorously in Taiwan’s presidential election next year. It is conceivable that its illegal electoral manipulation could result in a government in Taipei more favorable to Beijing and much cooler to close US-Taiwan relations, positions opposed by a majority of Taiwanese. Such an outcome could lead to civil unrest, which China’s “Anti-Secession” Law lists as one of the conditions justifying military action.

Third, China’s expanded military threats against Taiwan:

Throughout last year, Beijing conducted a range of provocative naval and air operations simulating attacks on Taiwan that were clearly intended to signal preparation for the real thing. These were accompanied by orchestrated public statements calling on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be ready for actual combat across the Taiwan Strait.

Fourth, China’s renewed direct threat against the US:

Every decade or so, a leading Chinese official or military officer makes a chillingly barbaric statement warning the US of the dire consequences of intervening in a Taiwan-China conflict.

In December 1995, after China fired missiles toward Taiwan and the US sent a carrier task force through the Taiwan Strait, PLA General Xiong Guangkai (熊光楷) bluntly warned visiting former US officials: “You care more about Los Angeles than Taiwan.”

In 2005, General Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎) upped the ante, stating that a US defense of Taiwan would imperil “hundreds of American cities.”

Last month, in the latest threat of mass killings emanating from Beijing, Rear Admiral Luo Yuan (羅援) said the PLA Navy was prepared to sink US aircraft carriers operating in the East and South China seas and presumably the Taiwan Strait.

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