Sun, Mar 10, 2019 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Taiwan and the US’ China strategy

On Wednesday, it was announced that Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has been invited to address a conference in Los Angeles tomorrow on Taiwan’s role in the US-led Indo-Pacific strategy.

The conference is being organized by the non-profit, non-partisan Los Angeles World Affairs Council, which hosts major figures that have included US presidents and heads of state for talks on global issues.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Indo-Pacific strategy on July 30 last year as part of Washington’s efforts to contain growing Chinese influence in the region. Although the wording of the strategy does not specifically indicate what actions the US plans, it appears to be focused on developing and maintaining its economic interests in Asia by playing a role in regional security and stability.

An article published on the Forbes Web site on Nov. 26 last year said that half of the world’s GDP is expected to come from Asian economies within the next few decades and the US must learn how to optimize its policies in the region in the face of various challenges.

Most of the challenges the US faces in Asia come from political and economic systems that differ greatly from its own, the article said, citing 40 percent state ownership of GDP in China and Vietnam, and economic inequality, lack of transparency, overbearing monopolies and rampant corruption throughout the region.

The growth of privately owned enterprises in these nations could help eradicate these challenges while benefiting the world economy, but that would be unlikely if China’s influence grows too strong, it said. The US wants to be more involved, but is cautious, as it fears that pushing democratization and economic liberalization too hard would only push countries into China’s fold.

This is where Taiwan can play a role. The nation has long been interested in economic cooperation with ASEAN, and is aware of the political and infrastructural challenges. It also has a sizable population of Southeast Asian immigrants, and is engaging the languages and cultures of the region as part of its New Southbound Policy.

Taiwan-based think tank the Prospect Foundation said in a Jan. 22 report that the nation must work with the US on its regional strategy, and should seek to enhance diplomatic, defense and economic cooperation with Washington via its Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which lays out the US’ continued commitments toward Taiwan.

The report also described the importance of the nation’s continued presence in Southeast Asia as part of efforts to widen its international space. These goals are complementary, as Taiwan’s advances through economic and soft power means in South and Southeast Asia would also benefit the US.

A report on CNN on Thursday that Singapore plans to buy F-35B jets is welcome news for the US, as it means that Washington will continue to have the nation’s strong support in maintaining regional stability. China’s militarization of the South China Sea threatens to challenge the free flow of cargo ships that carry much of the world’s consumer goods, so a network of US-friendly stealth fighters would be an important tool to counter the Chinese military threat.

Taiwan has begun its own upgrades to build a fleet of F-16Vs, which would be able to network with the F-35Bs.

Containment of China must balance friendliness with caution. Taiwan — more than any other nation — is aware of this. Taipei will grow increasingly important to the US as a strategic partner.

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