Thu, Jul 25, 2019 - Page 8 News List

US-China ties and Taiwan safety

By Tu Ho-ting 杜和庭

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, then-Republican candidate Donald Trump repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the way that the US government dealt with China, especially in trade, and vowed to change this disadvantageous situation if he won.

Many foreign policy experts warned that the tycoon’s remarks revealed how shallow his global views were and his unfamiliarity with the complex and highly interdependent relations between the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 economies.

More than two years since Trump’s inauguration, there are still experts who believe that his “maximum pressure” toward China will damage the US’ long-term interests.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Trump’s attitude toward China and the ever-changing global structure are largely in line with the US governments of the past two decades, which tried to shape the world order to meet their interests — but with a firmer stance.

During his first term, then-US president George W. Bush, well aware of a rising China that posed a serious threat to the peace and stability of the west Pacific, in 2001 referred to China as a “strategic competitor.”

Bush highly valued the importance of Taiwan’s strategic position. In a television interview, he said that the US would do “whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself” in the event of an attack by China.

However, the US was forced to change its security priorities after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, focusing its attention on the “war on terror” in the following years, which consumed substantial national resources.

At the same time, China accelerated its military buildup in line with its rapid economic development.

Faced with China’s increasing ambition to challenge the US-led liberal international order, former US president Barack Obama’s administration adopted “pivot to Asia” and later “Asia rebalance” strategies, seeking closer cooperation with regional allies and strengthening military deployments in Asia-Pacific region.

When he was preparing to run for US president in 1967, Richard Nixon wrote: “The world cannot be safe until China changes.”

After becoming the president in 1969 and opening the door to China in 1972, Nixon and succeeding US administrations believed that US engagement with Beijing, including introducing and integrating China into the international community and helping its economic development, would encourage it to reform politically and become an open society.

This has proved to be wishful thinking and totally wrong.

A richer, more powerful, modern China has become less tolerant; more hostile to dissents, minority groups and the press; and more aggressive toward its neighbors.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), after grabbing absolute power last year by repealing presidential term limits, has become the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong (毛澤東).

Motivated by China’s economic leverage, Xi called on the nation to become “a global leader in terms of comprehensive national strength and international influence” by the mid-century and touts China’s development model as a “new option for other countries.” In short, it is what he called the “China dream.”

However, China did not become an ambitious and assertive nation only in recent years; its transformation was the product of a long-term, stealthy plan.

As Michael Pillsbury, a top China expert in the US government, wrote in his book The Hundred-Year Marathon: “I discovered proposals by Chinese hawks to the Chinese leadership to mislead and manipulate American policymakers to obtain intelligence and military, technological and economic assistance... Then China will set up a world order that will be fair to China, a world without American global supremacy, and revise the US-dominated economic and geological world order.”

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