On June 6, the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported that the US Department of Defense perceives both international terrorism and China's rapid military expansion as the "worst threats." This kind of message should set off alarm bells in Taiwan.
Since President Chen Shui-bian (
Although the "Taiwan question" is of strategic interests to both China and the US, invasion of US territory has never been an issue. But now that even Washington has sensed Beijing's threat, can Taipei continue to turn a blind eye to it?
Naturally, international relations must be conducted on the basis of goodwill, and Taiwan's goodwill to China reflects the basic logic underlying any civilized country's relations with other nations. But such goodwill must also be based on the premise of promoting the Taiwanese people's interests, not currying favor with China or undermining Taiwan's national strength. The supplicatory attitude that some Taiwanese politicians have shown to China to win its favor must stop.
Although China's military power has grown rapidly in recent years, the US' "revolution in military affairs" has not slowed down either. US defense spending has been increasing every year, indicating that the American's have no intention of falling behind in an arms race. In other words, the gap in military strength between China and the US has not been closed to any significant extent. The alarm raised by the US over China's militarization is not meant for its own people, but for China's neighbors.
In the post-Cold War era, cooperation between the US and Southeast Asian neighboring countries has increased, helping prevent any possible threats from China. This can be seen in the growing military cooperation between the US and Japan, Mongolia, and India. The only exception is South Korea, where the US has decreased the number of troops it deploys there. But the two countries nonetheless increased the exchange of advanced military technology -- and Seoul sent its troops to Iraq to support the US mission there.
Taiwan has repeatedly refused to purchase the necessary armaments from the US, while opposition leaders reject their utility and focus on acquiescence to China. This political change would convince any rational US leader that Washington's interests in both Taiwan and East Asia are being severely challenged.
The US will not forget what happened in the late years of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi's regime in Iran, who was deposed in an Islamic revolution in 1979. As the anti-US forces in that country grew, they finally took over the Iranian regime, and US interests in the country were rooted out overnight. Washington was in great trouble, despite the fact that the anti-US forces did not cooperate with the Soviet Union -- the US' strategic enemy at the time.
What if Taiwan, which shares a common language and ethnicity with China and enjoys great economic and military strength, became China's ally?
Since the US is unable to alter or shake the pro-China stance of certain Taiwanese politicians, highlighting Beijing's threat is a direct appeal to the Taiwanese people.
To surrender to China and disregard the nation's interests will only deepen US distrust of Taiwan. Such damage could be fatal. The Pentagon's harsh words regarding China's arms buildup are not just a warning to China, but also to Taiwan.
Bill Chang is a former deputy director of the Chinese Affairs Department of the Democratic Progressive Party.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG