Taiwan should be prepared to do battle

By ParrisChang 張旭成  / 

Fri, Jan 12, 2018 - Page 8

At the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th National Congress last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) emphasized that the CCP would continue to insist on peaceful unification and “one country, two systems,” while pushing for peaceful development of cross-strait relations and “integrative unification.” However, whether unification should be achieved by peaceful or military means remains a controversial topic within the party.

Both the hawkish and far-left factions persist in pushing for unification by force, and military pressure on Taiwan continues to grow. The number of Chinese aircraft missions around Taiwan surged late last year, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army reportedly plans to deploy Su-35 fighter jets at the air base in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, posing a direct threat to Taiwan.

Is Xi unable to control the hawks?

No matter the answer, President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration must be prepared. As Sun Tzu’s Art of War states: “Rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our readiness to battle.”

In addition to the military threat, the CCP’s strategy of sowing disunity in Taiwan should not be underestimated.

Beijing’s routine trick is to co-opt and use the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the People First Party, the New Party and pro-unification groups to sow division in Taiwan and attack the Tsai administration.

The CCP also recruits traitors in Taiwan, buying out newspapers, TV stations and parties linked to gangs to form a pro-China camp.

Not long ago, prosecutors and investigators raided the homes of New Party spokesman Wang Ping-chung (王炳忠) and three other members. Some political commentators said the party is suspected of establishing a semi-military training unit for the CCP in preparation for war.

Chinese spies are active in Taiwan, penetrating important military intelligence agencies. Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director William Stanton once said that the leaking of confidential information damaged not only the nation’s defense, but also the US’ trust in Taiwan-US security cooperation.

Thus, the main task for Tsai’s national security team is to protect national secrets and be on the lookout for spies.

The US attaches importance to Taiwan’s significant strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region, and Washington briefed Taipei before US President Donald Trump released his first National Security Strategy report last month, reaffirming US commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.

In an address at last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the US Department of Defense “remains steadfastly committed to working with Taiwan and with its democratic government to provide in the defense articles necessary, consistent with the obligations set out in our Taiwan Relations Act.”

Tsai has repeatedly said that Taiwan is a reliable security partner to the US. When meeting with AIT Chairman James Moriarty on Dec. 11 last year, she stressed that Taiwan is a “natural stakeholder” in the “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy. In response, Beijing is expected to stop Taiwan from expanding its international space and creating new opportunities for strategic cooperation.

The Tsai administration should not retreat due to worries about Beijing’s reaction. Its most urgent tasks are to reshuffle the administration and strengthen the national security team.

Meanwhile, the administration should engage in strategic dialogue with the US to find a way for Taiwan to play a better role in the promotion of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Parris Chang is president of the Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic, Strategic Studies, a former deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council and professor emeritus of political science at Pennsylvania State University.

Translated by Eddy Chang