In a new report, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush says that until China is prepared to address Taiwan’s sense of vulnerability in a serious manner, the US has “every reason to sell arms to Taiwan” and Beijing has no reason to complain.
The report, published this week by the Brookings Institution in Washington, will add to already -considerable -congressional pressure on the White House to reconsider its decision not to sell F-16C/D aircraft to Taipei.
“If Beijing is serious about its goal of winning the hearts and minds of the Taiwan[ese] people, it may wish to reassess its own security strategy,” Bush said. “It will not win hearts and minds by creating the impression that intimidation is part of its policy repertoire. That will likely lose hearts and minds.”
“Instead, Beijing should take new steps to reassure Taiwan’s leaders and the Taiwanese public. Words are not enough, deeds are needed as well,” he added.
Bush, one of the most respected Taiwan policy experts in Washington, is director of the Brookings’ Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies.
“China’s military modernization is continuing, even though the atmosphere of cross-strait relations remains positive. As a result, Taiwan is becoming more vulnerable to PRC [People’s Republic of China] coercion in terms of capabilities and, perhaps, in intentions,” Bush said. “US arms sales to Taiwan are as justified as ever.”
After analyzing the US Department of Defense’s annual report on China’s military power Bush asked “Why has PLA [People’s Liberation Army] military modernization continued even though Taiwan independence — the primary motivation for the buildup — has receded as a serious threat and cross-strait tensions have declined?”
“Is Beijing afraid of a new DPP administration, whether that fear is justified or not? Or is it because Beijing wants to have the ability not just to deter what it fears — independence — but compel what it seeks, unification?” he said.
Quoting the Pentagon report, Bush said the share of modern systems within China’s inventory of planes, surface ships, submarines and air defense installations is steadily expanding.
At the same time, Beijing continues to build capabilities to “deter, delay, and deny” US intervention in the event of a conflict with Taiwan.
“Neither trend is good for Taiwan,” Bush said
He concluded that the continuing contradiction between the purportedly improving cross-strait political relationship and a military balance shifting rapidly in China’s favor should be a cause for concern, both in Taipei and Washington.
A reassessment of Taiwan’s defense strategy may soon be in order, Bush said.
“More than anything, Taiwan needs to forge a better consensus on how to meet the Chinese military challenge,” he added.