Sat, Dec 14, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan remains source of China-US conflict: poll

LACK OF TRUST:Despite positive developments in cross-strait ties, experts still see potential for armed conflict between the two nations because of Taiwan

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Much smaller percentages of the US public said the same about advocating more freedom for Tibet (36 percent) and continuing to sell arms to Taiwan (21 percent).

US arms sales to Taiwan were regarded by a significant share (45 percent) of the Chinese public as a “very serious problem for China.” Ten percent of the US public said they had heard a lot about China-Taiwan relations, while a majority (54 percent) had heard a little and a third had heard nothing.

A strong majority of US elites favored US force if China were to attack Taiwan without the nation having made a unilateral declaration of independence, but a strong majority opposed the use of force if Taiwan were to make such a declaration.

More Chinese elites (61 percent) thought the US would use force to intervene against a Chinese attack on Taiwan without a unilateral declaration of independence than thought the US would do so if such a declaration were made (46 percent).

Chinese respondents viewed US arms sales to Taiwan as a much larger issue than Americans did.

“The Chinese saw it as a major impediment to US-China relations, whereas the Americans placed it very low on a list of bilateral priorities,” the survey said.

One American involved in the survey said arms sales continued because of pressure from the US military-industrial complex, a desire to prevent the US Congress from intervening too much in the matter, and a genuine effort to deter a military solution and maximize the possibility of a peaceful resolution to any disputes that arise.

“American elites noted that although the general public does not strongly favor US military intervention in a Taiwan conflict, this would not necessarily dictate US decision-making in the event of a conflict,” the survey said.

Both sides thought that the cybersecurity issue was to Americans what the Taiwan issue was to the Chinese.

Americans take cybersecurity very seriously, but tend to discount the importance of Taiwan arms sales, while the Chinese take the opposite view.

Each side feels that the other has cheated on these two issues and one Chinese elite suggested that if the two sides can make progress on both these matters, “the relationship could be greatly improved,” the study said.

“US elites — especially retired military officers and business elites — saw alleged Chinese cyberattacks and intellectual property infringement as particularly problematic,” it said.

Among the many recommendations: “Washington should not underestimate the significance China attaches to US arms sales to Taiwan.

“Beijing should not allow this issue to prevent it from recognizing Washington’s consistent support of the ‘one China’ policy,” it added.

The two sides should understand fully the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue and avoid sending wrong signals that negatively impact bilateral relations, it said.

“There may be room for the two sides to work together to reach an understanding on the Taiwan issue — or at least that it does not have to derail the broader relationship,” the report said.

Clear majorities of the US public said it was important that the US be tough with China on economic and trade issues (56 percent), building a strong relationship with China (55 percent) and promoting human rights (53 percent), statistics in the report showed.

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