Beware integration trap, expert says

WARNING::Continual integration of cross-strait relations could give Beijing greater influence over Taiwan, said Brad Glosserman, an expert at a Washington think tank

By Nadia Tsao  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Sun, Oct 09, 2011 - Page 1

Despite a good cross-strait relationship, Taiwan in the short run is anxious about the upcoming elections and in the long run is concerned about the respective rise and decline of China and the US’ influence on the country, said Brad Glosserman, the executive director of the Pacific Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank on foreign policy.

He added that all of Asia is beginning to worry that “the balance of power in the region is shifting in China’s favor.”

Glosserman said in his recent writings that while the possibility of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) coming to power again has some people worried, it does not mean that those who are worried favor the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

In the long term, China’s growth as well as developments in the cross-strait relationship have deepened Taiwan’s fear of being absorbed by China, Glosserman said.

He added that although the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has bolstered Taiwan’s economy and made Taiwan a portal through which the world could enter China, “continual integration [of cross-strait relations] could turn that bridge into a trap, giving Beijing too much leverage and influence over Taiwan.”

Analysts in Beijing have already said that if the DPP is elected into office next year there is a possibility that Beijing could put the screws on the benefits it affords Taiwan, Glosserman said.

“Rising Chinese influence is the counterpoint to a perception of shrinking US power and influence,” Glosserman said, adding that Taiwan is worried that such a decline might prompt Washington to trade Taiwan for better Sino-US relations.

These worries have been heard in other parts of the world too, he added.

Since the start of the financial meltdown, the worry that Taiwan would be cast aside by the US also permeates Asia. Officials are concerned that financial factors would cause the US to decrease its military presence in Asia and subsequently tone down its promise of protection to its allies in the region, Glosserman said.

However, Glosserman does not agree that the US is on the decline, adding that as China grows stronger, so will the US, and the US would never decrease its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US’ allies should more actively convey to Washington their desire for a continued US presence in Asia and further strengthen their ties with the US, Glosserman said.

He added that everyone in the region should further strengthen the acknowledgement that they all share the burden of regional peace and security.

In order to correct the myth of a shift in Sino-US power in Asia, there should be practical evaluations of the two nations’ power, listing their assets and capabilities, Glosserman said.

Such a process would be able to turn the tide on the perception that the US is on the decline that has taken root both in the US and in Taiwan, Glosserman said.

Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer