‘New York Times’ op-ed calls on US to sell out Taiwan

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 - Page 1

The Taiwanese community and foreign policy analysts in the US were shocked on Friday when the New York Times published an op-ed article calling on US President Barack Obama to sell out Taiwan for China.

Paul Kane, a former international security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, said in the op-ed: “With a single bold act, President Obama could correct the country’s course, help assure his re-election, and preserve our children’s future.”

“He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the [US]$1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015,” Kane said.

“Today, America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms. The island’s absorption into mainland China is inevitable,” he added.

However, if things go wrong between Taiwan and China, Kane said, the US could be suddenly drawn into a multi-trillion-dollar war.

Kane said: “The Chinese leadership would be startled — for a change — if the US were to adopt such a savvy negotiating posture. Beyond reducing our debt, a Taiwan deal could pressure Beijing to end its political and economic support for pariah states. It would be a game changer.”

He said “the deal” would eliminate almost 10 percent of US national debt, would redirect US foreign policy away from dated entanglements and would eliminate the risk of involvement in a costly war.

“Critics will call this proposal impractical, even absurd. They will say it doesn’t have a prayer of passing Congress and doesn’t acknowledge political realities … But by pursuing this agenda, Obama would change the calculus and political reality. And Congress should see a deal with China as an opportunity to make itself credible again,” Kane added. “By tackling the issue of Taiwan, Obama could address much of what ails him today, sending a message of bold foreign policy thinking and fiscal responsibility that would benefit every citizen and be understood by every voter.”

Taiwan supporters in the US said the most disturbing aspect of the situation was that the New York Times considered the argument important enough to publish.

Several also said that it was the latest of a series of articles written by academics and analysts that propose ending arms sales to Taiwan and abandoning the nation.

Dan Blumenthal, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Taipei Times: “Abandoning Taiwan for the purposes of economic recovery is a non sequitur. China will not ‘write off our debt,’ it will keep wanting to buy our debt as long as we have debt to buy because of its distorted economy.”

“Abandoning Taiwan has been tried. First in 1979, which led to Taiwan trying to build nuclear weapons. More recently, we have had at least two arms freezes this decade. The result? China has picked on pretty much everyone else in the region,” Blumenthal said.

“What the author is really calling for is our looking the other way in a forced occupation of Taiwan. A forcible occupation of Taiwan is not a recipe for global economic growth,” he said.

Meanwhile, Douglas Paal, a Taiwan expert and vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment, said: “My first response was that the Kane article must have been written for April Fool’s Day — so outrageous is the concept — it must have been intended as a joke.”

“Taiwan belongs to the people of Taiwan and they will decide their future, not Washington. And by the way, Beijing is in no position to spend the billions of dollars in Treasury bills to buy anything,” Paal said.

“Those T-bills are repositories for money the Chinese government has borrowed from the people and businesses of China on which the authorities must pay interest,” Paal said.

The Web site “Business Insider” said Kane had presented “the worst idea ever for dealing with our national debt.”

“This idea isn’t simply far-fetched, it’s just ludicrous. What Kane is advocating is an abdication of our strategic ­­­self-­direction,” it said.

“What’s scary is not that this will ever happen — it won’t — but that the size of the debt is causing people to think loonier and loonier things,” the Web site said.

National Review Online called the op-ed “goofy.”

“Does anyone think that a sell out deal would have any result except a declaration of independence by Taiwan?” the op-ed said.

“They’d figure at that point they had nothing to lose, causing the ChiComs to react and then we might indeed get drawn into a war,” it said.