Tue, Aug 24, 2010 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Ma walking tightrope in cross-strait relations, analysts say

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The much-anticipated Pentagon report released last week on the Chinese military exacerbated global concerns over China’s military buildup, but analysts said that what really worried them was President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cross-strait policy, which some described as “walking a tightrope.”

The report, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2010, concludes that the military balance of power in the Taiwan Strait is continuing to shift in China’s favor. It also warned that despite efforts by the Ma administration to increase cross-strait economic and cultural ties, China’s military buildup continues.

Chinese media slammed the report on Beijing’s expanding military capabilities, saying the dossier greatly exaggerated the power of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and that the country was on a “path of peaceful development.”

The Presidential Office declined to offer an immediate response, but later said the nation’s military was keeping a close eye on developments and asked the public not to worry.

Ma has continued to emphasize the importance of resolving cross-strait disputes by peaceful means, saying that is the best solution available and the first priority of his administration.

He also urged Washington to “seriously consider” selling Taiwan F-16C/D fighter aircraft, the third time in less than three weeks he made such an appeal to the US government.

Ma’s call, however, ran counter to his previous position and that of his party, which blocked an arms procurement package in the legislature more than 50 times over a three-year period when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) also boycotted a referendum initiated by the DPP in 2004 on opposing China’s deployment of missiles against Taiwan.

Presidential Office Spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), who has seemed more interested in attacking the DPP in the run-up to November mayoral elections, accused the opposition of spending too much time “talking” about protecting Taiwan’s security while the Ma administration “takes concrete action.”

Lo also said that the military imbalance was a long-term, structural problem that existed when the DPP was in power. He urged the public to compare the strategies and results of the two governments, emphasizing that cross-strait tensions had declined dramatically since Ma took office.

Tung Li-wen (董立文), a professor at the Graduate School of Public Security at Central Police University, said the administration should “walk the walk” if it was serious about protecting Taiwan.

Unfortunately, the defense budget indicated exactly the opposite, he said.

Next year’s budget marks a third consecutive fall in funding and fails to meet Ma’s campaign promise to spend 3 percent of GDP on national defense. It currently stands at 2.6 percent of GDP.

Tung said it was dangerous for the administration to believe that peace has been achieved in the Taiwan Strait and that it could do so without help from the US.

The Pentagon report highlighted the fact that the PLA has not stopped its military buildup in the wake of cross-strait rapprochement, he said.

‘NAIVETY’

“It is a vivid reminder for Ma, whose naivety is just as worrying as China’s military expansion,” he said.

Tung said the report carried two messages for Taiwanese: It reminded Taiwan and the US of the prevailing military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait and also showed that China’s military expansion far exceeds its self-defense needs, pointing to its ambition of taking Taiwan by force.

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