Wed, May 04, 2011 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: An assessment of China’s military rise in Asia-Pacific

Despite reassurances from Beijing that its rise is a peaceful one, the development of China’s military has raised concerns worldwide. Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor at the Center for East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, expounded on his views about US arms sales to Taiwan, strategic security in Asia and the intricate relationship between Taiwan, China, the US and India in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Ko Shu-ling in March

Kondapalli: Last year’s Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between Taiwan and China has created conditions for closer cooperation between the two. Previously the “three small links” has now projected to major links. There have been substantial visits on either side in terms of tourism and business opportunities that have been explored. In terms of the oral confidence building measures [CBM], both have started CBMs in the military field. All these have provided some opportunities for reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

However, the basic issues have not been resolved. Will China overcome the issue of unification with the use of force? That center issue has not been addressed so far. There were suggestions from Taiwan previously for removal of ballistic missiles located in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces. However, then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) suggested that unless the US reduced arms sales to Taiwan, there would not be any reduction in the missile batteries located in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.

Although Taiwan has substantial economic and technological progress, Taiwan tends to fall into the hollowing out to mainland China, as Japan and South Korea are also facing the same problem. What it then means is Taiwanese chips are generally considered to be low as compared with China, as China is rising.

Having said that, Taiwan is making all efforts to beef up its defenses. In the light of the US-China condominium, will it have an impact in terms of Taiwan at the strategic and regional levels? Yes, indeed it will.

What impact that will have on Taiwan and in general in neighboring countries is not clear, but it appears that Taiwan is being relegated to the background. Until Taiwan has several options up its sleeve, it will be difficult to emerge from this situation.

What are the options that Taiwan can have? Obviously, Taiwan should focus on its economic and technological edge. Taiwanese are highly talented people, so a lot of things Taiwan can develop, in terms of influencing the internal opinion.

In terms of influencing the regional architecture, for instance, Vietnam started conducting conferences on the South China Sea in the last two or three years. That issue then became a major highlight, so one of the things Taiwan could do is attract global attention to the problems it is facing and seek international support in terms of the possible use of force by China and the destruction it will entail.

I think Taiwan can also develop military technologies. Since Taiwan has relatively high-tech industries, most of these also could be dual use in nature. Hence, Taiwan has the capability to produce systems which could deter China.

Finally, Taiwan needs to effectively implement the “go south” policy in which Taiwan wants to invest in Vietnam, the Philippines and India. Taiwan needs to explore these options as well.

TT: Do you agree with those who see a growing divide between the Communist Party and [Chinese] People’s Liberation Army [PLA], or at least an increasing hawkishness in the military and its ability to affect party policy?

Kondapalli: I agree with the position that there is a lot of influence by the Chinese military on the -decisionmaking process of China.

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