Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski predicts in a new essay that “it is doubtful” Taiwan could indefinitely avoid a more formal connection with China.
The essay, “Balancing the East, Upgrading the West,” to be published in Foreign Affairs magazine next month, says that the future status of Taiwan could become the most contentious issue between the US and China.
It says that assuming the expansion of the bilateral US--Chinese relationship, three sensitive issues will have to be peacefully resolved.
Brzezinski says first — and in the near future — the US should reassess its reconnaissance operations “on the edges of Chinese territorial waters,” as well as the periodic US naval patrols within international waters that are also part of the Chinese economic zone.
“They are as provocative to Beijing as the reverse situation would be to Washington. Moreover, the US military’s air reconnaissance missions pose serious risks of unintentional collisions, since the Chinese air force usually responds to such missions by sending up fighter planes for up-close inspection and sometimes harassment of the US planes,” he wrote.
Next on Brzezinski’s short list, he says that over the course of the next several years the US and China should engage in regular consultations regarding their long-term military planning and seek to “craft measures of reciprocal reassurance.”
Third, “probably within a decade or so,” he wants to see the future of Taiwan settled.
“Washington no longer recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign state and acknowledges Beijing’s view that China and Taiwan are part of a single nation, but at the same time, the United States sells weapons to Taiwan. Thus, any long-term US-Chinese accommodation will have to address the fact that a separate Taiwan, protected indefinitely by US arms sales, will provoke intensifying Chinese -hostility,” Brzezinski writes.
He believes that an eventual resolution along the lines of the formula for Hong Kong of “one country, two systems,” but redefined as “one country, several systems” may provide the basis for what he calls “Taipei’s eventual reassociation with China.”
Such a formula, Brzezinski says, would allow Taiwan and China to maintain distinctive political, social and military arrangements, in particular excluding the deployment of People’s Liberation Army troops on Taiwan.
“Regardless of the exact formula, given China’s growing power and the greatly expanding social links between Taiwan and the mainland, it is doubtful that Taiwan can indefinitely avoid a more formal connection with China,” he wrote.
Brzezinski was US national security adviser under then-US president Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.
The essay is adapted from his book Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power, which is scheduled to be published early next year by Basic Books.
Earlier this year, Brzezinski said that if the US became less involved on the international scene, Taiwan would find it increasingly difficult to resist the entreaties and pressure from Beijing, and it would become part of China.
“It is something that will work out on the basis of what happens ultimately in the grand relationship between China and America, which in turn is dependent on the degree to which each of them stays healthy, effective, responsible and rational, and that is something that no one can predict with any degree of certainty,” he said.