A US congressional commission has been told that China is “seeking to advance” its sovereignty claim over Taiwan.
“A combination of economic carrots and political pressure is being used to persuade the people of Taiwan to forgo the option of independence and reunify with the mainland,” Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said at a hearing of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on China and evolving security dynamics in East Asia.
“Beijing’s top priority is to deter or slow US intervention in a Taiwan Strait contingency, but these capabilities could be employed in a variety of regional crises or conflict scenarios such as a Chinese seizure of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands [釣魚台] in which the US attempts to provide assistance to Japan or retake the islands,” she said.
Glaser told the commission that in both the East China Sea and South China Sea, China was pursuing a “salami slicing” strategy.
“Through a steady progression of small steps, none of which by itself is a casus belli, Beijing seeks to gradually change the status quo in its favor,” Glaser said.
She said that decades of reform aimed at professionalization of the armed forces had circumscribed the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) role in foreign policymaking and narrowed its focus to traditional military issues.
“In Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, the PLA’s influence is likely greatest on policy toward Taiwan, North Korea, Japan, Russia and the US,” Glaser said.
She said that in the coming decade, the US role would be pivotal in shaping the security landscape in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The US must continue to be engaged economically, diplomatically and militarily to shape the future balance of power in the region, and ensure it remains favorable to the interests of the US, its allies and its partners,” she said.
Glaser recommended that Congress should require the administration of US President Barack Obama to produce a strategy paper on the rebalance to Asia, establishing explicit objectives and benchmarks for evaluating progress.
She also said that Congress should urge the Obama administration to impose consequences on China when it violates international laws and norms.
Lastly, Congress should provide resources to support the rebalance to Asia, Glaser said.
“Adequate funding is essential for the US to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” she said.
George Washington University international affairs professor Robert Sutter told the commission that China’s achievements in advancing its influence in the Asia-Pacific region over the last 25 years had been “mediocre.”
He said China’s longstanding practice of promoting an image of consistent and righteous behavior in foreign affairs was so far from reality that it “grossly impedes effectively dealing with disputes and differences with neighbors and the US.”
Sutter said there was probably no area where China in recent decades had used coercion and intimidation beyond the bounds of international norms more than Taiwan.
“Calling more attention to China’s gross intimidation and coercion would show regional governments how they might be treated and encourage them to pursue other paths, including closer ties with the US, in order to preserve their independence of action,” Sutter said.