A US expert on China is warning that there is growing unease in Taiwan over the speed and breadth of expanding cross-strait economic relations.
“There are real security concerns that Taiwan needs to take seriously,” said John Garver, professor of international affairs at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
In an interview published on Wednesday by the National Bureau of Asian Research, Garver discussed cross-strait relations and the impact of the Sunflower movement on Taiwan and on Chinese perceptions about Taiwan.
Having analyzed what has happened to Ukraine — especially Crimea — he said that he is “absolutely confident” that if Beijing decides to move against Taiwan, it will first initiate the emergence of local groups calling for Chinese involvement.
“This will cause cleavages and fissures within Taiwan about this new era in cross-strait relations,” he said.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has made “impressive” progress in relations with the mainland, but he has failed to establish an adequate consensus-building process because of political difficulties, Garver said.
“Taiwan needs to consider this very seriously within the rubric of internal security,” he said.
“Chinese involvement with Taiwan’s airline industry, telecommunications industry and other strategic sectors has considerable national security implications,” Garver said.
“Taiwan has moved very far and very fast in expanding cross-strait economic cooperation, trade ties and cultural ties with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] — leading to a growing apprehension about the direction and uncertainty of cross-strait relations,” he said.
Ma’s policies are a “major step” toward the full integration of the two economies and China “will not get a more pro-Chinese leader of Taiwan than Ma,” Garver said.
He said that China should be rewarding Ma’s efforts and giving him reasons to reassure the Taiwanese that closer cross-strait integration is to their advantage.
“Beijing has not been more forthcoming, likely because that would make the regime appear weak, especially in the eyes of the People’s Liberation Army, which believes that such a generous approach of diplomatic peace would not be appropriate, given China’s growing international power,” Garver said.
Additional reporting by staff writer