George Washington University international affairs professor Robert Sutter called for a more pro-active US policy to deal with the stepped-up Chinese hegemony threat in Asia in a recent article.
Sutter outlined his recommendations in the article published on Monday in the newsletter of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, titled “Dealing with America’s China Problem in Asia — Targeting China’s Vulnerabilities.”
He urged US President Barack Obama’s administration to devote more attention to Taiwan, because it is an area of acute sensitivity for China, while Taiwan has faced unbridled Chinese military coercion and intimidation for two decades, saying the US has several options “to raise significant costs for China.”
Sutter, an expert on China affairs and issues of cross-strait development, recommended “a more active US posture, calling for Washington to give open support of Taiwanese free expression and identity as represented in the Sunflower movement.”
“Beijing has shown no positive response to the rising importance of such demonstrations of Taiwan identity at odds with Chinese interests,” he added.
“US support for such expressions of Taiwanese identity could further shift Taiwan politics in favor of the opposition against the unpopular government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九),” Sutter said.
By doing so, Sutter said China would face costly and difficult re-evaluation of its reasonably successful policy toward Taiwan thus far, should the opposition win the 2016 presidential election.
He said that China’s recent unrelenting drive to use coercive and intimidating state power, short of direct military action, to advance control of disputed territory in the East China Sea and the South China Sea has posed major problems for the US.
“China is pursuing its ‘salami slicing’ strategy, which undermines the credibility of US alliances and US standing as the region’s security guarantor,” Sutter said.
Sutter recommended that Washington complicate China’s defense plans and overall strategy toward Taiwan by allowing the sale of 66 F-16 fighters jets, which have long been sought by Taiwan’s government.
Following through on the procurement deal would show “the significance of the substantial US demonstration of support for Taiwan in the face of China’s pressure and threats,” Sutter wrote.
He said that “recent demonstrations in Hong Kong — another very sensitive area for China’s leadership — also foreshadow a possibly costly and delicate policy reevaluation for China.”
“The United States could easily add to the salience of the demonstrations and the related costs for China by adopting a higher profile in support for free expression in Hong Kong,” he said.
Another option Sutter suggested is a more active presence of US attack submarines in Asia.
“Surfacing of US attack submarines near disputed areas of the East and South China Seas, perhaps in conjunction with Japanese and Australian submarines, would remind China of its serious anti-submarine limitations,” he said.
“In response, Beijing will doubtless seek to fix the problem. Yet to remedy China’s anti-submarine warfare limitations will require prolonged and large-scale costs and diverted resources for Chinese military planners and Chinese leaders juggling budget priorities in the period of wide-ranging and difficult change in Chinese development and governance. In sum, the solution will also incur major costs for China,” he said.