There is growing public concern in Taiwan about the nation’s vulnerability to Chinese influence and economic coercion, a report to the US Congress says.
Issued by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the report says that concern stems from the continued growth of cross-strait trade agreements under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
“In an effort to address the threat posed to Taiwan by China’s military modernization, the US and Taiwan maintain a strong but low-profile security partnership through military-to-military exchanges and arms sales,” says the report, which was to be released yesterday.
It says that while the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has opened up trade, critics believe that economic gains largely benefit a few large Taiwanese firms at the expense of small and medium-sized enterprises.
“As Taiwan’s reliance on China as a trading partner has increased from 12 percent of annual trade in 2003 to 22 percent in 2013, its overall share of trade with its other major trading partners has necessarily decreased,” the report says.
“This dependency may provide leverage to China as it seeks to tie Taiwan closer to China and make progress on its long-term goal of unification with Taiwan,” it says.
“If enough time passes without the ratification of the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement [CSSTA], Beijing may conclude cross-Strait cooperation agreements are no longer meeting its objectives and pursue a more destabilizing, unilateral approach to Taiwan,” the report says.
It says that although relations between Taiwan and China have improved dramatically since 2008, China’s military modernization continues to focus on improving its ability to conduct operations against Taiwan and to “deter, delay and deny” any US intervention in a cross-strait conflict.
“The increased range and capabilities of China’s power projection platforms have largely negated Taiwan’s historic geographic advantages in a cross-strait conflict,” it says.
“China’s computer network operation capabilities also pose a major threat to Taiwan,” it says.
According to the report, counterintelligence risks to Taiwan and to US military information and equipment in the nation are increasing as cross-strait ties expand and Chinese visit Taiwan in greater numbers.
“US-Taiwan relations took positive but small steps forward this past year,” the report says. “Taiwan has expanded its international engagement in recent years, but China continues to restrict Taiwan’s participation in most international organizations.”
“Taiwan’s recent focus on developing innovative and asymmetric military capabilities and continued acquisition of major conventional platforms and weapons systems from the US have improved Taiwan’s military capabilities,” the report says. “However, the cross-strait balance of power has shifted decidedly in China’s favor.”
The report also notes that public concern about increasing Chinese influence on Taiwan’s media is increasing.