Taiwan should spend its military budget wisely, engage in cooperative partnerships with key players in the Indo-Pacific region and prevent China from penetrating its society, Hoover Institution senior fellow Larry Diamond told a forum in Taipei yesterday.
With a trade war brewing between Washington and Beijing, and China on its way to becoming the largest economy in the world, US policy on Taiwan and China is at a watershed as the US faces an intensified and “ominous” challenge from China — its growing military presence in the South China Sea, Diamond said at a forum held by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) on Taiwan-US-China relations.
Behind China’s claim over islands in the South China Sea and its defiance of a 2016 ruling by a tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in The Hague is a desire to obtain freedom of navigation and geopolitical hegemony over countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and a mentality that China is the “boss” of the region and can tell other nations to “move out of its way,” which worries US academics and officials, he said.
Another challenge is China’s theft of US technologies and intellectual property through dual-use telecommunications equipment, which has continued for at least two decades, he said.
The technologies that China has stolen or obtained through “coerced handovers” range from artificial intelligence, driverless cars, drone technology and gene splicing to silent underwater warfare and satellite warfare, he said.
Such actions constitute theft, bullying and a “drive to hegemony” and show that China is not a responsible stakeholder in global affairs, he said.
Citing China’s use of “sharp power” as it infiltrated Australian universities and media, he called on the government to be vigilant of a similar threat to Taiwan.
Asked how Taiwan should cope with the challenges posed by China, Diamond said that first, the nation should refrain from provoking a “bullying and resentful” China and avoid making gestures toward political independence, because that would not be in anyone’s interest.
In the unlikely event that an anti-China alliance is formed, Taiwan should avoid being part of it, as that would be dangerous, Diamond said, adding that it should try to enter cooperative relationships to counter China’s bid for hegemony — for example by engaging in multilayered defense with the US, Japan, India and Australia.
In addition, Taiwan should spend more money on defense, and spend it wisely, he said.
“I do think you need to show Beijing that you mean to defend yourself. You are not going to provoke and your also are not going to concede,” he said.
“We can talk about anything except our future and our freedom,” Diamond said, quoting a line in a speech made by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Los Angeles, adding that this is the posture Taiwan should assume in the face of China’s ambitions to establish its hegemony.
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