US wavering on Taiwan: ‘Economist’

ARMS::An article in ‘The Economist’ argues against the US abandoning Taiwan, saying it would not improve relations and would only feed China’s appetite for domination

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - Page 3

The latest US arms sale to Taiwan seems to show that the US security commitment to its ally in Asia is “wobbling,” an article in The Economist said yesterday, adding that Washington should continue to support Taiwan in the interests of cross-strait relations and Sino-US relations.

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday notified the US Congress of a US$5.85 billion package of arms to Taiwan that did not include the 66 F-16C/D aircraft Taipei was seeking and centered instead on upgrading its existing fleet of aging F-16A/Bs.

Titled “Dim sum for China: Why America should not walk away from Taiwan,” the article said that “Chinese objections made the deal less advantageous than it would have been.”

Meanwhile, “a small but influential chorus of academics and policymakers is arguing that these should be America’s last arms sales to Taiwan,” it said.

The article said that there are two main arguments in the US to justify abandoning Taiwan: First, Taiwan “is now a strategic liability” and the US risks “being dragged into conflict, even nuclear war” in backing Taiwan, and second, “even if it never came to war, Taiwan would still be an obstacle to better” Sino-American relations.

Rebutting the first argument, The Economist said that although the pan-green opposition is more “nationalistic,” Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is now its presidential candidate, is “a lot more moderate” than former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and younger pan-green politicians “seem more pragmatic and understand the imperative of American support.”

Regarding the second argument, the article disapproved of what it called the idea of “appeasement,” whose proponents believe that by giving “China what it wants .... it will co-operate more on a host of issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to climate change.”

Advocates of this line of thinking believe that “rather than provoking China by arming Taiwan and patrolling the seas, it would be better to placate it, and throw it the morsel of Taiwan.”

The article argues, however, that “to walk away from Taiwan would in effect mean ceding to China the terms of unification.”

“Over the long run, that will not improve Sino-American relations,” it said.

“Five thousand years of Chinese diplomatic history suggest it is more likely to respect a strong state than a weak and vacillating one. Appeasement would also probably increase China’s appetite for regional domination,” it said.

China’s “core interests” in the area seem to be growing, it said.

To Chinese military planners, Taiwan is a potential base from which to push out into the Pacific. At minimum, that would unsettle Japan to the north and the Philippines to the south,” it said.

In conclusion, the article said that “strong American backing for Taiwan has served the region well so far. It has improved, rather than damaged, cross-straits [sic] relations,” adding that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) “would never have felt able to open up to China without it, and it has been the foundation for half a century of peace and security throughout East Asia.”

“To abandon Taiwan now would bring out the worst in China, and lead the region’s democracies to worry that America might be willing to let them swing too. That is why, as long as China insists on the right to use force in Taiwan, America should continue to support the island,” the article said.