President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has suffered a major diplomatic and national security defeat. As the US Congress adjourned late on Friday, it had not received notification from the State Department about the arms sale package for Taiwan, meaning the package is certain to remain stalled. Although Congress will remain in session for a few more days to deal with the US financial crisis before going into recess ahead of the November general elections, it is highly unlikely the arms sale will make it onto the agenda. The issue may be dealt with when Congress resumes in late November, or be left for the next president.
The government has consistently deceived both itself and the public over the arms purchase. When Ma attended Armed Forces Day celebrations on Sept. 3, he said: “The latest signs from the US imply that the US government will notify Congress that the legal procedures [for the arms sale] should be completed.” National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起) said all the information he had obtained during a visit to the US pointed to support for the sale. In an interview on Sept. 9, Representative in Washington Jason Yuan (袁健生) said: “the arms purchase has never been in question” and that work on the deal had never been stopped.
The reality, however, looks different.
Does the US government’s preoccupation with the US financial crisis mean it isn’t interested in selling arms? Not at all. The State Department sent out notifications for arms deals with France, Pakistan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The Taiwanese deal has been discussed for seven years. It can no longer be delayed with the excuse that it is still under discussion. Both houses of Congress have passed resolutions expressing concern over arms sales to Taiwan and requiring that the administration give them regular detailed briefings on the progress, a move that was opposed by both the State Justice departments. The Justice Department even said the bill “would infringe upon the president’s right to conduct foreign policy.”
This makes it clear that the case is not being blocked by Congress, but by the State Department and the White House. This is a serious blow to the Ma administration’s efforts to work with the US and to Ma’s national security strategies.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) must assume responsibility for this result. Pan-blue camp politicians boycotted what they called an overpriced arms procurement deal since it was announced, using it as tool in their political battles with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). To dispel the Bush administration’s misgivings over his pro-Beijing tilt, Ma repeatedly said he would follow through on the arms purchase plan. But the White House’s commitment to defending Taiwan at any expense has been replaced by disappointment in Taiwanese politicians.
The US needs Beijing’s cooperation in fighting terror, on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and stabilizing the global financial system. Arms sales to Taiwan may disturb its relations with China. The Ma administration’s unilateral tilt toward China has prompted many US politicians and think tank experts to worry that arms and military technology sold to Taiwan will be leaked to China.
The KMT and the Ma administration’s misreading of the White House and the US Congress has caused the arms procurement effort to fail. The government must learn from this defeat, revise its faulty pro-China strategies, make personnel changes in the National Security Bureau and rebuild relations with the US. If it doesn’t, there is a real risk that relations between Taiwan, the US and China will become dangerously imbalanced.
Last week, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, said in a statement that they have decided to end their marriage. The news immediately caused a global sensation. When my daughter heard that I was going to write a newspaper op-ed to comment on the matter, she made sure to remind me not to focus on the divorce agreement or the handling of the world’s richest couple’s wealth. Instead of talking about how much money Melinda Gates would get from the divorce, my daughter wanted me to focus on the many sacrifices she has made, and on her many
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) expressed “deep concern” over the staggering rise of COVID-19 cases in India, and offered to supply medical equipment and vaccine doses to the country, but his overtures sparked debate in India’s academic and political circles about his sincerity to help, particularly as it was followed by a vulgar display of schadenfreude over the hundreds of thousands of cremations of deaths caused by the virus in the country. The vast majority of Indians were already angry and frustrated with Beijing needling the country on a number of issues, including imports from China, which were abruptly stopped
Explore within a 160km radius of central Taiwan and you would stumble across some of world’s most majestic mountains, breathtaking lakes and awe-inspiring valleys. You would also find 95 percent of the world’s most advanced chipmaking. While lacking the same postcard views as Yushan or Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is still a treasure. The company went from being the upstart of a government industrial think tank to the most crucial chip supplier in the world, but even as it has grown into a US$540 billion company, management has stubbornly kept all state-of-the-art manufacturing capacity at just three
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has