Boeing executives last week seemed worried that a US arms sale to Taiwan — and Beijing’s subsequent threat of sanctions against manufacturers involved in the deal — would cost it billions of dollars in commercial aircraft sales. Even worse, if China followed through with its threat to deny the US aviation giant access to its lucrative market, it could quickly translate into a windfall for Boeing’s main competitor, Airbus.
Then Eurocopter, a European company, announced it was selling Taiwan three EC225 helicopters — the latest model in the Super Puma family — for US$111 million, with an option for 17 more. While a representative from Eurocopter in Paris said in correspondence with the Taipei Times that the EC225 was a civilian helicopter used for search and rescue operations, and although it is believed that the firm had previously sold helicopters to the National Police Agency’s Civil Defense Headquarters, there is no hiding the fact that the latest sale was made to the Air Force, which makes this an arms sale.
Now, the copter sale is relatively small compared with the US$6.4 billion package proposed by Washington, but symbolically its impact could be just as important, given that it is the first military sale from a European company to Taiwan in almost two decades — an indirect embargo that has lasted almost as long as Europe’s embargo on arms sales to Beijing imposed after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
In retaliation, and given Beijing’s propensity for lashing out at anyone who dares treat Taiwan as a sovereign country, one would expect that threats of sanctions against Eurocopter and its parent, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS), would soon follow. But here’s the catch — EADS also happens to own Airbus. And one thing is certain: If China is to meet its civilian aviation needs in the next decade, it will have little choice but to purchase its aircraft from either Boeing or Airbus. No other aircraft manufacturer has the means and economy of scale to produce the types and quantities of aircraft that China will need. China, a relative newcomer in the production of civilian aircraft, is years, if not decades, away from developing the domestic capabilities to produce aircraft in large quantities.
Beijing, therefore, finds itself in a bind, wanting to punish the two giants over sales to Taiwan, but unable to do so. This could explain why it has yet to made any public expression of anger at Eurocopter.
In recent years, the world has treated China as if it were indispensable. Over the weekend, George Gilder argued in the Wall Street Journal that it was folly for the US to “antagonize” China (as if it were not “antagonizing” the US).
What Boeing and Airbus could soon show us, however, is that when a concerted effort is made by the giants of this world, and when Beijing is denied the opportunity to play one against the other, it is possible to act according to our moral — and even economic — predispositions without first having to consult Chinese emperor Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and his court. In fact, it is even possible to do so and to survive to tell the story.
What is Beijing going to do — not buy aircraft? Maybe, for once, its rulers will just shut up and let the world be.
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) might be accused of twice breaking his promises and betraying the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), then launching a signature drive for himself to stand as a candidate in January’s presidential election, only to turn around and quit the race. It clearly shows that rich people are free to do as they like. If that is so, then Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is the perfect example of a political hack who changes his position as easily as turning the pages of a book. Taiwanese independence supporters
Since the rancorous and histrionic breakup of the planned “blue-white alliance,” polls have shown a massive drop in support for Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), whose support rate has dropped to 20 percent. Young people and pan-blue supporters seem to be ditching him. Within a few weeks, Ko has gone from being the most sought after candidate to seeking a comeback. A few months ago, he was the one holding all the cards and calling the shots, with everything in place for a rise to stardom. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was still dealing with doubts
It has been suggested that Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate, is certain to win the presidency now that the “blue-white alliance” plan has fallen apart. Lai had been polling in first place with a healthy margin separating him from the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), and Taiwan People’s Party Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). Expectations were that he would win handily unless his opponents pooled their resources. Now that the three candidates are in their respective corners, the gloves are likely to come off. Lai
US think tanks, societies and organizations have recently not been shy or hesitant to get involved in Taiwanese matters; they seem to do so with an apparent purpose. Earlier this month, Simona Grano, a senior fellow on Taiwan at the New York-based Asia Society, penned a lengthy and thorough primer on Taiwan’s elections next month. In her primer, Grano noted that Washington had “reservations” about all four (now three after Terry Gou [郭台銘] dropped out) candidates for the presidency. With these reservations, one senses a clear change and expansion of purpose from the Asia Society. Originally formed in 1956 by John