To protect their national interests, it is necessary for heads of state to keep as many options open as possible and avoid making hard and fast comments. The US cannot make any concrete comments about whether it would dispatch military forces to defend Taiwan, should the need arise, nor can Taiwan make definitive comments about not asking the US for such assistance.
However, in a recent interview with CNN, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), being the genius “chief executive” of the “Taiwan region” that he is, of his own accord said he would never ask the US to go to war for Taiwan. He later said that this was his way of emphasizing to the US Taiwan’s resolve to defend itself as well as his confidence that there will not be a war in the Taiwan Strait during his time in office. What this really shows is that Ma is moving increasingly closer to China.
From the time that dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) fled to Taiwan until the end of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) time in office, the US never questioned Taiwan’s determination to protect itself. The US wants to maintain the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait and has no desire to get involved in a war here. This is why the US stopped the Chiangs’ ambitions of “reconquering the mainland” and restricted the pro-independence administrations of former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen from moving too close to achieving de jure independence.
Ma’s recent moves toward “eventual unification” and his willingness to change the “status quo” and accept a Chinese takeover has certain US academics worried about Taiwan’s determination to defend itself and whether it is worth risking conflict with China over Taiwan.
If Ma wants to express his determination to give Taiwan the capabilities to protect itself, he could make a strong case based both on Taiwan’s interests and on the common interests of Taiwan and the US. Ma has, however, chosen to say that Taiwan is not worth the risk and that Taiwan is a domestic Chinese political issue.
If China wants to annex Taiwan, it can do so either by military force or by peaceful means. At the same time, Taiwan can use military force or peaceful means to defend itself. If China resorted to force, it would have to consider US intervention as the price it would have to pay, as well as the serious ramifications of this. For the past 60 years, US deterrence has provided the biggest guarantee for maintaining the cross-strait “status quo.”
Ma’s going on about self-defense is irresponsible. When it comes to military self-defense, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has blocked the procurement of arms in the past, and in terms of diplomatic defense, Ma has bowed down before the “one China” principle. He has also allowed flights between Taiwan and China to be carried out as though they are domestic flights and accepted observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly under the name of “Chinese Taipei.” Ma has completely given up on defending Taiwan’s sovereignty. So what use is his talk about self-defense?
If China can use “peaceful” means to annex Taiwan, why would it have to resort to military force? And if China does not need to resort to military force, why would Ma need Taiwan to protect itself? If Ma is not even willing to protect Taiwan in the face of China’s “peaceful” attack, how can we expect him to defend Taiwan militarily? Everything Ma is doing is leading Taiwan into the tiger’s den, and he is becoming the “chief executive.”
James Wang is a media commentator.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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