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March 01, 2006

The role of Taiwan in shaping US–China relations(2)

5. 1979–2006 Arms sale to Taiwan and US-China relations

Building up national defense is the orthodox solution to power-security dilemma. Contrary to offensive weapons, defensive weapon will not threaten neighbors, thus an arm race is avoided (Buzan 1983). Such an idea is also reflected in the 1979 TRA, which authorizes US government to provide defensive weapons to Taiwan.
(i) The arms sale card played by US and the deteriorated US-China relations
Since 1979, US has been using ?arm sale card? to balance the military powers across the Strait. In 2001 US offered offensive weapons to Taiwan for the first time, which enraged Chinese people and badly damaged the US-China relation (Prestowitz 2003:220–2). However, the democratization in Taiwan complicates the whole situation, and such complication is reflected on the stalemate of arm procurement bill in Taiwan Legislator Yuan from 2001 to 2006.
From 1979 to 2001, US in general had been playing the arm sale card carefully. There were some evidences that China was not treated as American??s enemy although US opposed its unification with Taiwan by force [23]. Thus, one cannot simply draw a conclusion that to balance the power of China is the most important concern. However, the 1992 arms sale reflect a dangerous ? movement among American conservatives to back a Declaration of Independence for Taiwan? after the end of cold war (Prestowitz, 2003: 225).
In April 2001, US approved a historic 7 billion dollar weapon sale to Taiwan, the package included four destroyers, twelve antisubmarine airplanes, eight submarines capable of launching torpedoes and cruise missiles (Sheng 2001:18). Four days after the arms sales announcement, Bush (Young) promised that that US would do ?whatever it took to help Taiwan defend itself?, and American military intervention was ?certain an option?, (Stout 2001; Reuters 2001; The South China Morning Post 2001).
Unilaterally using military machine to promote the globalization of liberal-democracy system made Bush ?unwittingly? act as an unpopular ?emperor?(Prestowitz 2003:34), thus did harm to US-China relations.
(Prestowitz 2003: 220–1) points out that such a statement was ?a complete violation of the spirit and probably the letter of the Joint Communique of August 17,1982? in which US promised its ?one China? policy and the reduction of arms sale to Taiwan. Against the context that in 2001 China was relabeled by Bush administration a ?strategic competitor,? many Chinese believed that China was treated as American??s enemy as a replacement for USSR (Prestowitz 2003: 252–3).
However, American??s arms sale to Taiwan does not follow officially supporting Taiwan independence, which alleviated US-China tensions and suspicions. [24]
(ii) The role of Taiwan and its limitation
Taiwan is among the top buyers of U.S. weapons (Prestowitz 2003:164). In central of Beijing??s anger over arms sale issue lies the fear of a potential military alliance between Taiwan and US; In central of Taiwan??s arms procurement lies the hope to ally with US (Chritensen 2002:7–21; Sheng 2001:18–21). These feelings are reinforced by the ?ambiguity strategy? adopted by US in dealing with Taiwan issue, and such misunderstandings provide space for Taiwan politician??s manipulations.
There is a tendency of exaggerating Taiwan??s strategy significance to US among Taiwan leaders. For example, former leader Lee believed that ?the United States cannot effectively deploy a theater missile defense (TMD) without Taiwan's cooperation?. And Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian claims that Taiwan is very important to ?the crescent-shaped American defenses against China in the Pacific?, which is a ?bargaining chip? Taiwan can ?make good use of?. But because China is not American??s enemy now, it??s not true (Nathan 2000). However, given the interpretation of Taiwan leaders, if US continues to increase arm sales to Taiwan, a Taiwan-US military alliance will be more and more convincing to Chinese people, thus poison the US-China relation. In fact, mutual suspicions to some extent is increasing, and Christensen (2002:7-21) warns that what is going on is ?an arms competition of sorts between Chinese offensive, coercive weapons on the one hand and Taipei's, Washington's, and Tokyo's defensive, anti-coercion weapons on the other?.
Fortunately, due to the democracy system of Taiwan, the 2001 arms sale issue does not lead to another Taiwan Strait Crisis. The most interesting part of the story is that, the people in a democracy society seem unwilling to establish a potential military alliance that is supposed to protect a democracy world [25].
(Cliff 1998:288–314) points that with the wake of a ?nation? identity, the conception of Taiwan security is transforming from ?regime security?(survival of a monopoly ruling party) to ?national security?(a more comprehensive conception including defense, economic and societal security), and leaders are obliged to care more about welfare in order to win votes. When it comes to the arms sale bill, one of the most raised questions in Legislator Yuan is that: Is it worthy so much money?
From 1949 to 2006, Taiwan has been able to shape US-China relations in different ways. On one hand, ?Taiwan Card? has been played to make coercive effects or to show willingness to make concessions to build US-China relations. On the other hand, Taiwan has been playing an active role for the sake of international recognition and there have been several times that Taiwan has contributed to the military confrontation or even potential nuclear war between China and US. The clashes between realist and liberalist solutions to power-security dilemma are reflected on PRC-US-ROC security complex, alone with the conflicts between American??s idea of promoting global democracy and Chinese??s idea of nationalism.
Fortunately, the security complex between PRC, US and Taiwan includes not only conflicts, but also common interests. There has been great economic interdependence among them, and each side prefers a peace environment in favor of development. (Prestowitz 2003:225) ironically points out that, ?Bush may thus find himself ??doing whatever it takes to defend Taiwan just as the last resident of Taiwan turns out the lights and ships out to the mainland???, or ?fly first class? to there. Although the wake of ?nation? identity of Taiwan and the wave of independence make Taiwan looks more and more troublesome in shaping US-China relations, the democracy system has proved its capacity to be a balancing system to prevent Taiwan politicians from risking a potential war in Pacific-Asia. It will be wise for Taipei leaders to show more respect for people??s seeking for peace and wealth.
For the sake of a bright future of US-China relations, as the key actor of this triangle game, it will be wise for US to keep showing its will to support a reunified China, and to warn pro-independence forces not to challenge this policy. In fact, if US prefers a democracy world, a reunified China looks more like to democratize itself (Christensen 2002:19). US military intervention has suppressed the democracy movements many times [26], such mistakes should not be repeated (Prestowitz 2003:181).
In the meantime, it will be wise for Beijing leader to further understand the democracy preferences of US and Taiwan people, while cooperate with US to pull Taiwan back into orbit in cases of trouble. Interestingly, a survey has shown that ?one-third of the people in Taiwan can agree simultaneously on two seemingly contradictory issues: to unite with China if China becomes democratic and to declare independence if China will not use force and peace can be maintained?(Brett and Niou 2004/2005).

1, And some discuss the reasonability of Taiwan??s policy which refused to reunify recently(Cabestan,1996), some even gave advices as how can Taiwan gain more help from US through some new policies. While others found the security dilemma of a democratized Taiwan (Tien and Chu, 1996), and analyzed why and how would the later elections cause tensions (Chu and Diamond, 1999; Wang, 2001)
2, furthermore, some pointed out that although China is a Status Quo Power, it may still use force if the security complex had caused the re-definition of its national interest (Johnston, 2003), or although the PLA need more time to modernize, but if the Taiwan keep threaten the nationalism of China then and the legitimacy of CCP, the trouble is foreseen during 2005–2010 (Christensen, 2001).
3, Mao even suspected that the American had an intention to support Chiang??s invading mainland. While the real intention of Truman was ?to deny Taiwan as a potential base to Soviet in the western Pacific?. (Yahuda, 2004:24–7).
4, Actually it was what PRC Premier Chou En-lai said on the Bandung conference in 1955(Eisenhower: 482).
5, Two month before the crisis, Eisenhower thought the military intervention would inevitably lead to WW III and American??s ?logical enemy will be Russia, not China.? So he tried to persuade Chiang to retreat from some offshore islands of little security essential, but Chiang refused to take these suggestions (Eisenhower: 463–477).
6, ?Only a few months back we had both Chiang and a strong, well-equipped French Army to support the free world??s position in Southeast Asia. The French are gone??making it clearer than ever that we cannot afford the loss of Chiang unless all of us are to get completely out of that corner of the globe.? (Eisenhower: 472)
7, Moreover, in 1958, to the embarrassment of US, ?many peoples and nations? had been convinced by ?the Communist propaganda theme? that ?Chiang was simply trying to involve the United States in a war with Communist China in order to gain the China mainland? (Eisenhower II P304), and even Eisenhower himself later complained that Chiang??s heavy deployment ?had helped complicate the problem? (Eisenhower: 293–4).
8, In the word of Mao, it was to urge a talk through an attack (Yi Da Cu Tan).
9, Eisenhower was clear that Quemoy and Matsu were essential to Chiang??s strategy because he and his people thought they ?would one day be stepping stones for the reinvasion of their homeland? (Eisenhower: 461). But of course Eisenhower had not simply followed Chiang??s will. The threat of nuclear attack on PRC was out of his own will, because he was convinced in 1958 that ?Quemoy and Matsu were essential to America??s security.? (Eisenhower: 294) Ironically, PRC also contributed to the change of Eisenhower??s mind. Continuous attacks on Taiwan made Eisenhower suspected the real intention of PRC and draw a conclusion that it was backed by Soviet to drive US out of the Far East (Eisenhower: 294). So he decided to defend Quemoy and Matsu at the expense of military confrontation with PRC.
10, e.g. Chiang??s behaviors in the two crises from 1954–1958 to some extent were against American security strategy. Two years later, due to Chiang ??s objection, Kennedy??s approach of an independent Taiwan did not become official policy. (Yahuda, 2004:116)
11, e.g. the Korean War, the indo-China war, the Vietnam War
12, The ROC had tried to keep PRC from diplomacy recognition in international stage, and the ?China lobby? in American congress, the mutual defense pact with US and the cultivated military and economic ties in combination had delayed the normalization of the US-China relation (Copper 1990:95–106).
13, such as ?the key cornerstones of American global strategy? and ?the center of the American containment strategy in Asia and, in particular, of the confrontation with Chinese communism? (Yahuda 2004: 77)
14, Such concession even included the acceptance of the delay in abolishing American??s full diplomatic relations and the mutual defense pact with Taiwan until 1979(Yahuda 2004: 77).
15, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly criticized that US was creating ?two Chinas or one China, one Taiwan?, and the Minister of MFA (China) complained: ?I was assured a visa would not be issued. Imagine what I thought and what was thought of me when the visa was granted?(Garver 1997:69–72).
16, (Yahuda 2004:258–9) mentions that (a) The two carrier battle groups were not sent to the Taiwan Strait and both sides across the Strait were informed in advance; (b) President Clinton visited China in 1998, which led to better understanding between China and US.
17, For example, Clinton had no choice but say ?no? to Beijing because the Congress was in hands of the opposing party, the White House was in danger of internal division and the support rate of Clinton was the lowest in history (Garver 1997:68).
18, Goldstein (2003:70) points out that the 1995–1995 Taiwan Strait Crisis shocked the ASEAN countries, Japan and even Australia, which led to the signing of a serious of mutual defense treaties among them and with US. If China??s intention was to challenge US power and the China??s rise in Pacific-Asia, the result was the opposite.
19, It must be pointed out that Clinton had visited Taiwan four times promoting trade before elected as American President, and had been treated as a ?honored guest?(Clough 1999:23; Garver 1997:67).
20, Some Chinese believe that the image of a ?democratizing Taiwan? in contrary to an authoritarian ?Tiananmen China? helps Taiwan win wide sympathy among American people after 1989(Goldstein 2003:91). The significance of the ideology of democracy can never be exaggerated, for democracy is not only the most cherished mental legacy of American people, but also the legitimacy upon which US state built (Prestowitz 2003:35–6; Buzan, 2004).
21, e.g., as the 1996 elected leader of Taiwan, Lee is local-born Taiwanese, on contrary to the mainland background of former KMT leading elites. Another evidence is that the percentage of the electorate voting for pro-independent President Chen Shui-bian rises from over 39 percent in 2000 to over 50 percent in 2004.
22, First, Taiwan lobby has created clashes between the National Security Council and the State Department on one side, and the Congress on the other side, which means the former may set more obstacles to constrain Taiwan??s actions (Clough 1999). Second, some American scholars and policy advisers also feel sick with Taiwan lobby. In the eyes of Prestowitz(2003:225–6), Taiwan lobby reveals the vulnerability of American??s democracy system to external forces which are not in favor of American??s interests.
23, e.g. Weapons were not only sold to Taiwan, but also sold to the mainland, same as the transfer of military technology. It was reported that the weapons sold to Taiwan were not the most advanced. When it comes to the big deal of 150 F-16 fighters in 1992, one of the American??s intentions was to prevent the production of Taiwan??s local made fighters (Sheng 2001:18–9).
24, e.g. In 2003 Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian declared that he would initiate a referendum to change the ?one China? principle of Taiwan Constitution. As a response, on receiving Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in December 2003, President Bush criticized Chen for ?indicating that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose? (Yahuda 2004:276).
25, When I am writing this essay, the arms procurement bill has been objected in Taiwan Legislator Yuan for more than 40 times.
26, e.g. in Chile, Zaire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Greece, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Afghanistan
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