First, going back to the year of the Golden Snake (nothing personal, George) — April 26, 2001:
REPORTER: Do we have an obligation to defend the Taiwanese?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes we do. And the Chinese must understand that. Yes I would.
REPORTER: With the full force of the American military?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself.
In “The Year of the Ox” I wrote that “China’s premier and Taiwan’s president seem ready to make substantial changes in their longstnding bellicose relationship.”
It’s a done deal.
April 26, 2009, was a milestone in improved China/Taiwan relations.
The Christian Science Monitor, April 26, 2009 edition:
China, Taiwan ink trade and crime-fighting deals
The longtime rivals signed deals Sunday on boosting cross-strait flights, joint-crime fighting, and financial cooperation.
Taipei, Taiwan – Longtime rivals China and Taiwan signed a raft of commercial and crime-fighting deals on Sunday in Nanjing, in the third round of talks in a year.
On Sunday, the two sides inked deals on boosting cross-strait flights, joint-crime fighting, and financial cooperation. They also issued a statement on allowing Chinese investment in Taiwan.
The flight deal will normalize cross-strait air links, boosting them from 108 charter flights to 270 scheduled commercial flights per week between 25 cities in China and five in Taiwan. Just a year ago, the two sides only ran special holiday charter flights between a handful of cities.
The financial agreement paves the way for banks and insurers do business on the other side of the Strait. And the crime-fighting deal will help counter cross-strait drug trafficking and money laundering, and make it harder for Taiwanese fugitives to hide out in the mainland.
Such deals appear to have majority support here. A government-commissioned poll showed that 53 percent are happy with the pace of cross-strait opening or even think it’s going too slow, compared to 34 percent who believe it’s going too fast.
And there’s more:
China Makes First Taiwan Investment as Relations Thaw
April 30 (Bloomberg) — China Mobile Ltd. agreed to buy 12 percent of Far EasTone Telecommunications Co., the first investment by a Chinese state-owned company in Taiwan since a civil war ended six decades ago.
All 692 members of the Taiex rose today, sending Taiwan’s benchmark stock index to its biggest gain since 1991 on speculation more Chinese companies will invest on the island. The NT$17.8 billion ($529 million) purchase, announced by China Mobile yesterday, underscores how warming political relations between the two sides are leading to closer economic ties.
“This is a landmark deal. China Mobile will lead the way for other Chinese companies that have been waiting to invest in Taiwan but were hesitating,” said C.Y. Huang, vice chairman of Polaris Securities in Taipei. “This will open the floodgates for more Chinese investments into Taiwan.”
It doesn’t look good for US hegemony in Taiwan:
Huanqiu, China — U.S. Must Withdraw from China-Taiwan Relations (translation)
When “turning to the future” and “striving for peace” became the consensus between China and Taiwan, the U.S.’s gradual withdrawal from cross-strait relations was already on the agenda.
Recently, China’s premier Wen Jiabao offered some advice on cross-strait relations. “Turn to the future, forgive and forget, cooperate closely, and move forward together,” he said. Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou also hopes that both sides will “look forward” and not repeat the violent struggles of the past. This shows that leaders from both sides are in unanimous agreement on China’s future. It is obvious that both sides are getting closer and will eventually unite. At this time, people will naturally turn their attention to the major external factor that will influence development in cross-strait relations – the U.S.
History proves that China’s unification is the inevitable result of each attempt to secede. Whenever foreign forces come to China for evil purposes, they have a difficult time resisting the strength of the Chinese. The U.S. should understand this and should not become a barrier to China’s advancement. In terms of issues with Taiwan, the U.S. must have far-sighted wisdom and should not try to play petty tricks on trivial matters. Finding a practical plan for gradual withdrawal from cross-strait affairs would be a rational choice of historic significance and would be most suitable for the U.S.’s strategic interests.
Meanwhile, as usual, Robert Gates and the Pentagon he leads just don’t get it. They need a world-class enemy to justify their obscene military spending, and China is the designated country. Imagine, five percent of the world’s population spending fifty percent of the total defense budget, and there is no current military threat. The US needs to go Chinese!
Taiwan is supposed to be the “tripwire” for this hoped-for confrontation, and with their blinders on (they don’t read JWN, apparently) the Pentagon is going for it. A recent DOD news release:
WASHINGTON, March 25, 2009 – Transformation of the Chinese military has gained speed, but U.S. officials would like to see China become more transparent about military and security affairs, according to a report to Congress released today.
The report, called “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China,” provides some new details, “but there are no new, major strategic insights revealed or capabilities revealed,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.
China continues to put military pressure on Taiwan. “China’s armed forces are rapidly developing coercive capabilities for the purpose of deterring Taiwan’s pursuit of de jure independence,” the report says. More advanced missiles, more equipment and better-trained troops have deployed to the military regions opposite the island. The military balance in the region continues to shift in Beijing’s favor, the report says, and Taiwan no longer enjoys “air dominance” over the Taiwan Straits.
The capabilities the Chinese are putting in place “could in the future be used to pressure Taiwan toward a settlement of the cross-Strait dispute on Beijing’s terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay or deny any possible U.S. support for the island in case of conflict,” the report says.
That’s priceless: “U.S. officials would like to see China become more transparent about military and security affairs.”
And here’s the applicable paragraph from the DOD report:
The PLA’s [Peoples’ Liberation Army] modernization vis-à-vis Taiwan has continued over the past year, including its build-up of short-range missiles opposite the island. In the near-term, China’s armed forces are rapidly developing coercive capabilities for the purpose of deterring Taiwan’s pursuit of de jure independence. These same capabilities could in the future be used to pressure Taiwan toward a settlement of the cross-Strait dispute on Beijing’s terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny any possible U.S. support for the island in case of conflict. This modernization and the threat to Taiwan continue despite significant reduction in cross-Strait tension over the last year since Taiwan elected a new president.
Now how’s that for pure horsepucky. Taiwan’s “pursuit of de jure independence” is contrary to US policy, and there is no apparent coercive pressure on Taiwan except in the Pentagon’s dreams.
On the contrary, the people of Taiwan (a province of China) and the government of China seem to be on a peaceful track to reconciliation, despite the irrelevant Pentagon report.
Imagine — businessmen and women will be able to fly directly from Taipei to Beijing or Shanghai without going through Hong Kong!
Imagine — peace is breaking out and the Pentagon won’t be able to use China/Taiwan as a reason for obscene military spending! They’ll have to invent a new enemy!
Well, they’ve always got the guy in the cave.
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other articles by Don Bacon may be found here and here.