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John Wayne's Holster: Who Cares About Taiwan?
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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Who Cares About Taiwan?



For the past several decades, China and Taiwan have coexisted under the “One China, Two Systems” policy. In recent years, there has been a growing sentiment in Taiwan to declare independence. China is dead-set against this. China considers Taiwan a renegade province, and appears to be willing to use force, if necessary, to make it comply with the “One China” policy. If Taiwan were allowed to separate, that might encourage other regions in China with separatist tendencies (Tibet, Inner Mongolia) to follow course, and could lead to the downfall of the current Communist government.

One would think that the Bush administration, with all its rhetoric about freedom and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, would support Taiwan’s desire to determine her own future. That has not happened. The official Bush position is to preserve the status quo. In other words, preserve the “One China, Two Systems” policy. Critics of the Bush administration are quick to point out the apparent hypocrisy of maintaining this position. They even go as far as saying that Bush has “sold out” Taiwan. Read it HERE

I believe this is a bit underhanded and misleading. Bush has not abandoned Taiwan. The Bush position is a diplomatic necessity under the present situation. Although there is growing sentiment in Taiwan regarding independence, the people remain divided on this issue. The US is still committed to defending Taiwan in the event that China should use military force against her. But the US should not push the issue at present, as our military is a bit overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That being said, I think it should be pointed out that the rationale for our defense of Taiwan has nothing to do with ideology or democracy. Like all US foreign policy, it is purely self-serving. Our worldwide commitment to a nation's right of self-determination has taken a back seat.

But why is the US so interested in Taiwan? It is a small island country of about 23 million people. In a nutshell, the answer is that Taiwan holds a vital geostrategic position in the control of Asian security and the emerging Asia-Pacific economy. The US wants to continue to be the dominant force in this area, and wants to prevent China from doing the same. A failure by the US to support Taiwan in its current crisis with China would demonstrate to our regional allies (Japan, South Korea, Australia) that we are unreliable, which could negatively affect our reputation in the region and around the world.

China’s economy is emerging! With 1.3 billion people and untapped natural resources, it has the potential to be not only the dominant economy in the Asia-Pacific region, but in the world. For China to realize this potential, it must expand its maritime influence. China's access to the Pacific is obscured by a chain of islands that essentially extends from Russia, through Taiwan, and down to the Phillipines. Taiwan represents China's gateway to the Pacific. Controlling this gateway is vital to maintaining China's economic growth and establishing sea lines of communication to ensure its ability to import oil.

China would also be able to control and disrupt sea lane access to other regional powers. Japan would be most affected by this, as she too relies on the same sea lines for the importation of virtually all her energy and raw materials. As an ally and trading partner of Japan, the US would be affected economically. However, the geopolitical consequences for Asian security (from the US perspective) would be severely endangered. China would be able to deny sea access to the US Navy, effectively pushing our outer defense perimeter back to Guam or Hawaii. This could have dire consequences, particularly if the current nuclear situation with North Korea should escalate.

Bottom line: Taiwan is in a key strategic position for exercising economic and military control in the Asia-Pacific region. Both the US and China realize this and are effectively engaged in competition for control of the island, and thus domination of the region. Unfortunately neither country has Taiwan’s best interest at heart.

6 Comments:

At 11:04 PM, Anonymous Mister B said...

Joe,

I think you have missed your calling. Leave the plants (no pun intended). You should be writing for the Op Ed of the NY Times.

Seriously, you have a natural and succinct style that combines rather effortlessly with some serious analytical accumen, if I can alliterate for a moment (and I can).

I write blog entries. You write impromptu primers on issues that people don't care enough about.

Thanks for taking up where my meager plea for more coverage of the uncovered left off.

Well done.

 
At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Rene Eife Abray said...

Joe,
You make me proud.

Oh, and I agree with the other guy...roomfive.

You need to funnel this intellectual energy into something bigger, wider audience.

Rene

 
At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Todd B. said...

Your analysis of the Taiwan "independence" issue was concise and level-headed. I think, however, that you give President Bush too much slack on his geopolitical accomodations of "necessity" to China on the Taiwan issue.

If we are to believe, truly believe, that Bush's over-arching vision is of "democratic freedom" as the guiding, motivating principle of his foreign policy and world view (as opposed to say, oil), it cannot be selectively, opportunistically or cyncially employed.

By the way, doesn't Bush's stated foreign policy of "the promotion of democratic freedoms" sound an awful lot like the much maligned (from the Right) former President Jimmy Carter's foreign policy based on "human rights"?

 
At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Hey Robert

Thanks for the compliment. The blog is like my soapbox - although most of the time, I don't think anyone is listening.

 
At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Hey Todd

Thanks for your comments.

You state that I give President Bush too much slack on his diplomatic stance on the independence issue. Perhaps you are right, but I don't see that he has any other choice. Back in '97 when China was testing missles in the Taiwan Strait, Clinton had to send two carrier groups over to protect Taiwan (read: protect our interests in the region). If Bush were to push the issue now, and Taiwan made a formal declaration of independence, that could provoke a military response from China. I think the US military is a bit overextended, and would rather not stir things up at this point.

Is this hypocrisy on the part of the Bush administration? Absolutely! But a necessity nonetheless. As you correctly point out, if we are to truly beleive that democratic freedom is the guiding principle of Bush's foreign policy, then it must be consistently applied. I think that the Bush reaction to Taiwan clearly shows that our guiding principles are really of own enlightened self-interest. "Democracy" is the sales pitch used to get the public to go along. After all, who can be opposed to that?

To your last point, Bush's foreign policy objectives are somewhat reminiscent of Carter's human rights based agenda, at least on the surface. But I think there is one major difference. I beleive Carter's intentions were sincere and charitable - and implementtaion of his policies carried a price tag with no real hope of a "return on the investment". Bush's intentions have the facade of being noble and moral - and perhaps in some indirect or unintended way they are. But I don't think the hidden virtues of the Bush position are the primary motivating force behind his agenda. The "spread of democracy and freedom" is only being employed to bring stability to a region in order to protect OUR interests there. Like Carter's plan, this too costs money - probably a lot more. BUT, there is also an opportunity here for that "return on the investment" that the Carter plan lacked. In other words, someone stands to make a hell of a lot of money here. I think it was Calvin Collidge who said, "The business of America is business".

Perhaps I am being to cynical.

 
At 11:58 PM, Anonymous the lone harranguer said...

I think Napoleon said it best when asked about the potential of the Chinese. He said,
"Let China Sleep"

I am all for keeping the status quo, as a strong non-communist nation would most certainly become the worlds' number one super power in 50 years.
the lone harranguer

 

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