Archive for April 15th, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taiwan: “before it’s too late”?

A crisis is gathering in the Taiwan Strait, Li Thian-hok (Li Tianfu 李天福), a freelance commentator from Pennsylvania, warns in an article for the Taipei Times.

A great majority of the people in Taiwan prefer to keep their democratic way of life. Yet they often feel helpless in stopping the KMT’s relentless march toward Taiwan’s capitulation. The KMT controls a two-thirds majority in the legislature and could pass any law it chooses. Taiwan’s media is also dominated by the KMT and other pro-China forces. The anxiety regarding Taiwan’s future and growing anger over Ma’s betrayal of the people’s trust make for a combustible instability.

This may actually be so – everyone should read the complete article, including Li’s account of the four policy recommendations made to the American president in a “10,000 Letters Campaign”, and make up his or her own mind. As I can’t claim to really understand the Taiwanese president’s agenda, I shouldn’t easily try to interpret it.

But if I were American, I’d dislike Mr Li’s argument. It is based on a division of (defense) labor that can’t work in the long run. Even if Washington is prepared to prop its military presence in the region up to a “reassuring” level, it may not be in the American interest, unless other regional powers do more to support Taiwan, at least in terms of politics and business. ASEAN could strike a free-trade accord with Taipei, no matter if the island signs or rejects ECFA with China.

Once in a while, it looks as if proponents of formalizing Taiwan’s independence believe it can be done simply by expressing their opinion. But the Taiwanese themselves must be ready to defend their island, if they expect a foreign power – or foreign powers – to stick out their necks for them. And above all, it is the Taiwanese people who must decide if the Ma government is trustworthy, or if it isn’t. To expect a foreign government to see to that is inappropriate. That would actually be  just another way of undermining Taiwan’s sovereignty. The island is nobody’s unsinkable aircraft carrier – it’s a democratic country that must make its own choices – and any choice its people may take should be respected, as long as it is a free choice.

Besides, and to the credit of the KMT, it should be noted that they are actually modernizing Taiwan’s armed forces. Taiwan is reportedly developing an aircraft carrier killer, it is buying all the weapons it can get from America, and has taken steps to professionalize the military forces. On pro-independence blogs, this issue doesn’t feature prominently. It should – more comprehensive coverage could make their case much more credible.

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Related
Taiwan unveils ‘carrier killer’, National Examiner, April 15, 2010
Tung Chee-hwa: Inextricable Implications, March 30, 2010
HK: How to Corrupt an Open Society, December 29, 2009

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