Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Poor Omens for Taiwan



Earlier I wrote about the unnerving growth of Chinese military might, and how it was foolish to call for major cuts in defense spending.  In that post I went over the Chinese development of anti-carrier missiles and how China had, in ten years, gone from badly losing an air war in the Pacific to defeating America.  Now Taiwan has more bad news:

The edge the PLA has over the Taiwanese armed forces is becoming increasingly overwhelming, the Taiwanese military says, and within a decade, the PLA won't have a hard time forcing Taipei into accepting unification by military means if necessary. 
PLA stands for People's Liberation Army, the armed forces of China.

The article is worth a skim, particularly the beginning and near the end.  It also talks a bit about how Taiwan didn't protest over two Chinese fighter jets that may or may not have crossed the "centerline", but I'd ignore that part as it seems unimportant next to the other bits. 

Basically, the Taiwanese don't have much going for them.  In fact, it seems the only thing that they have working in their favor is America's support, but the article can't even leave us with that.  Near the end of the article we're given this rosy scene:

On numerous occasions and to little avail, Ma Ying-jeou has requested the US to authorize weapon sales. The platform Taiwan seeks the most urgently - F-16C/Ds to replace its fleet of aging aircraft - is unlikely to be sold to Taipei as Washington fears the deal would lead to a significant deterioration of US-China relations.
What's so important about Taiwan anyways?  Who cares if China invades Taiwan, and why should America be willing to confront China over a tiny island republic?  Well for one, I don't think America should be particularly comfortable with the idea of a democratic, industrialized nation being forcibly absorbed into a repressive, communist one, especially when those people look to America to defend them, and America has long done so.  Moral arguments tend to not be terribly popular in cases of foreign policy though, so the other reason is that the fall of Taiwan would signal a huge decline in American power, both regionally and worldwide.  China would only make a move on Taiwan if it felt that America couldn't, or wouldn't, protect the island, and an American retreat on Taiwan would signal to the rest of Asia that, despite any rhetoric we may be spewing after the fact, a power shift just occurred in the region.  Governments that once relied upon America for protection or support will have to either reconcile their difference with China or find new allies.  The former seems far more likely than the latter, and in the end, America will find its ability to influence events in the region severely limited.

Talking about "interests" and "power" in places thousands of miles away probably seems vague to most people.  In the end would Americans be willing to send boys to die for the free people of Taiwan against the repressive, communist Chinese mainland?  No.  Americans aren't even willing to send boys to die for things that are obviously American interests, let alone for something that seems to be more of a "Taiwanese interest".

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