Abandoning Taiwan would likely not help US, China: expert
CNAWASHINGTON D.C.--Beijing would be even less likely to restrain its power were the United States to give in on the sensitive Taiwan issue, a senior U.S. expert argues in a paper on whether the U.S. should 'abandon' Taiwan.
January 16, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
“Giving way on Taiwan will neither pacify Beijing nor assure our allies,” said Richard C. Bush, director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Washington-based Brookings Institute, in a paper released Monday named after his new book titled “Uncharted Strait.”
“Conceding to Beijing on Taiwan will not help us elsewhere. Moreover, our friends and allies (e.g. Japan and Korea) will worry that the United States might sacrifice their interests next for the sake of good relations with China,” he wrote.
Some influential figures in Washington have suggested “that the U.S. should reduce its long-standing security commitment to Taiwan” in the face of a rising China, according to Bush.
“Should the United States concede to China on Taiwan, the lessons that Beijing would learn about the intentions of the United States would likely discourage its moderation and accommodation on other issues like Korea or maritime East Asia,” he warned in the paper.
The idea of abandonment has emerged in recent years as Taiwan has shifted its strategies, particularly China policies, said Bush, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, which handles U.S.-Taiwan relations in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.
Ma Ying-jeou, who won the 2008 Taiwan presidential election and then re-election in 2012, differed from his predecessor Chen Shui-bian by expanding engagement with China instead of provoking it, he noted.
“Ma believed, Taiwan could give China such a large stake in peace that it would not dare to risk that stake by coercing the island into submission,” Bush said.
Ma's “mixed or “hedging” approach has been to let Taiwan engage China in areas where Taiwan can benefit and “encourage Chinese restraint,” such as economics and education, while deflecting Beijing on proposals that are not in the island's interests, for example, politics and security, he argued.
Ma also has sought good relations with the United States, which has committed to helping the island defend itself when attacked.
In terms of Beijing, Bush suggested that it be more creative on cross-Taiwan Strait issues and listen to the Taiwanese people.
“Conversely, a China that addresses its Taiwan problem with creativity and due regard to the views on the island says something positive about what kind of great power the People's Republic of China will be,” he said.
“A more aggressive approach, one that relies on pressure and intimidation, signals reason for concern about its broader intentions. In this regard, Taiwan is the canary in the East Asian coal mine.”
Bush also urged Taiwan to carefully respond to China's ultimate goal — ending Taiwan's de facto independence more or less on its terms.
“The first thing is to not create the impression in Beijing that the door on unification is closing forever — which Taiwan is currently doing,” Bush argued.
“In addition, there are things it can do at the margin to strengthen itself and therefore increase the confidence needed to resist PRC pressure.”
Some of his suggestions for self-strengthening included increasing the country's economic competitiveness, reforming the political system and boosting its armed forces' deterrent capabilities.
In addition, Bush said the U.S. “should help Taiwan where it can to improve its odds” in economic and military terms.