Sunday, October 17, 2010

‘Peace’ with China has ugly caveats

Any military confidence-building mechanism between Taiwan and China will be asymmetrical, because only one side threatens the other militarily

Taipei may have turned down Beijing’s offer this time around, claiming the time was not propitious, but it is becoming increasingly evident that at some point between now and the 2012 presidential election, the two sides will sit down and discuss military matters in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi (楊毅) on Wednesday made headlines with his proposal that, when the conditions are right, Taipei and Beijing should sit down and discuss military confidence-building mechanisms and the possible dismantlement of the more than 1,500 ballistic missiles that continue to threaten Taiwan, despite allegedly warming ties.

Although the Mainland Affairs Council and, somewhat surprisingly, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said the same day that mutual trust had yet to reach a point where such talks would be feasible, pressure is likely to mount in the coming months on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to come to the table and discuss “peace.” In that respect, Yang’s announcement was again proof of how cannily Beijing can play the political game. After all, which peace-loving nation — including the US, Taiwan’s main ally — could, in its right mind oppose “peace” talks in what remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints? (Never mind that confidence building creates a moral equivalence in the Taiwan Strait that simply does not exist, as only one side, China, is the aggressor.)

As the expected pressure mounts, the ball will be in Taipei’s court, with Beijing’s peace overture once again portraying the latter as the “rational” actor in the equation and Taiwan as the reluctant partner. Deferral on Taipei’s part, meanwhile, will likely be blamed on the “anti China” elements in Taiwan — in other words, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and anyone who supports Taiwanese independence. That deferral will mostly stem from electoral considerations by Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which is cognizant of the fact that rushing into political negotiations with China will open a Pandora’s box of controversies that can only cost it votes.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.


mike said...

"After all, peace is good for investment, and the world is eager to invest in Taiwan, if only to establish a foothold on a parcel of land that is often seen as a bridge to the real prize."

The position of the "international community" is better explained by debilitating moral weakness. I will maintain that the government in Beijing could be brought down if only there existed a clarity of moral purpose in the West.

I would like to hope this is only temporary but honesty doesn't really allow that.

We will have to look for other ways of forging the freedom necessary for future generations.

It's only under the greatest pressures that diamonds are formed.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...


Thanks for the useful comments of late. On this one, I was being a little tongue in cheek when I wrote that line. I fully agree with you that "moral weakness" buttresses this position; in fact, I think the two can go hand in hand.

As a matter of fact, my unsigned Tuesday editorial in the TT will be tackling this very subject.

All good wishes,