|The beautiful Zhongshan Hall in Taipei, our venue|
Taiwan under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has launched efforts to improve relations with China. Those efforts have paid dividends in economics, trade, and cultural exchanges, but areas of concern remain. After all, absence of war does not mean absence of conflict. The following are issues of concern:
- Growing military threat from China, whose Second Artillery Corps has increased the number of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles it targets at Taiwan even as relations improved, plus ongoing modernization of all services;
- Taiwan’s continued isolation from the international community, and participation contingent on Beijing’s “approval”;
- Trends favoring “status quo” and Taiwanese identification, which could lead to China running out of patience and deciding to use force;
- Uncertain outcome to the 2016 presidential election in Taiwan;
- Question marks remain over Chinese Communist Party Secretary-General and incoming President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) ability to retain control over more extreme elements within the People’s Liberation Army.
- Continued U.S.-Taiwan military exchanges (arms sales as a measure of bilateral ties and continuation of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979);
- Despite recent op-eds in U.S. media, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will “abandon” Taiwan;
- The launch in early February of the Raytheon Corp-built long-range early-warning radar (EWR) at Leshan in Hsinchu County plugs Taiwan into the emerging security architecture in the Asia-Pacific. The EWR also creates opportunities for cooperation on non-military matters, such as the tracking of debris in space;
- Signs of growing willingness within the region to cooperate with Taiwan on security, even if this has to be carried out in an unofficial guise;
- Signs of governments losing patience with China and diminishing returns on Beijing’s threats of “nefarious consequences”;
- While the rest of the world does not wake up in the middle of the night worrying about Taiwan’s fate, the island-nation of 23 million people remains a key player in the global supply chain, one of the 20 largest economies in the world, and a liberal democracy with a value system similar to that in the West.