Continue to arm Taiwan?

Beijing has just protested the news that the Trump administration has approved a marketing license for building submarines required for American manufacturers to sell technology to Taiwan.

This is in line with the policies of both governments:

Washington continues to sell the Nationalist Regime on Taiwan defensive weapons which reinforce its ability to resist a military takeover by Beijing. Beijing continues to protest these sales, arguing they defy its claim to sovereignty if not actual control of the Island regime, and to make noises about the possibility of a armed takeover.

How dangerous the situation is in reality is a question.

The relationship between Washington, Beijing and Taipei is a complicated network of sovereignty claims and a thriving and growing commercial relationship which, presumably, neither party would want to abandon.

There is always the possibility, however – for instance during a crisis of the regime in Beijing – that the Chinese [nominally still Communist] state will move with force to take over the Island and its 24 million people with its $1.2 trillion economy ranking as 18th in the world by gross domestic product (GDP).

A State Department official said it would continue to review Taiwan ’s defense needs and referred questions about specific procurement plans to Taiwanese authorities.

Meanwhile, Beijing warned Taiwan: we’ll do to you what Israel has done to Lebanon – massive bombing attacks. That warning came after U.S. national security adviser John Bolton complained Chinese J-11 fighters crossed the middle line of the Taiwan Strait, which unofficially demarcates control of the waters between China and Taiwan. It marked the first time in almost twenty years with Taiwanese fighters scrambling to intercept them.

China’s pro-government Global Times predictably denounced U.S. actions, taking aim at several occasions over the last year–and most recently in March–when U.S. warships passed through the Taiwan Straits to dispute China’s assertion that it has sovereignty over the waterway (and Taiwan itself).

China ’s rhetoric against Taiwan has heated up since Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party was elected Taiwanese president in 2016. Unlike the old Kuomintang which ruled Taiwan for most of the period since 1949 the regime has existed on the Island , the Democratic Progressives – with its more native Taiwanese membership – originally called for formal independence. But since she took power, Tsai has endorsed the status quo and says she is above all committed peace.

The Trump Administration, whose spokesmen anonymously have recently conceded its earlier policy toward China underestimated Beijing regime’s aggressive intent, appears to be moving toward a less conciliatory policy toward the Mainland regime. That’s despite the fact Trump claims he has a friendly personal relationship with China ’s No. 1 Xi Jinping, and that the Trump regime is working toward a new trade pact with Beijing.

One aim of those negotiations is to whittle down China ’s enormous bilateral and multilateral trade surplus. In March the trade surplus with the U.S. – a politically sensitive measure given the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing – came in at $20.5 billion. That represented a wider margin than the $14.72 billion in February.

U.S. warships beginning in January this year navigated the Taiwan Strait separating the Mainland and the Island . Beijing claims this is its territorial water and Washington insists it is an international waterway.

A State Department official had said the agency continued to review Taiwan ’s defense needs and referred questions about specific procurement plans to Taiwanese authorities. A Chinese military leader reportedly told the U.S. Navy’s top officer last month that Beijing would back its claim to Taiwan “at any cost.”

The remarks came during a meeting between Gen. Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson during an official visit to China.

Taiwan has transformed itself from a recipient of U.S. aid in the early 1960s to an aid donor and major foreign investor, with investments primarily centered in Asia. Furthermore, despite their precarious political relationship, Taiwan has been a major investor in Mainland China, now estimated to total in excess of US$150 billion with a comparable amount in Southeast Asia.


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